Intercultural Competence: Facilitating the inclusion of foreign students in Madrid, Spain
Studying and living abroad is an enriching experience that is normally regarded as an incredible opportunity in which students create unforgettable memories.
However, is it always easy and normal to adjust perfectly to the host culture? Is it possible to shift automatically to the new culture’s beliefs, behaviors and communication styles? Being immersed in a context with people from a different cultural background can be very disturbing.
Intercultural competence could be described as the set of cognitive, affective, and behavioral skills and characteristics that support effective and appropriate interaction in a variety of cultural contexts (Bennet, in press).
Cultural competence does not always come along with cultural knowledge (politics, history, arts,…) and learning the language of the country is not enough to understand the culture itself. Finally, only from interacting with people from different cultures someone does not become culturally competent or less likely to have stereotypes. Therefore, a workshop on intercultural competence becomes necessary to enhance a deeper understanding of the cultural aspects of their host
There are some factors (personal, Spanish cultural context and the interaction of both) that must be taken into consideration when assessing the possible cultural shock that students might feel.
Research (Paige, 1994) has proven that the more intense cultural differences are and the more negative the evaluation of those cultural differences is, a worse impact is expected on the sojourner. Also if the person is ethnocentric or is experiencing ethnocentric stages (denial, defense and minimization) during their period abroad, the more intense the effect can be.
Immersion in the new culture has proven to be very effective for the learning process in the long term (language and cultural adaptation). However, it also means that meanwhile they are constantly exposed to situations with cross-cultural differences that can make the process very stressful.
Another important factor to consider is whether the students have had before or not another intercultural experience. If they have, they might have developed skills to help them cope with this new culture. Moreover, not having realistic expectations about their experience abroad or being physically very different from the people of the host culture can make them feel pointed out.
Spain is also a country where some sexist and racist behaviors are still accepted and that may even affect directly some of the foreign students (because they are against those type of comments or because they can relate to them), affecting negatively on their global abroad experience.Therefore, taking into consideration all the factors mentioned above concerning how cross-cultural differences can affect negatively the students’ experience abroad, a program in intercultural competence is regarded as necessary.
2. Profesional profile:
Lucía Largo Almoguera, graduate in Psychology with an MSc in Clinical Therapy. My Psychology and Intercultural knowledge have helped me to live and travel in different parts of the world (USA, Argentina, Morocco). Most recently, collaborating with Peace Boat, a Japanese NPO, as an intercultural trainer for Japanese youth. I’m very interested in enhancing my students’ welfare and mental wellness.
3. Intercultural competence program:
The program has three main components: first, helping the students to develop and practice skills with role-plays that are useful for the immersion context (tailorized for Spain). Secondly, debating useful strategies for encouraging students to actively participate in the target culture and finally, to strengthen their coping mechanisms when they have cultural shock overload.
During the first sessions, the main objectives are:
– Create a positive group climate that allows the participants to work on their intercultural competence comfortably.
– Raise awareness of their own cultural identities and values, facilitating a reflection on how some of them might collapse with values of the locals.
– Understand the difference between using stereotypes to predict the values and behavior of every local they meet and another thing is to use cultural generalizations to help them.
– Introduce them to the metaphor of cultural behaviors as icebergs where only some aspects are visible and most of them are invisible.
Activities: Propose different real situations where they have to role-play interactions with locals where there’s a cross-cultural misunderstanding. Use the
In the following sessions, the objectives are:
– Familiarize the students with the model of the U-curved adjustment process and reflect on their own experiences (Lysgaard, 1955; mentioned in Paige, Cohen,
Kappler, Chi and Lassegard, 2002).
– Assess subjectively their own culture-learning strategies (Paige, Rong, Zheng and Kappler; mentioned in Paige, Cohen, Kappler, Chi and Lassegard, 2002).
– Encourage them to draw a plan to improve their cultural competence. The facilitator will help them write realistic objectives (thinking on personal, time andcontext factors) with indicators to assess at the end of the workshops, whether they have been or not successfully achieved.
– Share their own coping strategies to overcome cultural shock overload.
In the last session, there will be a preparation for the re-entry to their country (USA).
This Course is tailor-made.
If you need more information or a personalised quote, please contact us providing as much information as possible. Within 24 hours you will receive an answer with a personalised quote.
– Bennet, J.M. (1998). Intercultural communication: a current perspective. In M.J. Bennet (Ed.), Basic concepts of intercultural
communication-Selected readings (pp. 1-33). Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press.
– Bennet, J.M. (2008). On becoming a global soul- A path to engagement during study abroad. In V. Savicki (Ed.). Developing intercultural competence and Transformation – Theory, research and, application in international education. Sterling, VI: Stylus Publishing.
– Paige, R. M. (1993). On the nature of Intercultural Experiences and Intercultural Education. In Education for the Intercultural Experience (pp. 1-13). Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press.
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