Outside of the classroom, Josh wanted to make local friends but struggled to carry casual conversations at first despite having studied French for six years. This was frustrating and he was often tempted to just take the easy route and stay at home at night, but instead he learned to adapt and overcome the cultural and language barriers he faced. With this perseverance, his language skills quickly improved and he was able make friends and learn about their lives in Paris.
He now uses the cultural adaptability and problem-solving skills he developed as a Gilman Scholar in his job as a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State. “Having personal contact with people from other cultures is the best way to break down cultural barriers,” said Josh. “People who study abroad and the people they interact with develop personal connections and think differently [about foreign cultures].”
Josh is currently posted in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and every day he sees the importance of international relationships like the ones he first built as a Gilman Scholar. “High level policy seems like the most important thing, but the way people perceive each other is really what shapes reality. Perceptions and relationships have a real, concrete effect on the world.”