Master’s Student: Daye Lee
I’ve given trainings to students going abroad for internships and research on topics like culture shock, prejudice and stereotypes, as well as on strategies for coping with the move and understanding why you’re feeling the way you do. Interestingly, one thing that helps a lot in dealing with culture shock is just knowing it’s a normal thing, and that other people are going through it too.
Meet Daye Lee, a master’s student at LMU Munich. She received her BA in Psychology and German Studies from Oberlin College in Ohio before moving to Europe to study Intercultural Communications. As an intern at the German Academic Exchange Service office in New York City, she is putting insights from her field into practice as she assists a number of initiatives designed to foster academic and cultural exchange between Germany and North America.
What sparked your interest in the field of intercultural communication?
I studied psychology in college as part of my double major and studied abroad in Germany for a semester for my German studies major. After graduating, I first moved to Vienna, Austria and started looking into master’s programs there. Although I wanted to do a Master’s in Psychology at first, my experience living in Europe really got me thinking about what it means to live in a different culture and speak a different language. Even though I had already lived in four countries by then (USA, Canada, Korea and Germany), living in Vienna still presented some challenges and taught me a lot of new things about cultural exchange. That’s what got me interested in intercultural communication as a subject and discipline.
What led you to pursue your studies at LMU Munich? Can you tell us a little about your degree?
I found out that LMU has a great program for intercultural communication, and I applied and got a place! My program is unique because of all the opportunities for hands-on experience. As part of the degree, I completed a module on ‘Intercultural Competence Training’—basically, it’s a training program that allows me to become an intercultural competence trainer myself. Also, since Munich is home to so many universities, our program runs a student initiative called SINIK where we give intercultural trainings to students in the city and surrounding region before they go abroad for their studies.
What’s it like training students in intercultural competence?
I love giving trainings! It’s not only a great opportunity to get hands-on experience, but also a great way for students to talk and share with each other. The first time was challenging because it was all in German (my third language)—that was a really interesting dynamic, giving trainings in German to German students. But I was able to bring in a lot of examples from my own experience of having lived in five different countries, which was great.
What kinds of things can you learn in intercultural competence trainings?
I’ve given trainings to students going abroad for internships and research on topics like culture shock, prejudice and stereotypes, as well as on strategies for coping with the move and understanding why you’re feeling the way you do. Interestingly, one thing that helps a lot in dealing with culture shock is just knowing it’s a normal thing, and that other people are going through it too. Our trainings also explore different communication styles, which are important for German students to keep in mind when they head overseas. While communication in Germany tends to be very direct, in other places, criticism might be expressed in a more subtle way. This makes it difficult for students to pick up on unless they know what the signals are, which is why intercultural communication training can be a big help.
What’s one thing that surprised you about studying in Munich?
My master’s program is relatively small, with only 30 people in our cohort. This means that the student-professor ratio is really good and we get a lot of individual attention and support from our professors. A lot of classes are discussion-focused and the smaller class sizes are great for this too. We have a lot of interesting discussions about immigration in Germany. Also, during exam periods, the Mensa (cafeteria) turns into a group study space. I remember in my exam period we all gathered around in one of the cafeterias and studied together—that was really nice.
In terms of Munich as a city, it really has a lot to offer in terms of music and culture. It’s also very green. There are a lot of parks near where I live. Schloss Nymphenburg is beautiful for walks, and although it’s crowded in summer, the Englischer Garten is great too.
What will your next steps after LMU Munich be?
After graduating from my master’s program, I would like to work in higher education, ideally with international students. LMU Munich, for example, has its own interkulturelle Beratungsstelle for international students studying at LMU, offering them support as they navigate the cultural differences through trainings, writing workshops and events where they can get to know German students. I’d like to work in a setting like that. In the long term, my career goal is to work as an intercultural counsellor to support people who are dealing with the challenges of expatriation and need guidance as they settle in.