Bregenz 2015 – The Intercultural Post

(That’s actually Feldkirch, Austria. Not Bregenz!)

Because introductions are not my forte, I’m just going to start this post bluntly and say that this, as the title suggests, is the intercultural post on my trip to Bregenz, Austria. It is technically the final to my Intercultural Communications class, but hopefully will give me a record of who I am today and where I plan to be in the future. It will be kind of interesting looking back on this in a few years and seeing what came true and what didn’t! The post will try to follow sequential order, past first, present next, and future at the end, but other than that, sections will be random. It is a mixture of original work, as well as stories, poems, and photos that I created or took while in my Intercultural Communications class.

Another post will follow this one, talking about my entire trip in detail!

Who I Am

William at the Lennon Wall

I am William Carson. I am a 21 year old white male of European descent with two supportive parents and two great brothers. I live in northern Kentucky in the United States of America. I am a student at Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky. I am a software developer intern for an amazing company that I love. My culture is reflective of everything that was stated in the previous sentences. Culture, to me, is individual and can be anything for any single person.

Because of my age, I am part of “Generation Y.” I am constantly connected to everyone around me through the internet and my phone, but not really connected to the “here and now” as much as I should be. I enjoy a nice break from technology from time to time, but more often than not I find myself sucked right back into where I started. I also rely on technology a lot more than previous generations. My cell phone is also my work phone, my email, my calendar, and my alarm to wake up each morning on top of the communications device that it is. Some say that it doesn’t let me live in the moment, but I think it allows me to have more experiences. I try not to be on my phone while in social situations, such as at the dinner table, and that allows me to enjoy the company of those I am with. It also allows me to plan things on-the-fly. I no longer have to make plans days or weeks out to go to dinner with someone or hang out with someone. A simple text message or phone call can arrange that, allowing me to have more experiences.

Because of my gender, I am often seen as a protector. That’s also because of my height, because if I’m walking down the street at 2am with a bunch of people, nobody is going to mess with them if they have a big, 6’4″ man with them. I mean, just look at that giant with all the short people!

William, Shane, Julia, Candice

Basically, just because I’m a male who is tall doesn’t mean that I don’t get put into a box just as much as anyone else does. I don’t mind being the protector – my name literally translates to “Strong, determined protector” – because I really enjoy being relied on. I know most people enjoy that feeling of being needed, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have it, also!

Because of my geographical location, especially being in Kentucky, I can sometimes be put into a stereotype of a small-town hill billy. My favorite example of this is a person I used to work with. She moved from Ohio to Kentucky when she was younger, only she resisted the idea. She didn’t want to be around those people that don’t wear shoes, have crooked teeth, and talk with a southern drawl. Fortunately her stereotypes were proven wrong when she actually moved to the states, but are they all wrong? When I’m at home I never wear shoes unless I’m going out. I hike through the woods and the yard barefoot. The most I might put on is socks when going to the basement but otherwise put those toes to the ground! That’s sort of ironic being as I’m afraid of bare feet. Maybe some stereotypes exist for a reason.

Expectations and First Impressions of Bregenz

Honestly, I had no idea what to expect when coming to a new country, let alone Bregenz, Austria. If I learned anything from my trip to New Jersey over spring break this past year, it’s that I shouldn’t expect anything and that I should just go with the flow. I think I was more anxious of what was to come than anything.

What will my host family be like? Will I be imposing on them? What will the food be like? Can I afford all of the trips that I want to take? What will I get for friends and family when I head back? What if I give off an “American” vibe and immediately be seen as a target by the locals?

All of these questions, and more, were bouncing around inside my head as I got off the plane in Zurich, Switzerland. Well, all of those questions, plus the question “where is a bed, I need to SLEEP!?” The thing is, I shouldn’t have worried at all. My host mother is awesome, she feeds me well, I am able to order food at restaurants now, and my usual “if the gift is right” thing has worked out, i.e. if I find something that I KNOW that person will like, I’ll get it for them. I just love getting people gifts!

The first night we were here, a group of us went out to the pier on Bodensee (Lake Constance) and just hung out. Several of the people drank and got really loud. Keep in mind that this is the exact OPPOSITE of what I wanted to happen, to be seen with a bunch of loud Americans that set us apart. That night was nerve-wracking for me because, even though I wasn’t part of the problem, I felt like there were eyes of every single Austrian in the vicinity on us. I felt guilty about it, honestly. The thing is, as my stint here went on, I found that others act just like us. We really aren’t all that much different than the Austrian people.

My only experience with culture shock happened about a week after getting here. Every day we are on our own for lunch, either making it at home or going to a local restaurant or bakery and buying food there. I was on my own because of time constraints and I went to a local place. It was then that I realized that I had no idea what was on the menu, how to order, or what to say to the people behind the counter. Up until that point, someone was always helping me translate. I felt like I was going to starve because I couldn’t read a menu! Luckily after a day or two I got over it as I became more confident in my ability to communicate what I needed to.

