You’re on the streets of New York…
A Japanese guy turns to you and says – what is the name of this block?
You say, blocks don’t have names, streets have names, blocks are just the unnamed spaces between streets.
You’re on the streets of Tokyo…
You ask, what is the name of this street?
Someone responds with, streets don’t have names, blocks have names. Streets are just the unnamed spaces between blocks.
Derek Siver’s TED talk was amazing. It was just under three minutes long but he drove home the point that cultures have differences, and that it is OKAY. The proposed question here is: Is this weird or is this just different? If you are culturally competent you would say this is just different. Different suggests you can accept this other point of view as valid, just different. “Weird” would suggest someone’s ignorance to diversity. From my experience in school from k-12 and all during my journey in receiving my bachelor’s, the first intercultural class I ever took was…this one. I started elementary school in 1993, and the first exposure I’ve gotten to formal cultural competence training has been in the spring semester of 2017. There is a problem with that. How are we supposed to be contributing members in a society that is becoming more diverse every day if it has never been apart of our curriculum in the public school system?
So to enable the new generations to be fluent in “different” also known as, international/cultural competence, I’ve come up with some suggestions to put to rest this “weird or different” theme. The first is, we need to come up with a definition that the UN or the United States department of Arts and Culture or even the Utah Valley University Multicultural Student Council can decide on. Once we have an international, national or even school-wide definition then we can begin our journey toward graduating “more” culturally competent students. Second, we need to have more formal education regarding cultural competence. Third: We need to apply what we’ve learned by traveling more during and after university studies. For example, many Australians save up and travel the world for one year after they graduate high school. There is no better way to learn and apply cultural competence than being in a foreign country.
Current goal: Graduate (post high school education) students who are culturally competent.
Distant goal: Graduate high schoolers who are culturally competent.
“One meaningful outcome of internationalization efforts is the development of interculturally competent students. Yet, few universities address the development of interculturally competent students as an anticipated outcome of internationalization in which the concept of “intercultural competence” is specifically defined. This lack of specificity in defining intercultural competence is due presumably to the difficulty of identifying the specific components of this complex concept. Even fewer institutions have designated methods for documenting and measuring intercultural competence.. Intercultural competence…involves the development of one’s skills and attitudes in successfully interacting with persons of diverse backgrounds” (Deardorff, 2006).
Dr. Deardorff explains how identifying what being culturally competent can be complex. In a world of diversity, prejudice, sexism, racism, etc. It is hard to come up with an exact answer, it is even harder to get universities throughout the United States and the world to accept the definition and then to teach a curriculum based on it. Dr. Deardorff ends up with a complicated study that helps define cultural competence and then helps rate student’s cultural competency based on a mix of quantitative and qualitative measures, qualitative measures, case studies, analysis of narrative diaries, self-report instruments, critical incidents, quantitative measures, critical essays, judgment by self and others, triangulation, interviews, and more.
Traveling is a great way to apply what one has learned about other cultures and how to accept everyone for who they are. Yet in traveling there is a big difference between a tourist and a sojourner. A tourist is someone who comes to see and a sojourner is someone who comes to stay. The sojourner provides significantly more value to the culture they are “visiting” because lifting up a culture and making it better can only happen by people coming together to enrich each other and the community. The problem is, a lot of people in the world are able to travel, but few get the real experience of moving into a totally new culture enabling themselves to bring their value of diversity and experience to that community (Byram, 1997).
I’ve traveled more than most Americans but still haven’t scratched the surface of international travel. I’ve spent a lot of time in Canada, I’ve been to Mexico fifteen times, Central America, Australia and a lot of the U.S. including the top five most populated U.S. cities, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Phoenix. I grew up in Portland, Oregon and I’ve lived for more than four months in Indiana, Idaho, Utah, California and two years in central Canada. Over four months I consider to be more than simple tourism. I had a job and integrated into the culture and hopefully added value. I learned a great deal from the people of Canada. I mingled with the wealthy and the poorest of the poor, I lived with several different roommates from different states and countries. This “real life education” gave me my early exposure into “cultural competency.” Even with these amazing experiences and opportunities, I’ve learned how judgmental and closed minded I still am after taking this course! It takes dedicated practice to be converted to this way of thinking.
“The nature of the processes is a function of the skills which a person brings to the interaction…These can be divided into two broad and related categories: first, skills of interpretation and establishing relationships between aspects of the two cultures; second, skills of discovery and interaction…These four aspects on interaction across frontiers of different countries- knowledge, attitudes, skills of interpreting and relating, and skills of discovery and interaction… can in principle be acquired through experience and reflection, without intervention of teachers and educational institutions (Byram, 1997).
According to Byram, If we don’t nail down formal education on cultural competence we’ll be okay and potentially learn even more if we take the time to travel (sojourn) and gain experiences.
Sivers, D. (2010, January). Weird, or Just Different? [Video file]. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1K5SycZjGhI
Deardorff, D. K. (2006). Identification and Assessment of Intercultural Competence as a Student Outcome of Internationalization. Journal of Studies in International Education,10(3), 241-266. doi:10.1177/1028315306287002
Byram, M. (1997). Teaching and assessing intercultural communicative competence.
Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.