I may still have 2 semesters left with the MIC program, but I feel as though this first semester has already taught me so much about individuality and communication within a global context. At times, the concepts of communication have seemed simple, and, at other times, the complexity of it all has seemingly stretched by brain to a whole new capacity. Both are a good thing though, right? The semester has had its ups and downs, as one should expect, but learning how to deal with each scenario has offered new challenges and acquired wisdom.
In addition to the challenges of studying a Masters Degree, the MIC program has advanced the learning curve that much more by having its students study in new cultures alongside other academics from various parts of the world. This has been both a blessing and a struggle. While we all have our own relationships to maintain from our homelands, the normative behaviors of communication with those we love most, which have governed our conception of what is “standard” or “acceptable”, have now been shattered. Yet, by shattering such ideologies, perhaps we are that much closer to seeing the light? This light being the key to true understanding of communication. However, what I have found to be the most complex thing about International Communication is that I feel the more I learn, the less I know.
But, baby steps… As I continue through this bumpy, complicated, exciting and empowering journey with my colleagues, I have found friendship, acceptance, and understanding through a few things I’ve learned along the way:
1. Communicate so that you are not misunderstood
It is so easy to be misinterpreted, especially in an environment filled with people from different backgrounds and perspectives. Be sure to think before you speak and keep things clear and simple. Preventing people from needing to interpret what you are saying will ensure they understand you the first time.
2. Understand what you want out of a conversation
Whether it’s planning a meeting, delivering a pitch or presentation, or simply making a new friend, clear objectives can help you achieve your goal(s) with as little headache as possible.
3. Know that what you hear might not be what they meant
Everyone comes from different backgrounds and cultures which have shaped their interpretations and perceptions of reality. Be sure to consider the context of the situation and what is being communicated before making any rash assumptions or decisions.
4. Recognize that feelings matter
Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Communication is a powerful thing with the ability to be both constructive and destructive. As people who hope to work in the International realm of communication, it is imperative that we truly understand the potential consequences at hand and approach cultural communications with awareness and sensitivity.
5. Barriers are the enemy
There are both positive and negative ways of communicating. And many of the negative ways of communicating can be linked to barriers. A barrier can be physical – something dividing you and your audience. A barrier can also be one’s body language and physical position. But, barriers also involve the non-physical, including things like misunderstanding, ignorance, and situational circumstances. Being aware of the risks surrounding different barriers and how they affect your communication can help ensure you are communicating in a positive manner.
While I am aware there is more to communication that what I’ve written above, and am sure there is much more to learn throughout the remainder of this program, I thought I would share some of my thoughts from this first semester, studying, living, and experiencing international communication.
By Lily Carlson, currently studying at Vilnius University for her first semester at the MIC.