Studying abroad is an invaluable experience and a great adventure for many young people around the world. This is a unique opportunity to meet new people, to gain international competence and, finally, to change your life.
What is the main goal of work as an international educator? We all keep our fingers crossed for the students and for their achievements in a study abroad area. We are absolutely certain that an intercultural experience, gain during the exchange, can provide powerful learning opportunities. Preparing students and sharing with them a study abroad experience is a significant step in the process of developing intercultural experience process.
Becoming familiar with the intercultural experience can be exciting and fascinating, but at the same every student comes into this opportunity of a lifetime with a little bit of fear and apprehension. Your role, as the guiding force traveling through this experience with them, is essential to students’ success. What should we focus on during the preparatory workshop for students? A number of issues related to abroad experience should be raised, i.e. intercultural understanding (to raise awareness of the host culture, to understand the challenges that may arise), intercultural communication (to support openness and sensitivity to cultural diversity), global awareness (to see the interrelation of human, economic and world issues) and selfawareness (develop ability to communicate about the personal challenges and difficulties). It is important for students to familiarize yourself with the mentioned above issues.
Gaining knowledge in this areas will have a positive effect on the entire process: students should increase their ability to work in the international workplace and increase understanding of the diversity of the world. In the following section we will introduce you same ideas for preparatory workshop, including the main goals of the workshop, the description of the toolkit, some ideas for topics and outline the learning outcomes.
Behaviour of the educators conducting the workshop
We all know how important an educator’s approach to the workshop subject is. The educator should present a certain behaviour with his attitude. First of all, be yourself! Students will immediately verify if you really do understand their situation.
Your awareness of the cultural assumptions can be reasonably expected to have an impact on your teaching style. Secondly, be open to make a personal connection with students. Create a safe pace for a free exchange of information, opinions, views and even the concerns. Let workshop participants feel encouraged to share about their cultural backgrounds or experiences and ask some bothering questions. Building a relationship with your audience is also essential. Another crucial aspect in the process of acquiring knowledge is to allow yourself to be seen in this process.
Sharing personal experiences will support to gain the trust of your students. Last but not least – do the research and try to understand and find students’ preferred learning styles. Get to know their stories and their background – You will be surprised how their culture may impact their learning preferences. It is all about understanding and cooperation.You may ask yourself – what behaviour should be avoided?
The biggest mistake you can make is to create the impression that you know it all and you see your students as a means towards to an end. Please, keep in mind that learning process is an equal opportunity for increasing awareness for all of you. You must be prepared to ask questions and integrate participants cultural background and personal experiences into case studies. You cannot be afraid of this kind of activities. Following the previous section about the learning styles – don’t force your students to adapt to your teaching style. Try to strike the right balance between the way you share your knowledge and the way your students’ way of learning. This workshop is designed to be provided to participants.
Expected learning outcomes
Participants of the workshop are able to:
Articulate characteristic of their own culture;
Point out the way to increase the understanding of others while communing with another culture
Point out the individual expectations and concerns about studying abroad experience
Develop a definition of the „culture” (taking into account many aspects);
Develop awareness of the process of the cultural adaptation
Describe and identify their own experiences in cultural area; - point out the various ways of communication with cultural understanding
Develop greater awareness of visible and invisible cultural difference
Practice active listening skills
Examples of workshop courses topics
Workshop about enhancing intercultural awareness
During this interactive workshop participants should get familiarized with concept of stereotypes and definition of the culture. It is important to make participants aware of how stereotypes may have impact on their study abroad experience. At the beginning of the workshop educators and students should try to create their own definitions of the culture (in relation to the cultural background in the behaviour and the communication). In this part of the workshop expectations for the upcoming study abroad experience should not be missed. The main goal for this section is to create a safe and welcoming space for free and non-binding exchange of views.
Discussion after watching the short video
Individual reflection, observations, time for sharing thoughts with others participants
The brainstorming session (especially during work on definition)
Group discussion about communication patterns (and differences between them)
Introduce the DIVE model (D – describe; I – interpret; V – verify; E – evaluate)
A useful method to help learn about new people and cultures and help to avoid from making too many incorrect assumptions. In closing part of workshop educator review the post-session activities. Students should make notes in their workshop journal. Homework: Use the knowledge you have learned during the workshop and try to prepare description of your own culture. Focus on: nationality, region, ethnic background, education, gender, race and (dis)abilities.
Workshop about growing intercultural skills
This workshop is designed to students who have participated in workshop on a similar subject as mentioned above. Students should know the concepts and definition of culture and communication patterns. Main goal of this workshop is to develop greater awareness of the adaptation necessary to across cultures. During this classes educators should focus on:
Language & Communication (verbal and non-verbal components; concept of different words but the same message). Statement: communication is one of the most important factors to encountering different culture. But there are challenges to successful communication (knowing the grammar and vocabulary is not the same as knowing the language). Truly effective communication includes language, grammar, meaning and meaning in that culture.
Cultural Context: proverbs as a good example of concept how culture is related to context in communication (they are well understood by native speakers, but not by those learning the language). Get acquainted with concept of low context and high context culture (try to point out some characteristic of it).
Cultural Shock (definition: the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture. All aspect of communication and culture influence this experience). People undergoing culture shock go through a few stages: Honeymoon phase, Crises or culture shock phase, Adjustment phase and Adaptation phase (“The U curve”). The closing part includes post-session activities.
Workshop about integrating intercultural experiences
Lingua Franca: refers to widely used languages as a means of communication between multilingual groups of people. English is an example of a modern lingua franca, the interconnecting language. There is a different lingua franca within the regions (for example Russian for countries in Post-Soviet area).
Privilege of language (definition of privilege; how do we acknowledge and understand privilege).
Individual, group and Society. Note that every person brings their own history, experience and expectations to each intercultural interaction. It’s normal to feel misunderstood in a foreign culture. There are experiences that has an impact on the social identity and our interpretations of these (for example Race, Ethnicity, Gender, Class, Religious, Age). There are visible and invisible identities in every culture. In closing part of the workshop, the educator review the post-session activities. Students should make notes in their workshop journal.