Managing Relationships Abroad 

We hope that while abroad, you’ll become friends with locals, other international students, and students from the US.  However, managing interpersonal relationship, whether romantic or platonic, abroad can be challenging (you might be noticing a trend here). Here are some things to consider: 

  1. Language Barriers:  We all make language mistakes when we go abroad- there are idioms, vocabulary, and other language issues that we all experience.  However, when you are considering interpersonal relationships, you should be aware of these language challenges.  That said, any individual that is worth your time will be patient and understanding. 

  1. Cultural Understandings: This is a big one.  Be aware that actions as simple as giving someone your cell phone number can have much different implications overseas as in the United States.  Other cultural interactions – the amount that some texts you, what a kiss means, or an invitation to dinner – can all have unwanted or undesired implications. 

  1. Gender and Sexuality: Cultural understanding of gender and sexuality varies from country to country, and even region to region.  Whether or not to respond to cat calls, what it means to identify as gay or trans, interactions between different genders – all of these cultural subtleties are part of forming relationships with people overseas. 

So, what should you to do navigate these situations?  Your faculty and local staff can be great resources for helping you to understand the host culture and social relationships.  Associate yourself with individuals that are patient and willing to help you understand your new environment. 

Last, but not least, don’t let yourself be lured into a sense of false security simply because someone speaks English.  We are drawn to people who are like us, and in many cases overseas, speaking the same language might be the immediate draw that brings two individuals together.  That said, the similarities between you and the other individual may end there.  It’s not to say that you shouldn’t associate and take advantage of finding people who speak English.  Just don’t assume that they are automatically good people or that you have any more in common than a shared language. 

What our students say

  • Rachel Mast

    In summer 2015, I participated in the International Internship Program in Berlin, Germany where I interned at an internet-based coffee retailer. Although I loved everything about my internship experience, my favorite memory came from getting to build personal relationships with my co-workers. There were four interns from around the world at my organization, and it was so cool to exchange cultural insights as well as differences in the respective educational programs. We are still connected on social media, and it is pretty cool to have friends from all over the world. Working in the consumer-goods industry, I was able to really see how Americans and Europeans vary in their preferences and response to marketing communications. Overall, the biggest thing I learned was how important it is to understand the target audience when creating products and marketing campaigns. After this experience, I feel much more confident in working for an organization with a global focus.
  • Kelsey Magilton

    Interning for the Sydney Opera House was an experience I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Choosing to participate in an internship was easily the best decision I made when going abroad. I was a marketing intern at the Sydney Opera House. The entire experience is one that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. It was an exciting time to be an intern as I was able to help the team develop new marketing collateral with their recent rebranding efforts. I joined forces with the design department to create brochures and point of sale displays, which are still on display at the Sydney Opera House today. It was especially rewarding to be included in the initial brainstorming stage and assisting the SOH implement a successful re-launch of their brand. The biggest thing I learned was the ability to work with people of different cultures. Sydney is the "New York" of Australia, therefore it is one giant melting pot. I worked with individuals from every... Read more
  • Josh Hammaker

    Studying abroad has helped me in my career in ways I would never have expected. Most notably, studying abroad taught me how to interact with people from different backgrounds and cultures. Since graduating from Pitt, I've been working in a position that involves a decent amount of travel and therefore requires me to interact with individuals from all over the world. Being able to share the adventures and experiences gained from studying abroad was likely one of the deciding factors that set me apart from other candidates for my position. Travelling to and living in another country takes most people out of their comfort zone, but every minute overseas was absolutely worth it.
  • Allie Roos

    When I was a freshman, I sat down with one of my professors to discuss what I expected from my college experience. The first thing out of my mouth was that I wanted to study abroad. Now as a senior, I have been able to study abroad twice, once with a Panther Program (Pitt in Sicily) and again with a Pitt-Recognized Program. It was this program that was suggested to me during that freshman year meeting. The Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies (ICCS) has been the premiere study abroad experience for Classics students since 1965. The "Centristi" (students at the ICCS) come from across the country and live together for a semester in a four story building located in the eternal city, Rome. I knew from the first moment I heard about the program that I needed to be apart of this institution. Not only were the students from various parts of the country, but so were the Professors. The diversity of experience and background within our small group of thirty was a... Read more
  • Emma Huckins

