Picture by Dineslav Roydev
One of the agreed goals of most study abroad experiences is achieving or improving Intercultural Competence. In order to do this, participants need to build their experiences with the skills they already have and combine them with who they are as individuals. They would add new knowledge and experiences to this initial structure in order to create a new self in the target culture. This process is not the same for each participant, since each and every of them will have his/her own personality, background, expectations, motivations and goals. Affect, behavior and cognition are essentials to this process (Bennett, 2009; Billet, 2013; Bowman, 2011; Brewer, 2011; Gabelica, van de Bossche, Maeyer, Segers & Gijselaers, 2014; Savicki, 2013).
Leading local faculty and staff “have an important cultural mentoring role to play” (Paige & Goode, 2009); they should have experience with diversity, be familiar with the culture of the participants they are working with, be open and facilitate reflection. They should encourage participation and create an appropriate learning environment where everyone feels supported in order to get the most of their experience. At a minimum, participants would expect the following: a motivated and enthusiastic professor who understands them and helps them through the acculturation process. He/she would act as a cultural representative and mediator between home and target cultures. Although the immersion in the culture already gives participants a good opportunity to learn, being “in” the culture is not enough; there needs to be a guide, a facilitator that helps them; the facilitator can, among other things, reduce anxiety on the part of the participant, challenge them and help them throughout the whole process. (Berardo & Deardorff, 2012; Geboers, Geijsel, Admiraal & ten Dam, 2012; Keller, Goetz, Becker, Morger & Hensley, 2014; Kuhn, 2015; Marin, 2000; Roorda, Koomen, Spilt & Ort, 201; Rotgans & Schmidt, 2014; Sánchez, 2014; Schallenberg, 2015; Stanislus, Little & Webbins, 2012).
Facilitators themselves should have a high degree of intercultural communication competence that they generally don’t have (Berardo & Deardorff, 2012; Paige & Goode, 2009).
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