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How to Learn French, Swedish, Spanish

July 20, 2019


“How about Italy?” she said.

I was lying on my friend’s couch. It was 2010. Los Angeles. I was 20, visiting from University in Boston. 

That year I had stopped playing competitive tennis. I had a spinal injury. I was depressed. 

“You love food,” she said.

2007. High school. End-of-the-year  evaluations. My Spanish teacher sat me at a desk in the back of the room, away from the other students. She opened a manila folder with my final course grade, and then closed it. 

“You have great tenacity,” she said. 

“But you’ll never learn a foreign language.” 

“It’s just a small application,” she said. “You’ll finish it by the afternoon!”

On the plane to Italy I sat next to a girl my age, knees shaking, scratching her wrist. She was crying.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. 

“My father died on September 11th,” she said.

We held hands. And we took Italian together. 

That summer we practiced Florence. 

Fast forward to 2012. I studied more Italian at the Middlebury Language School. A couple teachers there helped me with my application to be a high school teacher abroad. I moved to Crema, Italy. The town is now known for the Oscar-winning movie “Call Me By Your Name.” Some days I’m jealous. If only the director had spotted me years ago! Seeking male 18-24 American, speaks French and Italian.

I speak French because I moved to Bordeaux. 

Because why not? 

My roommate was a grandmother. I still remember her first email to me:

“Malgré my advanced age it’ll be a pleasure to pick you up from the airport.” What does malgré mean?!

Despite. She was 74. 

She stewed the best fig jam. Little dotlets of confitture and hot yellow butter, glistening against a crisp o’clock baguette. 

My new grandmother got sick. She had to stay in the hospital for several weeks. She couldn’t swallow properly. I should’ve noticed. All the little yogurt spoons in the dishwasher.

I had to leave France when she was still in the hospital. She held my hand. 

“Go, go, adventure!” she said. 

I left for Los Angeles, a Master’s program. When I finished, I thought I was moving to Sweden, a fellowship I was applying for, a project between Portugal, Sweden and the United States. 

I had to learn Portuguese and Swedish, enough so that I could pass the speaking portion of the B1 proficiency exams in both languages. 

I touched every word I could find, working with online teachers, making sure I made that girl on the plane, and my French grandmother proud. Go, go, adventure! 

I passed. 

If I listed to you the languages I now speak, it would sound arrogant. But to recount the sequence of events that make me feel like any language is possible, I turn to the territory of the heart. 

It’s quite random, who opens us. It would be easy to say that my high school teacher’s ignorance was what fueled me to learn many languages. Perhaps a little fuel. It’s a more profound idea to say that the ultimate compassion of friends, teachers, and strangers transform us. It’s not one individual who lets us learn. It’s the fragile edges of connection, from a sofa to a girl on a plane to a malgré grandmother, all who expressed self-love and towards-love simultaneously. Not romantic love, but a spiritual love, surfaced through the language of kindness. 

Kindness is not about the expectation of others. I was a New England kid who expected to stay in Boston my entire life. I was expected to never learn a language. Ignore the preconditions. Start listening to the language of kindness – “how about…?”, a child’s cry, the goodbye wave – as open acts to start a conversation. Language then becomes living – the courage to sit with others, which is a bodily language, a language of our senses, which I’d argue is the easiest way for us to learn a language, to be an expat. 

Resistance to foreign culture isn’t necessary when we’re close to the senses of others. Spoons in a dishwasher aren’t just spoons. It’s a physical memory I can recall. A relationship tied to a breakfast table. Jam is sweeter, adventure more of a quest than an itinerary. More words absorbed than “do you speak French?”

I speak what needs to be held, with hands, with my eyes, with my stomach. That’s real multilingualism. In fountains, gardens, kitchens, courts, alleyways, with the falling leaves, and flowers blooming. That’s real learning.

Go, go, adventure. 

Joshua Kent Bookman is a writer and artist. Like the characters of his book, “close to elsewhere,” he calls several places home, and has worked in France as an agricultural laborer, as a high school teacher in Italy, and tennis instructor in the United States. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1990. 

“close to elsewhere” was released this summer by the Swedish publisher LYS. This is Bookman’s first novel. 

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Ten Commandments of Relocating Overseas

The New 11 Commandments of Relocating Overseas

July 1, 2018


It’s never easy to move to a new country, especially one where the culture is vastly different than what you are used to. Concepts such as immigration and international relocation have become increasingly common in the modern age, with developed nations such as the United States a popular destination for citizens across the globe.

Still, between 2.2 million and 6.8 million U.S. citizens are known to have themselves according to 2017 figures, as some look for new pastures during retirement, some relocate for the purpose of work, and others decide to travel for school or self-fulfilment.

