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Bradley Finds Cultural Immersion, Understanding in Global Experience

Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Students pose in front of the Bundestag.

Cultural Connection: LeKisha Bradley (far right) with fellow students in front of the country's Bundestag (capitol) building.

LeKisha Bradley knew she was in for an adventure when her airplane touched down on German soil in 2012. One of 75 American students participating in that year's Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals, the Rose-Hulman mechanical engineering major was looking forward to gaining a better understanding of another culture and language.

"I went there expecting to learn about German culture, but I learned more about myself," she says.

After all, the Richmond, Indiana, native didn't speak a single word of German at the time, and she lived with a host family whose members spoke very little English.

So, Bradley spent the first two months in an intensive German language program. She learned the language quickly, by necessity, she says. Later, the year-long program, funded by the U.S. Congress and its counterpart, the German Bundestag, had her utilizing her engineering skills while working with the research and development team at Bosch's headquarters in Reutlingen, Germany.

She laughs when recalling how she learned the ropes of German business etiquette.

"When you first start working somewhere (in Germany), you are supposed to bring breakfast for the entire office," Bradley says, "and you're expected to eat breakfast with your co-workers at work each morning." It took her a couple of weeks to catch on. "I embarrassed myself a lot," she adds.

But learning to be flexible with other cultures is the reason Bradley wanted to take part in the program. A common saying among the exchange's organizers and participants is, "It's not good, it's not bad, it's just different." The immersive experience helped the Rose-Hulman senior appreciate those differences, and look for more opportunities to broaden her cultural understanding.

Bradley was the recipient of a Global Experience Fellowship grant through Rose-Hulman's Office of Global Programs. The grants are awarded to help cover travel and living expenses for students involved in study abroad programs and overseas internships.

Now, Bradley is planning to build on her year abroad by attending graduate school at the University of Sheffield in England, after graduating from Rose-Hulman this spring, with a minor in entrepreneurship. She will also squeeze in an internship this summer at Cummins Engine in Columbus, Indiana. She will pursue a master's degree in management, with a concentration in international business.

Ultimately, she feels that the global studies experience didn't just make her fluent in German, it also opened more career options, and enhanced her ability to bring value to teams of working with persons in diverse cultures.