Appreciating the Forms of Communication

With the big meeting in Heidelberg approaching, I’ve been receiving many inquiries from students.

And frankly, many times, it’s in very bad e-mail format.

So bad that I wish I had claws like Wolverine and SLASH the monitor.

Some students don’t address to anyone. Some don’t end with salutations and/or their name (whose e-mail am I reading anyway?). Some have bad word choices which make the e-mail sound really rude. Some don’t proof read, like it’s online chat. And there are other horrid examples that I won’t go into details.

Sigh, don’t students understand they are being disrespectful to the money giver? I would be very consistent with my e-mail format when replying to hint to the sender that, tsk tsk, maybe you should correct your e-mail writing format and style?

To be selected in the scholarship program in DAAD is very outstanding. Some students have very impressive grades and are from prestigious schools as well, but their e-mails and style of communication… sadly just does not match up. Thus many students have given me a very bad impression already.

I really think university should have a course on writing e-mails or letters and etiquette. Frankly, even some professors at York don’t even know how to write a proper letter or e-mail!

I think this is also important for interns in YIIP to know as well. Yes, we may be fortunate to have the experience, but that doesn’t mean we can go off and write a messy e-mail when communicating with other people, such as future job employers. It does not compensate at all; it only gives us a bad image.

Remember in our YIIP Handbook there were instructions on how to write a proper first e-mail to our host organization? Tsk, tsk. I think Natasha and Larissa wanted to remind us that we kind of made some communicative faux-pas with them throughout the application, selection, and now.

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LUX Contiuation: A Very Quick Lesson Learned

Today I made a day trip to Trier, Germany, from Luxembourg.

And just a stop before Trier, German police boarded the train, requesting identification, specifically passport. Well, stupid me left it in the hostel. The only ID I had was my health card, which I wasn’t too hopeful with it as it’s not accepted as proper ID in Ontario either.

I had to tell them my travel situation, and they on the other hand were telling me how serious it was crossing international border without proper identification, regardless the form of transportation.

I pretty much almost got stopped to do police report and could not return to Luxembourg.

I was fortunate that I got a warning.  There were 3 other guys in the same train cabin who were not as fortunate, however…

Moral of the story: Do not travel without you passport even if it’s a very short and small 3-hour cross-border day trip within the visa-free Schengen Area. Police are rather serious about it!

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Missed Will and Kate? Don’t Worry, There’s Still the Grand Duke in Luxembourg. Annually.

I really love public holidays in Germany, especially in June, as there are 3!  Coincidentally they all fall on the end of the working week, so I have taken advantage of the long weekend to go to Luxembourg!

And did I arrive at the right time!

It was the Grand Duke’s Birthday, the national holiday of Luxembourg.  I’d have to say it’s a lot crazier than Will and Kate’s Wedding I saw on the news.  Plus, this birthday celebration is annual!  When I stepped out of the train station at 21:30 and walked up to my hostel, I passed by tons of bars and clubs who had they DJs blasting music on the pedestrian way!  Unreal.

Beer gardens were everywhere!  And, interestingly, I’d say the entire country (500,000) all gathered in the city that night.  Thus, you literally had to PUSH, PUSH, PUSH to make your way through!

I met up with my friend Anne who is from Luxembourg, and she and her friend Cynthia took me to a plaza overlooking the valley (Luxembourg has up and downtown.  One is on top of the hill, and the other at the bottom.  Very literal!).

There we watched a 30 minute firework celebration!  Katy Perry would be proud.

Afterwards we started to walk around the city.  We didn’t need to go to clubs to get music, because frankly, the ENTIRE city was a club!  All the streets were dance floors!  You have house music on one block, and later pop and hip hop, followed by Latin music in the other street.  Anne and Cynthia said this is the only time that the city (or country as well) is that alive.  Good introduction to Luxembourg for me!

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Seeing the Road Ahead

As my internship has crossed the half point, I’m starting to realize many things for my life.

Frankly, taking part of this internship was not planned at all for my summer. It was a spontaneous decision due to bad York administration.

Upon returning from exchange in Spain, and being like any other 4th year student, I just wanted to finish!