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Whatever the reasons behind your move, relocating overseas can be extremely challenging, particularly from a financial and emotional perspective. In the post below, we’ll consider the 11 commandments of moving abroad, as you look to embrace new opportunities and immerse yourself in a new and unfamiliar culture.

1.    Make Positivity Your Watchword 

As we’ve already said, issues such as international relocation and economic migration are extremely relevant in the current political climate, particularly since the election of U.S. President Donald Trump and the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.

This means that some will continue to talk about international relocation in negative terms, which in turn may dampen your enthusiasm for the move and discourage you from taking the plunge.

However, if you’ve made a strategic decision to relocate abroad and determined that the benefits outweigh the potential issues (whatever your motivation may be), it’s important that you do not allow such negativity to undermine your best-laid plans.

In this respect, positivity and clarity of thought must be your key watchwords when relocating abroad, as you look to maintain your focus, do not allow negative comments or attitudes to shift your outlook. Surrounding yourself with positive people in the first place is central to this, as while you always want to hear a diversity of thoughts and opinions you must engage with individuals whose minds are progressive and open to new opportunities.

2.    Remain Flexible in your Attitudes

On the subject of your mindset, there’s also a pressing need for you to remain flexible and agile when relocating abroad.

This applies to both your preparation and the transition period that takes place when you arrive at your chosen destination, as these experiences will vary considerably depending on your reasons for moving and your choice of international location.

When it comes to the former, an agile mindset will enable you to adapt to the setbacks that occur while planning your relocation, from organizing the logistics of your move to securing accommodation in time for your arrival. Remember, even the best plans can go awry, so you’ll need to manage your expectations and adapt positively to any changes that you encounter.

The same principle applies when adapting to a new culture and way of life, as this takes time, patience, and a willingness to learn quickly from your mistakes. Even in an increasingly multicultural world, there are subtle nuances that separate global cultures, and a flexible outlook will ensure that you learn and adapt to these quickly.

Relocated

3.    Gain a Real Understanding of your New Host Country

Prior to your move, you’ll also need to gain a deep and realistic insight into your new host country.

Like we say, multiculturalism may have helped to blur the lines between independent cultures, but each country will have its own unique heritage and prevailing way of life. This will have a direct impact on every conceivable aspect of everyday life, from the clothes that you wear to the way in which you interact with locals.

The key to this is conducted detailed and informed research, which charts a country’s history and its standing in the current world order. This prevents you from forming an impression of your new home based on outdated perceptions and clumsy notions of nationality, which can lead to significant issues when you initially move abroad.

Instead, you can relocate with a clear understanding of your new host country, and one that is based on knowledge, insight and relevant, real-world observations.

4.    Expect to Encounter Different Attitudes and a Diminished Sense of Urgency

In the western world, the pace of technological advancement has made patience an increasingly sparse commodity. This is reflected by the demands that we place on others and the devices that we use, as we’re increasingly accustomed our creature comforts and things being done almost as soon as we’ve requested them.

When relocating east to a less developed economy, however, you may find that these things can no longer be taken for granted. More specifically, the locals may have a diminished sense of urgency that compels them to complete tasks at a slower pace, while the amenities and the facilities that you use may fall below the standards that you expect.

And there’s nothing wrong with feeling that way.

Remember, we are creatures of habit and we only know what we know until we expand our outlook.

It’s crucial that you prepare for this before completing your move, and manage your expectations as you look to grow accustomed to your new surroundings.

This will help with the challenging transition period, while hopefully preventing you from enduring any strained or unpleasant interactions with the locals!

5.    Maintain a Strong Sense of Humor

As we’ve already said, relocating abroad can be extremely challenging both from a financial and an emotional perspective.

This sense of difficulty can be compounded further in instances when things go awry, and it’s easy for feelings of doubt and anxiety to build in a relatively short period of time.

However, a strong and omnipresent sense of humor can help with this, as it prevents you from taking yourself or the process too seriously and makes it possible to seek out positivity even during challenging periods.

The same principle applies when you first arrive abroad, as you’ll need to prepare for the fact that making social faux-pas and linguistic mistakes are part and parcel of adapting to a new culture. By laughing with others and seeing the funny side of these instances, you’ll feel empowered and ultimately transform a potentially negative cultural experience into a positive one.

Relocated

6.    Try to Understand the Host Country Perspective in any Given Scenario 

The issue of social and cultural interaction is an important consideration, as this will dictate your day-to-day experience when you first move abroad.

In order to facilitate positive experiences, you’ll need to make a concerted effort to understand the host country perspective in any given scenario. After all, you’ll be talking to individuals that are likely to have enjoyed entirely different upbringings to your own, and this will leave with an alternative view on a host of potential issues.

By comprehending these viewpoints and taking them on-board when you first engage with locals, you can participate in open and positive conversations that hopefully serve as an entry point into new and exciting relationships.

