Winter break is almost here, and many of us will soon be gathering with family and friends to celebrate various holidays. These holiday gatherings can be a lot of fun, but they can also be stressful. One reason is because they oftentimes require us to engage with people with whom we don’t always see eye to eye.
I’d like to invite you to re-frame the holidays as an opportunity to practice intercultural competence, and perhaps build some bridges and promote peace in the process.
Two difficulties that even fairly interculturally competent people oftentimes have (see the July 2017 blog post for more information about developing intercultural competence) are applying their intercultural skills when engaging with people who have a more polarizing (“us” vs. “them”) approach to cultural differences and when engaging with close family or friends. Yet intercultural competence is relevant not just when traveling abroad or...
Significant learning is learning that makes a difference in how people live—and the kind of life they are capable of living. We want that which students learn to become part of how they think, what they can and want to do, what they believe is true about life, and what they value—and we want it to increase their capability for living life fully and meaningfully.
— L. Dee Fink
This is the quote that introduces my recent chapter, entitled “Design and pedagogy for transformative intercultural learning,” in the book Learning Across Cultures: Locally and Globally, edited by Barbara Kappler Mikk and Inge Steglitz.
It may seem overly optimistic to some, especially in today’s world, but I choose to believe that I can somehow make a positive difference in this world. Not in a massive, everyone-will-know-my-name kind of way, but more like a stone-producing-ripples-in-a-pond kind of way.
It is with this optimism, balanced but not overtaken by a heavy...
This is the second in a two-part series on the relationship between mindfulness and intercultural learning. Last month, I discussed what mindfulness is and why it’s an important component of intercultural learning (click here to read Part I if you missed it). In this post, I address the need to move from mindfulness as concept to mindfulness as practice, and provide specific ideas about how educators can incorporate mindfulness into their intercultural work.
Mindfulness in the Intercultural Field
Mindfulness has been recognized as an important concept in intercultural communication for some time. In her 1999 book, intercultural communication expert Stella Ting-Toomey explains that stereotyping is inevitable, and we must learn to distinguish between mindless stereotyping and mindful stereotyping. Ting-Toomey (1999) states:
“While mindful stereotyping evokes an open-minded attitude in dealing with others, mindless stereotyping reflects a closed-ended mindset. Mindless...
One topic that’s come up a lot lately in my trainings that I find people are very eager to learn more about is mindfulness. In this blog post—part one of a two-part series on mindfulness—I discuss what mindfulness is and why it’s an important component of intercultural learning. In next month’s post, I’ll provide some specific ideas about how educators can incorporate mindfulness into their intercultural work.
Definition of Mindfulness
According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, who is largely responsible for bringing mindfulness to the secular world, “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”
We spend most of our lives operating on automatic pilot, with unconscious scripts guiding our actions. This is necessary and useful because it frees up mental capacity to focus our attention on more complex tasks.
However, there is a limit to the efficiency and helpfulness of operating on...
Have you ever wondered how you can better help your students navigate cultural differences (at home or abroad)? I’ve been asked this question by many educators, and my answer often surprises them.
Without hesitation, I would encourage you to first focus not on your students’ learning, but on your own intercultural development. Research and my own experience both strongly suggest that an educator’s degree of intercultural competence impacts how they help students learn through intercultural experiences.
Before I explain why it’s so important to first focus on yourself, let’s explore what intercultural development entails. Intercultural competence can be defined as the ability to communicate and act appropriately and effectively across cultural differences. Effectively means we achieve what we set out to achieve. Appropriately means we do so in such a way that any other parties involved feel respected.
Update: True North Intercultural now offers a FREE online training on this very topic! It comes with a useful activity and ideas of how you can use or adapt the activity in your context. Click here to enroll in the course now.
I likely never would have met my spouse if I had not consistently and intentionally pushed myself outside my comfort zone while studying abroad.
While spending my junior year of college in Sevilla, Spain, I had what you might call a mantra. I regularly reminded myself of a favorite Eleanor Roosevelt quote: “Do one thing that scares you every day.”
For example, when I stood at the edge of the cafeteria in the residence where I lived one day and surveyed the room, these words rang in my head and inspired me not to sit with the other students from my program, but to instead approach two good-looking guys I had never seen before (go big or go home, right?) in order to make local friends and practice my Spanish. So I introduced myself (in...
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