    Through my time in Germany, I gained many professional skills that would be hard to learn just in the classroom in Pittsburgh. Every culture has its own customs and manners when it comes to business, and with business being such an international field, it is important to be knowledgable about cultures in other countries. I was able to get first hand experience of these kinds of differences while I was in Germany working with German university students and through touring corporations throughout my trip. The two weeks abroad lead up to a final group presentation on one of the automobile industries that we studied. Each group consisted of a couple of Pitt Business students, Pitt Engineering students, and University of Augsburg students. So on top of networking with students and professionals in Germany, as a CBA student I was given the opportunity to get to know and work with Swanson Engineering students. Overall, Plus 3 Germany not only expanded my professional network, but also gave... Read more
  • Madeline Wells

    Through the Pitt in Alcalá program and the Franklin Institute at the the Universidad de Alcalá in Alcalá de Henares, Spain, I had the opportunity to shadow a doctor at the local hospital in Alcalá. This experience was by far the most challenging, but also most rewarding. I was paired with a medical student in her third year of residency and had the opportunity to shadow her work for 15 hours. She worked in the rehabilitation department in the emergency room, so we saw lots of patients with muscular or skeletal injuries. I definitely had trouble understanding what the patients and doctors were saying, because they spoke very quickly and used advanced medical terminology. However, by the end of my time shadowing there, I could tell that my Spanish skills, especially my knowledge of medical Spanish, had improved tremendously. I am currently pursuing a degree in Rehabilitation Science and plan on being a physical therapist, and would love to incorporate Spanish into my career plans... Read more
  • Jay Carter

    As an exchange student in Marseille, France, I gained insight into the international business of the European culture and its influence on the global economy. The geographical and cultural diversity of each exchange student enriched course discussions; Chinese, Russian, Mauritian, Italian, Mumbian and Londoner are just a few of the student nationalities. Classroom presentations ranged on topics of ‘ethics, corporate social responsibility, unconscious bias, personal branding, talent marketing and skills management.’ Outside of the classroom, the Interact Team was welcoming and made Marseille enjoyable. The social activities exposed us to a lot of what Marseille had to offer. A few activities included water tubing, hiking the tranquil trails of Les Calanques, scenic tours, shopping and beach activities. The faculty, staff and students of Kedge were extremely accommodating to everyone, ensuring safety and well-being. Currently, I am employed with Luxottica Retail, a multinational... Read more
  • Rachel Vinciguerra

    I spent a little over two months in Haiti this summer conducting a program evaluation for a girls' empowerment program I helped to start there two years prior as well as completing an internship with an emerging foster care agency. This summer marks the first time that I have formally been involved in professional program evaluation. After my experiences in Haiti, I can say that I led two separate program evaluations (one a mid-point evaluation and one to design monitoring and evaluation protocol pre-implementation). Having this experience not only taught me a lot about program evaluation on-the-ground and helped me identify areas I can improve, but it also communicates to others in my field that I am serious about this work. After this summer I have deliverables in the form of a program evaluation report (in two languages) and program monitoring and evaluation guides that I could share with potential employers. This experience has brought me to a new level in my academic and... Read more
  • Nina Kneuer

    I believe that the two skills I learned the most while abroad was independence and adaptation. I've always been someone who is very independent, but when you're thrown into a country where you've never lived before and you're suddenly there, without family or friends, living with new people and new friends, it can be quite a culture shock, and can really test your true independence. I learned very quickly how to make real friends and how to become comfortable with my new surroundings. I also believe that having friends in this program really helped my independence grow while I was abroad, because with friends you go out and travel, like you wouldn't otherwise do by yourself. Hence, going out to pubs for a social night out with friends and booking last minute plane tickets to a weekend in Belgium, became a usual, fun, comforting, and independent thing for me to do. Adaptation comes along with independence in the sense that you are thrown into something you do... Read more