Otherwise, you’ll run the risk of clashing regularly with locals without every really understanding and allowing for your differences.

7.    Plan for a Difficult Adjustment Period of Around Six Months

While you may well know that you’re in for a challenging period of adjustment when you first move overseas, this alone is not enough to ensure that you negate this. In fact, you’ll need to plan strategically for this transition, by considering the various stages of your adjustment and expecting it to last for at least six months or so.

We’ve broken down these phases below, so you can prepare for them and develop viable coping mechanisms.

  • The Honeymoon Phase: This phase applies to any type of new experience or relationship, and it tends to inspire an innate sense of excitement and adventure. From your new home and office to the people that you meet, your mind is open to a host of exciting possibilities and far more willing to embrace change. You should definitely make the most of this phase as it unfolds, while recognizing that it cannot be sustained indefinitely. 
  • The Negotiation Phase: The second phase usually triggers a period of anxiety, as the excitement of your international adventure fades and the realities of everyday life in a foreign country take hold. Linguistic and cultural differences can take root here, creating a sense of uncertainty and alienation that is difficult to overcome. It’s important at this stage that you focus on your work and developing relationships with locals, as this will help to settle your mind and encourage a far greater work-life balance.
  • The Adjustment Phase: If you’re able to maintain your focus and overcome the issues posed by the negotiation phase, you’ll enter a more settled period of adjustment after six months or so. At this stage, your new surroundings become normal, while you’ll have learned the cultural and linguistic nuances that can prove so problematic. It’s important at this stage that you maintain the positive behaviors in terms of work and social interaction, as you must not become complacent even as you begin to settle.

8.    Look for Ways of Strengthening and Maintaining your Enthusiasm 

When attempting to cope during the formative phases of your relocation, it’s absolutely imperative that you identify viable ways of maintaining your enthusiasm.

This is particularly important from a social perspective, as there may be times where you’re alone in your new apartment and develop a tremendous sense of isolation from your fellow man.

To overcome these feelings, you’ll need a robust and fortified mindset, and one that is constantly striving to maintain a keen sense of optimism. Socialising with your new colleagues is an excellent way to achieve this, as this helps to maintain contact with the outside world while also building positive and long-standing relationships.

Joining a local meetup.com group in your new city is also a worthwhile measure, as this exposes you to new experiences and relationships while providing a crucial learning experience.

Socialising

9.    Use Home Comforts to Manage Your Transition

In order to make a successful transition to a new culture, you’ll need to commit to your new surroundings and ensure that you maintain an open mind.

However, this does mean that you cannot ease the transition period by leveraging home comforts where possible, as this can have a decidedly positive impact on your mindset during the adjustment period.

You could make sure that you access some of your favorite TV shows and box-sets online, for example, enabling you to access a slice of home whenever the mood takes you.

Similarly, try to combine an appreciation of new cuisine and dishes with some of your old dietary staples. Consuming your favorite food and drink from home can provide genuine comfort during times of transition, reminding you of your loved ones in the process.

10.Look Out for the Signs of Culture Shock

While you may well struggle with various issues when transitioning to a new culture, this is part and parcel of relocating abroad and can generally be overcome with a number of relatively simple measures.

In more serious instances, however, you may find yourself struggling with the effects of culture shock. This is a far more debilitating condition, and one that can close your mind to new experiences and ultimately force you to return home.

The symptoms or effects of culture shock are numerous, and include a sense of feeling uprooted and a sustained feeling of disorientation. These can be compounded by the sensation of being overwhelmed by the need to make significant changes, and this can cause you to become intolerant of the very culture that you seek to integrate into.

It’s important to address these effects as early as possible, before such feelings take root and completely alter your mindset. You may want to seek out professional guidance and counselling to deal with these issues, or at least share your feelings with a trusted friend or loved one.

11.Negate the Emotional Side of Relocation by Partnering with Professionals

On a final note, it’s crucial that you manage the emotional aspect of relocating internationally before you complete the move.

This is particularly true if you have a family, as younger children may be overwhelmed by the prospect of leaving their family home and leaving their friends behind.

To focus on this, you should ensure that you partner with a skilled and reputable removals firm, particularly one that has experience or organizing international moves. This will enable you to delegate the practical and logistical requirements of your move to an industry expert, so that you can spend your time attending to the needs of your loved ones.

This is an important consideration and one that can aid the transition process, while also helping you to make the most of your time.

