By: Andrea Mellendorf
I recently studied public relations in the United Kingdom for a month on a study abroad program through the University of North Carolina – Charlotte. My home base during the program was Regent’s University in London. However, I and many of my classmates used our weekends to travel to other parts of Europe. Besides being able to do cool tourist things and see new places, traveling helped strengthen my communication skills and confidence, and here are a few reasons why:
1. Being in a new place keeps you humble and challenges your confidence.
No matter what country I was in, it was new to me. Having to ask for directions and trust the locals to give you good advice serves as a good reminder that no matter how much travel experience you have or how confident you are in your sense of direction, you are still in a new and strange place and you have to rely on people who know the area better than yourself to help you survive. While keeping you humble, traveling simultaneously builds your communication confidence because you become more and more comfortable with stepping outside of your comfort zone, talking to new people and asking lots of questions.
2. Speaking clearly and articulately is really important.
Have you ever seen this video that shows how English sounds to non-native speakers? Well that is a really good representation of what it’s like to be a non-native speaker trying to keep up in a conversation. Even knowing a good bit of the German language, sometimes the friends I stayed with in Germany would talk so quickly that even if I could recognize words, I could not piece together the whole message being communicated. Experiencing this made me aware of how quickly we native English speakers talk to each other, and helped me to speak much more clearly when talking to my German friends and other people I met who were not native English speakers.
3. Not everyone speaks the same language as you, and it takes patience to overcome that.
I used to be a German language minor here at EMU, and I have studied the language for six years. However, I am nowhere near fluent. Many Germans speak wonderful English, but that doesn’t mean that communicating across that language barrier is easy. During my time in Germany, I learned valuable lessons about speaking clearly and articulately and also having patience. In the same way, the people that I spoke to in German had patience with me as I worked to sharpen my German language skills during my time in Frankfurt.
As a future public relations practitioner, strong communication skills are crucial for my career. Just like many other life experiences, traveling helped to continue to strengthen my communication skills, but I know that these are by no means the last lessons I will learn in regards to communication. If you ever find yourself traveling to a new place or a place where people do not necessarily speak the same language as you, I challenge you to consider the lessons that I learned and also keep your mind open to learn lessons of your own throughout your experience.
Andrea Mellendorf is a junior at Eastern Michigan University and serves at the Vice President of Special Events and Programs for EMU PRSSA.