Speaking of food, the food here is generally amazing! It is much different here than in America, but different isn’t a bad thing. Bread is a staple of most dishes. A traditional breakfast consists of bread, some slices of meat, cheese, and butter. We also get juice and Kaffee (coffee) each morning if we want it. All I can say is that I am tired of bread at this point in time! I’m also done with cheese except for Bergkäse, or, mountain cheese made in the Alps. That stuff is delicious and I can’t get enough of it! It is now my personal life goal to find where to buy it in America.

One more note on the food: absolutely nothing is free. You see that basket of bread placed in front of you? I dare you to eat out of it. That’s €2 a piece. Soft drinks? €2.50. A glass of tap water? €3. There are also no refills. Want another Sprite? That’ll be another €2.50 please! If anything it has kept me from drinking as many sugary drinks which are bad for me anyway.

The Poem

I had to relate something I saw with my life. I saw this building that was under construction and thought, well, I’m always building myself up, trying to better myself. That’s just like renovating myself.

You need to listen to TobyMac’s “Get Back Up” while reading this.

Get Back Up Again

Building Under Construction

We lose our way

Fall on beliefs that we don’t stand for.

We know we need to make a change.

We get back up again

We recover from them.

We make the change.

It’s never too late to get back up again

You can always change.

You can always get better.

One day you will shine again

You will be made new.

You will get back on the right path.

We may be knocked down, but not out forever

The Story

This is a story about my trip to Prague. It is meant to be a form of narrative with a bit of “pizzazz.” Some things are a bit out of proportion, and I also leave out that I went with my friends Jake, Emily, Maria, and Morgan, but that’s all part of artistic freedom, right?

A note on Prague: The city is beautiful… during the day. At night it is a very scary place. I’d like to go back someday, but I would want to be safely locked in my hotel room before the sun goes down.

The Trip to Prague

As the city slept, William left the train station in Prague in the Czech Republic. He took a deep breath and thought to himself that this will be a memory never to forget. He made his way down the unfamiliar city streets, late at night, looking for the hotel where he would spend the next two nights. With only a map on his cell phone and no GPS, he was able to make it to his hotel slightly after midnight where he was greeted by a somewhat friendly, but tired desk clerk. He took his information and gave him a key, wishing him a pleasant stay. William then crashed in his bed for the night.

The next morning he was woken by the sun beaming through his window. After getting a shower, he made a start toward the center of the city: the old town square. Upon arriving, he was made speechless by the towering churches, the beautiful buildings, and the great energy coming from the crowd. A benefit concert was going on, and he partook in the concert and looked around at a lot of the stands, seeing many things that he wanted to take home but ultimately didn’t.

Our hero went to the St. Charles’ Bridge after spending some time in the town square. There, he was humbled by some of the people begging for money so they could eat that night. He dropped a couple Czechs into one of their hats. He admired the statues on either side of the bridge when he stopped to look out over the flowing water. He could see quite a distance and contemplated the boats in the water, noting that every individual person on those boats each has their own life, and their lives were able to take part in mine for a brief moment.

After hiking up quite a hill, he came to the Prague Castle. This humongous monument to the medieval era was beautiful in every single way. He could have spent many hours in the cathedral in the middle of the castle, alone. Each pane of glass, each painting, each stone in the ground told a story and he wanted to learn about all of them, so he absorbed all of the information that he could while he was there.

After a nice dinner of beef rolls at an authentic Czech restaurant, he came to the John Lennon wall. The wall was covered in graffiti of every shape and kind; intricate art that could only be created by those skilled enough to see a vision and act upon it. He went back to the hotel, crashed, and boarded a train the next morning, anxious to see what adventures awaited him next.

I’m on a Mountain!

The Future

Where do I see myself in 10 years? 20? I honestly have never looked that far ahead into my own future yet. I have sort of just assumed that it will all fall into place. I have goals and I’m not too worried about when I will reach them. I know that if I keep working towards them, I will eventually reach them. Those goals can probably be summed up in a short list:

  • $1 million net worth by age 26. That’s 4 years after I graduate college. It’s an ambitious dream, but I hope to be able to achieve it.
  • A wife and kids. See: “Already Gone” by A Day To Remember. I’m already something to someone that I don’t know. Basically I’m not worrying about it. It will come. I’m worth something to someone and they’ll be made known when it’s time.
  • A good job that isn’t a job. I want a job that I love to go do. I want to be paid to have fun and enjoy my work. Fortunately I’m already sort of there with my current job. I love writing code and I love the people that I work with!
  • Graduate college and get into graduate school. My dream graduate school is Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but if that doesn’t happen, I know that Northern Kentucky University has an awesome Computer Science program!

These are my current goals, and honestly they’ve been pretty integral to my constant rebuilding of myself. I feel that these will become core to me and I know that I will be able to reach them, or put in a dang good effort in reaching them!

I also really do hope that I can travel abroad again. I would love to come back to Bregenz and see my host mother again, even though I can’t speak much German and she can’t speak much English! I would love to see Vienna again, as well as Venice. Innsbruck is definitely a must if I can come back with the correct equipment for hiking! With all the time I spent here, I feel like I barely scratched the surface of what there is to see, just in this little area of Europe, in the world.

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