Well, the university did not agree. They first miscalculated my credits abroad, which concluded then that I needed 6 credits to graduate. Yea, just one course, from graduation. I was really indignant because I had planned everything for post-undegrad life. I had to change everything, but throughout that process I had no idea where to start. I argued with the Registrar’s Office to reassess, but they decided they would take their time. It was like the road suddenly became foggy.

It was until I talked to my colleague and friend at York International, Amy, who was considering YIIP, that I decided to apply, just 1 week before the deadline.

And now I’m here in Germany. Frankly, I’d have to say I was probably not as greatly enthusiastic as other interns (one thing, Germany was not one of my choices for internship at all), because I just did not know what to expect!  Sure, this internship program is a phenomenal building block for my future career and it’s what I really want, but everything I have done so far up to now was never in my planning book at all!

Yes, indeed, I have to come back to York for a fifth year and I believe I’m the only one from my high school in Taiwan who is not graduating this year. It’s a bit interesting to see everyone from my high school class posting tons of graduation photos, while I’m here in Germany posting my trips during the internship.

Frankly, I really think it’s worth it to do an extra year because of this program. It’s so much better to get the necessary experiences before entering the job market. A lot of my friends I know have graduated, but they’re just starting to build their work experiences. Rather late, I find.

Consider it, how often do you get this opportunity? DAAD is such a big organization, and the scholarship and program opportunities are beyond my expectations, and being an intern here with fabulous colleagues have been really rewarding. I had the chance to know more academic programs in Germany, either full-time degree or language schools, and thus working in Germany definitely will give me a big boost if I decided to study or work in Germany (or internationally, as this organization is surprisingly well known).

I’d have to say the road is a lot clearer now, and I feel more comfortable about the future. I plan on applying to schools in Germany and in Europe for graduate studies. I don’t know exactly where I’ll be next year in life, or after, but at least I know it can’t be anywhere bad. Plus, this experience also reassures me that sometimes, you get so much more if you don’t have any expectations.

Oh, just when I got the offer to go to Germany, the university said I could graduate. Well, it was my turn to say, I don’t agree.  Talk to me after 3 months.

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Continuation: A Very Personal Turning Point

To continue with the previous post, the Beethoven Concert also marked another kind of turning point for me.

It has to do with Beethoven’s story himself.  A lot of people know he is considered the father of symphony music, but I believe more credit must be given to him due to his disability: he was listening impaired (or literally deaf) starting at around 25.  And he lived on to his fifties and created his master pieces.

I remember reading a short biographic article about how he reacted and dealt with his illness.  There was anger, there was anxiety, there was fear, but he did not let these emotions impede his musical talent.  One night, and by the time his listening has become a lot worse, after conducting a very successful music piece, he turned around to see a cheering crowd with very enthusiastic applauds and smiles.

He wept. Not because he was moved by the enthusiasm. But rather…

He could not hear any of it.

This led me wonder, how the &$%§ did he compose all these symphonic masterpieces with so many instruments and sounds, and trying to harmonize and find a balance among them.  My goodness!

While sitting in the audience listening to one of his symphonies, I wondered, how would he feel if he could hear the piece, just once?  Would he be pleased with his composition?  If he did not have listening disability, would he have composed even more inspiring pieces, or rather, did his listening disability to an extent impeded his talent?

Beethoven’s story then connected to a very personal story of mine.

I have an uncle (not by blood, but it’s a very unique relationship between my mother and my “fictive kin” grandmother, something we have in Taiwanese culture) who at a very young age lost his hearing, and thus he is deaf and mute.  I personally do not know a lot of his own story, but I can imagine he must have face a lot of discrimination and prejudice growing up.  But thankfully, he has a very very kind hearted mother and strong bonding siblings and relatives for support.

He is currently the president of the Taiwanese Association of the Listening Impaired (however you translate it from Chinese…), which helps people with listening disabilities on employment, job training, human rights, education, counseling, support group systems and many more.

I would visit my grandma occasionally as a little child, and I’ve always known that I have a special uncle who “talked” through hands.  I was really fascinated.  I didn’t know what he said, but the idea that these signs transcend verbal speech was pure fascination for a child who was more visual than verbal in communication.  One time in high school he invited my family to his BBQ with his association members.  And that was the quietest BBQ I have ever (and probably ever will) in my life.  Though verbal communication could not be established, the people were so welcoming and kind-hearted and very patient.