Bio: At A1 Auto Transport, we have a wealth of experience when dealing with domestic and international locations, and can effectively manage your relocation overseas. This type of service is worth its weight in gold, particularly when moving to a brand new country and an unfamiliar culture.
* pictures are from pixabay.com

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Photo Contests

Top three photos for Your Favorite Mountain Picture: And the winners of this photo contest are…

June 6, 2017


We’re happy to announce the winners of our latest Photo Contest: Your Favorite Mountain Picture

First Place: Mt. Kazbegi and the Gergeti Trinity Church, Georgia

“This is Mt. Kazbegi and the Gergeti Trinity Church (Georgian: წმინდა სამება) in the country of Georgia. It was taken in April 2012 when I was 7 months pregnant with my son.”

mountain

 

Congratulations, Kristina Blin (an international teacher working at Colegio Albania (Colombia, La Guajira).

Prize awarded: Premium membership for TWO YEARS on our website!

Second Place: Mt. Pulag, Philippines

“Mt. Pulag, Philippines is the highest mountain in the luzon island. This photo is taken at 2,926 metres above sea level.”

mountain

Congratulations, Sassa Mendoza!

Prize awarded: Premium membership for ONE YEAR on our website!

Third PlaceSeoraksan National Park, South Korea

“This is a shot from the top of Seoraksan, Seoraksan National Park South Korea. These massive boulders were uniquely balanced on top of each other naturally. It was a misty morning, which gave the scene a bit more mystery as well.”

mountain

 

Congratulations, Maurice Mickle!

Prize awarded: Premium membership for SIX MONTHS on our website!

Thanks to everyone who participated!  We have awarded everyone else ONE WEEK of premium membership for participating in this photo contest.

mountain

Stay tuned for our next photo contest which will happen sometime during the next 2-3 months. Check out our previous Photo Contests here.

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Photo Contests

New Photo Contest: Your Favorite Mountain Picture

May 18, 2017


One of the best parts of living in a foreign country is checking out its nature. Going exploring outside of the city you are working and living in is so much fun and is a must do during your stay there.

To bad that these things take time sometimes. Meaning you don’t get to the locations that you have been really wanting to visit sometimes until 2-3 years after having moved there.

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JiuZhaiGou, China

But once you do, you find yourself in awe of the amazing country that you are living in; quickly making plans to see even more of your country during your next free weekend or long weekend holiday.

Hiking up a mountain while traveling is so thrilling. At first though you say to yourself “why am I doing this on my ‘vacation’? Why I am putting myself into such pain by climbing this impossible mountain?” But once you get to the top, it is always worth the effort and paid you’ve endured.

Getting a good view of the landscape and connecting with nature is a great way to take a break from your life teaching.

So, what is your favorite mountain picture that you’ve taken in your home country or while traveling?  Submit your photo to us and enter our photo contest! All participants receive free premium membership to our website!

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A mountain in the Faroe Islands

Photo contest topic:
Your Favorite Mountain Picture

The PRIZES:
1st prize: 2 YEARS FREE of premium membership
2nd prize: 1 YEAR FREE of premium membership
3rd prize: 6 MONTHS FREE of premium membership

(Those submissions that are not in the top three will receive 1 free week of premium membership just for participating.)

Send your photo to editor @ internationalschoolcommunity.com. Please remember to:

• Write your name and email address
• Attach your picture and write a short description about it
• Enter these words in your subject: International School Community Photo Contest Entry: Favorite Host Country Product

or

Tweet the photo and mention our profile @IS_Community to make sure we will see it. If you are on Instagram, use the official hashtag #iscommunityphoto

(Deadline to submit your photo: Tuesday, 30 May, 2017. Maximum one photo entry per contestant.)

Check out our previous Photo Contests here.

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Photo Contests

Best Xmas Photo in Host Country: And the Winners of This Photo Contest Are…

December 21, 2016


We’re happy to announce the winners of our Eighth Photo Contest (What Does Christmas Look Like in Your Host Country?).

First Place: Almaty, Kazakhstan

“While going to my local mall, I found they put in an ice skating rink!  How cool is that?!”

photo contest

Congratulations (this member wanted their entry to be anonymous)!

Prize awarded: Premium membership for TWO YEARS on our website!

Second Place: Qingdao, China

“This shot was taken inside the beautifully-decorated lobby of a hotel near Marina City.

photo contest

Congratulations K. Kelly (a former international teacher)!

Prize awarded: Premium membership for ONE YEAR on our website!

Third Place: Guangzhou, China

The people of Guangzhou are curious participants in Christmas.  Many young Chinese would dress in festive clothing and go to Sacred Heart Cathedral to take selfies and pictures during Mass and then leave after a few minutes. Just down the road was a market for buying everything associated with a commercial Christmas.

photo contest

Congratulations Steve Landvatter (an international teacher working in China).

Prize awarded: Premium membership for SIX MONTHS on our website!

Thanks to everyone who participated!  We have awarded everyone else ONE WEEK of premium membership for participating in this photo contest.

Stay tuned for our next photo contest which should happen sometime during the next 2-3 months. Check out our previous Photo Contests here.

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