Emotional intelligence for those studying abroad: learn how to develop

 Although much is said about the intelligence needed to solve problems and do well in tests, "intelligence" is a complex idea. Undoubtedly, this traditional intelligence needed to perform well in studies is important. But equally essential is the so-called "emotional intelligence".

This type of intelligence is what determines our ability to deal with difficult situations and to adapt to different contexts. And having one type of intelligence does not automatically mean having the other, either, which means that it also needs to be exercised.

Although relatively little is said about “emotional intelligence”, it is extremely important for those who intend to study abroad. After all, the challenge of reaching an unknown country and needing to be inserted in a society with a different language and customs is not a small one.

However big the differences, however, overcoming these barriers is possible. And following some very simple tips, this adaptation process can be much less expensive than it looks.

Adapting to the new environment

“Cold, ice, gray. On the first day of work, “colleagues” would pass in the hallway in front of my office and go to lunch, and I ended up on a floor that was practically empty at lunchtime and went downstairs to buy a sandwich somewhere ”.

This is how Cristina Nakagawa describes her first day at work in a Parisian company after moving to the capital of France in the year 2000. And she still had the advantages of knowing the language of the place well and having already had challenging exchange experiences.

These initial challenges, however, did not prevent her from developing an enviable career in France over the past 18 years. She worked as an executive at Renault-Nissan, has been a Yoga teacher for the past three years, and recently accepted a proposal to return to acting in the corporate world.

“I don't regret a single moment of these years of experience. They are not easy but they have transformed me and led me to seek the best of what I could be and to act ”, she says.

Getting together in another country

According to Viviane Vicente, a specialist in cultural adaptation, challenges such as those described by Cristina are common, and can appear in several ways. “Some are shocked by the weather when they leave the mild winter in southeastern Brazil for Canada or Finland. Others have difficulty with the cuisine of the destination country, and become dependent on products imported from Brazil ”, he comments.

These problems, however, can take some time to appear. This is because, according to Viviane, “there is a period of“ honeymoon ”, of enchantment with the new culture, in which everything that is part of the new seems attractive, fascinating”.

But then, Viviane continues, “the person starts to miss the food, prepared the way and at the time he was used to it; he misses speaking in the same way and using childhood cultural references, and there is that longing for our 'home' ”.

The issue of cultural references is a point that Cristina also raises, as it makes communication difficult even if the person already knows the language. “The problem is not so much the language itself. In a group, having a coffee, people talk about politics, economics, history, art, culture… and there were times when I couldn't participate ”, he comments.

The solution she found for this was to listen to the radio on the 30-minute drive to and from work. With that, she was able to access the main topics, news and opinions that circulated among people, and was able to participate better in the conversations. It was not easy, according to her, but it yielded great results.

Culture beyond language

Undoubtedly, knowing how to speak the local language - or being willing to learn, if you do not already know - is essential to get better inserted in the new country. As Viviane puts it, “language and culture cannot be dissociated: one informs the other all the time”

Therefore, she considers that “the greater the fluency in the language of the chosen country, the greater the resourcefulness to deal with all situations, the self-confidence to achieve the objective set, and the easier it will be to accept [the person] as someone who has something to contribute ”.

But this is only the beginning. Because in addition to the issue of language and cultural references, there are also behavioral factors that need to be taken into account. These factors can even determine the way people use language, and if they are not taken into account, they can lead to disagreements.

“Saying 'I don't like cauliflower' is different from saying 'oh, now, thank you', and even more different from the simple gesture of passing the cauliflower platter without serving,” comments Viviane as a example. This situation shows the difference between more or less direct uses of language.

According to Viviane, “Americans use direct communication in relation to the Brazilian style, but try to be a little subtle when it comes to offering negative feedback. Germans and Dutch are, in general, even more direct. Japanese use, as a rule, an indirect communication style, and knowledge of the context will help to decipher the message ”.

It is important to pay attention to this, according to Viviane, because more direct uses of language may sound strange, and even offensive, to us. But it is quite possible that the interlocutor has no intention of offending, and is only speaking the way he is used to.

Cristina says she has already seen such problems in her career. “Today, Asian cultures try to 'brief' students who come to France saying that they have to be more assertive and express what they think, instead of letting the collective side dictate behavior. I have already seen Asians try to the letter the advice to be assertive and act violently in meetings ”, he says.

It is, after all, a process that takes time. While this adaptation does not come, Viviane considers that "the principle that should guide the international student is always respect: genuinely respecting the people and the country that receives us".

How to develop emotional intelligence?

Cristina offers a series of useful tips for those who are going to study abroad to prepare. One is to write a text for yourself, explaining why you want to go. "Rereading the text in difficult times will also help to remember why you are there and what you are looking for," he says.

She also stresses the importance of balancing your energy by doing activities such as sports, outings and meetings with friends. “Being away from home, without family and close friends is a daily struggle. Only we can decide to reserve good times to recharge our own batteries to continue this incredible and so enriching adventure ”, he reinforces.

Another important tip she offers is: seek help. Either by showing yourself vulnerable to a closer person and inviting him to have a coffee, or by looking for professionals. Cristina even says that she consulted with a career coach specialized in female leadership. And as the professional was in Brazil, the consultations were by Skype.

This is an interesting point: having therapy can help a lot, but it can also be difficult to deal with personal issues with professionals from another country, with a different culture and who speak a different language natively. In that sense, platforms like Vittude can help.

These platforms allow the scheduling of consultations with mental health professionals via the internet. This removes the language barrier. Vittude says it already serves more than 5,000 patients, including Brazilians in 30 different countries. On the company's website , there is a testimonial that emphasizes the importance of the platform for those who are outside their home country.

Advantages of adaptation

Getting used to life in another country has lasting benefits, even for those returning home. After all, those who go through this experience gain a lot of knowledge about how to adapt in different environments, which is useful for a lifetime.

“Our brain becomes able to identify differences in climate, communication, expressiveness of emotions, desires and dissatisfactions, and it shapes more quickly to what each situation requires”, comments Viviane.

These skills, according to her, will be very useful during professional life. With them, “the different communication and management styles will be easily identified; human interactions will become more natural, and projects can achieve greater efficiency ”, according to Viviane.

And as much as these career differentials may be important, she believes that the main benefit of this experience is something more personal: the best of all is to feel good in different environments - at ease, capable, accomplished: feeling like a citizen of the world".

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