For a young student, studying abroad can provide invaluable global leadership skills and cultural competence they will have for the rest of their life. But what about students who are unable to study abroad but still want that experience?
Aperian Global Consultant Dan Kerr sat down with Elizabeth Tuleja, China Fulbright Scholar and Sichuan University Visiting Scholar, to discuss how Chinese students are gaining a study abroad experience at home.
Every summer the Sichuan University in Chengdu, China, has an international summer school program where professors from around the world are invited for 1-2 weeks to provide courses for the Chinese students who are unable to study abroad. Students are given the opportunity to explore short courses outside of their major and experience classroom learning led by a foreign professor.
This year, Elizabeth Tuleja taught the Intercultural Communications course, which consisted of 31 graduate students. More than half were Chinese, but students from other countries came to study as well, giving Chinese students a true study abroad experience. In total, she had 17 Chinese students, 2 students from Special Administrative Region (SAR) Hong Kong, and the remainder from other countries including Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Russia, Mongolia, and Brazil.
I assigned students to take the Intercultural Effectiveness Scale (IES) and the GlobeSmart Profile (GSP), which in my opinion, makes for a well-rounded self-reflective experience. The IES gives feedback that is non-judgmental about a person’s global strengths and areas for improvement; while the GSP shows cultural differences as well as individual communication and work-style preferences. The self-discovery plus the cultural knowledge-building make for a unique and strong learning experience.
I like the GSP because it is compact and easy to use. There are only five dimensions to consider, which makes it easier for students whose first language is not English. Even though the tool can be used in 13 languages, when teaching in English, having a smaller number of dimensions helps facilitate learning because it doesn’t overwhelm the student.
I like the IES because it focuses on three aspects of our ability to deal with differences when crossing cultures:
We discussed the differences between cultural generalizations (hypotheses to be tested based upon observable, empirical evidence) versus stereotypes (generalizations based upon opinion and applied to anyone regardless of fact).
We worked through exercises that enabled students to first explore their specific profiles, then had students compare and contrast with team members. We discussed at length the importance of understanding country data compared to individual data; not everybody will fit the composite profile of their home country. For example, in our class, we had two Indonesian students who came from two very different ethnic groups (Sudanese/Lampung) and two Israeli students from different ethnic groups as well (Arab/Jewish) and had very different profile results.
We used the class GSP results to discuss the similarities and differences in the cultural dimensions of the countries represented in our class.
Prior to arrival, students were asked to complete the pre-assessment of the IES. The IES assesses the degree to which a person possesses competencies that are critical to effective interaction with people from other cultural backgrounds. It focuses on three dimensions of intercultural effectiveness, which are:
Class activities focused on these three aspects of cultural competence. For example, in pairs, students picked their strongest competencies and discussed reasons, based upon specific examples, why they might be good at interpersonal engagement. Then, they were encouraged to think about their weakest area, reflect on it in their journal, and share their reflections with one of their classmates. The student’s final assignment was a two-page action plan that challenged them to think of an area for improvement and make a plan for personal development. Within the IES feedback report, there were specific examples to guide them.
Out of 31 students who responded, 100% agreed that the GSP was useful in their course. In terms of the IES, 94% agreed to its usefulness, while 6% were neutral (2 students).
At the conclusion of the program, students completed the IES assessment again. The overall scores for all three dimensions and overall cultural competence increased and most of the students increased in all areas.
The students’ anecdotal feedback on the usefulness of these tools was overwhelmingly positive. A few direct quotes are listed below.
GSP reflections included:
IES reflections included:
If students could increase their cultural competence in one week, just think of the potential for sustained “cultural mentoring.” Mick van de Berg’s Georgetown Consortium Project (2011) regarding study abroad and teaching intercultural competence showed that it wasn’t the amount of time a student went abroad, whether they lived with a host family, or whether they spent their day studying the language – what mattered in terms of the outcome of their intercultural effectiveness was the consistent reflection and discussion with a cultural mentor – someone who could guide them throughout their process of self- and other-discovery. GlobeSmart Profile and the IES have proven to be effective for stimulating these growth-oriented discussions in a Chinese academic context.
I would be happy to talk with other faculty and university officials about my experience in China with both of these tools. Interested parties can reach out to me at email@example.com or visit my website.
Dr. Elizabeth A. Tuleja is an expert in cultural competence and has been designing, developing, and teaching in business schools in the USA and Asia for 20 years. She has been on the faculty of the Wharton School of Business, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the University of Notre Dame, and most recently as a Fulbright Scholar to China at Sichuan University in Chengdu. She is currently splitting her time between the USA and China, working as a consultant and educational advisor. Her most recent book is Intercultural Communication for Global Business: How Leaders Communicate for Success (Routledge, 2017).
Dan Kerr is an Intercultural Solutions Consultant at Aperian Global and an adjunct faculty member at the College of Business at Stony Brook University and St. Joseph’s College. He partners with organizations and universities to develop cultural competence and inclusive work and study environments. Dan is a CPA and holds a Master’s Degree in Accounting from the CW Post School of Accountancy, as well as a Ph.D. in Business Education/Cultural Studies from New York University. He is also a published poet.