And he has two beautiful daughters, who are not deaf or mute!  One of them is married with a handsome baby boy too!  So, I’d like to use this chance that clarify and confirm that: NO ONE IS BORN DEAF OR BLIND OR MUTE, aka IT’S NOT GENETICS.

Even the famous figure, Hellen Keller, lost her vision and hearing not by birth, but due to a fever.  Have you watched the movie about Hellen Keller in the scene when she started screaming “Water, water, water!”  No, it was not a “miracle” that she linked the liquid to the word “water.”  In her autobiography she stated that prior to her fever at age 3 or 4, she remembered hearing the word “water,” thus the contact with water prompted her speech memory.

I’ve always wanted to learn Sign Language, but I never had the chance to do so, be it limited opportunities or time.  As I am required to come back to York for at least one semester, I am going to use this opportunity to learn American Sign Language.  Now I’m finding that there is more purpose to my participation in YIIP and an extra year of university, specifically in Bonn, Germany. I guess now I’ve found another reason.  I’ve always been amazed how one hand I communicate with my cousin verbally, and then immediately she switches to sign language to her father.  I think that’s really classy.

So, in conclusion, coming to Bonn, the birthplace of Beethoven, has reaffirmed the promise I have always set for myself.  I currently can communicate in 6 languages (Mandarin, Taiwanese, English, Spanish, French, and now.. German! LOL), but I believe I can take my communicative skills to the next level.  I feel that for the longest time, these people with disabilities have been patient with us.  I think it’s time for us to return the favour.

Sign language it is! 😀

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A Very Symphonic Turning Point

As Bonn is the birthplace of the famous composer Ludwig von Beethoven, well, anything muscial here is named after him!

Tom and I met up to use on our of “new resident coupons” to watch a Beethoven Orchestra performance in the Beethoven Hall (See, I told you).

The orchestra not only plays pieces by Beethoven, but also contemporary music pieces as well.

While I was listening, and watching the dynamics of the group, I felt a great reminisce.

I’ve learned the violin since I was 8, and I haven’t played since I was 16.  I was in my school orchestra from grade 6 until grade 10.  I couldn’t continue in grade 11 and 12 due to academics.

And I would say that is one of my biggest regrets in (high school) life.

Just watching the the violin bows flowing up and down, accompanied by the melody of woodwind instruments, I remembered all the practices and excitement of performing in front of an audience.  I was never considered the best violinist in my orchestra nor in school; frankly I was rather inconsistent with my performance and practice.  Sometimes I can impress the conductor, while other times depress him.

I was rather amazed that I was able to inform Tom about the layout of an orchestra and history of music, composers, and music styles, even though it’s been 6 years since I’ve touched classical music.  I looked back and realized how much I appreciate my music education, because frankly, not as many people are learning musical instruments as before.  It’s rather fascinating that a lot of my friends I’ve met in my travels all stayed in touch because of knowledge of classical music.

Now I am determined to reconnect with violin again.

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Like a Fencing Match: Brevity vs. Detail

I recently noticed another subtle difference between the working culture here in Germany and North America.

I had to write an e-mail to all scholarship holders on a meeting in July, and coming from North America, it’s so easy to write very detailed instructions or next-steps. The reason is, frankly, North Americans want details; to the other extent, we’re kind of stupid or way too analytical of simple steps.

And when I presented the e-mail draft to Michaela, she was really surprised to see the length of it. We had to edit a lot, though in my mind I know there will be tons of unnecessary inquiries after mailing it.
It was the same when I edited my other colleague Martina, her friends’ daughter resume. It was short, and brief. Or rather, way too brief that I wanted to write one myself.

I later printed out my own resume and personal statement, and Martina was really shocked to see the length and details. “In Germany, we keep things short with job descriptions and application.”

And I think this cultural difference may have caused some difficulties and confusion between the administration here in Germany and the applicants from North America.

Though I have informed them of the administrative culture in North America regarding instructions and application, I think in the end it would be hard for the administrators here to accommodate that cultural aspect of North Americas, as they are used to brevity and precision.

And I guess if I applied for jobs in Germany, I may also encounter some difficulties as well. Probably employers would not be pleased to see my lengthy and detailed work experiences.

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