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Cross Cultural Experiences Essay

Cross-cultural relationships bring with them new experiences that may have been foreign to you before. While they are usually beautiful, exciting and eye-opening, they come with their share of hardships and misunderstandings as well. Making families mesh and understand one another when they come from two completely different backgrounds isn't always the easiest thing.

There are many defining moments in inter-cultural relationships that allow you to both appreciate each other's differences... and just how thrilling those differences can turn out to be. For those of you who are already in the cultural thick of it (so to speak), you probably know these moments all too well.

1. Learning how to express love (and other stuff) in different languages.

Your partner asks you how to say "hello," "I love you" and those other four letter words in your specific language. You gladly walk them through every one, syllable for syllable.

2. Coming to terms with the fact that sometimes you won't understand everything that's happening.

Language barriers can be a very real problem when trying to communicating efficiently with your future in-laws. (In the meantime, smiles and thumbs-ups all around.)

3. Having conversations about the topic of culture and how it plays into your relationship.

This usually consists of questions such as: are your parents cool with you dating someone outside of your own culture? Are you? Have you ever actually dated anyone from a different culture? Am I your first?

4. Tasting your way through new cuisine.

You try some traditional dishes from your partner's native cuisine that you've never even heard of. And it's like, "Okay, I trust you and I love you, so I'll eat this. But first, what is this exactly?"

5. Having serious conversations about religion ... or lack thereof.

You may realize you have conflicting ideologies, and that a "who's going to convert to what" conversation may be plausible in the very near future.

6. Celebrating completely new good times.

You get to discover new holidays! Turns out you love a party even if you have no idea who and/or what is being celebrated.

7. Tapping into cultural idiosyncrasies.

Every country and culture has its own superstitions, sayings and proverbs. (For example: Your may not be sure why we have to sit down on the floor for thirty seconds before we get on a plane, but you love that we do.)

8. Receiving compliments and predictions on how cute your kids will be.

Because someone will eventually (definitely) tell you (however preemptively and awkwardly) how adorable your "mixed babies" will be.

9. Learning an entirely new language. Well, kind of.

You may just start telling people that you are, because you can now understand the small talk in your partner's phone conversations.

10. Stereotyping. From outsiders, from insiders and sometimes from yourselves.

You face the stereotypes about each other head on, so you can defy them together, joke about them together and even playfully toss them at each other (but only with each other -- outsiders are not welcome to poke fun, sorry).

11. Traveling to and discovering new places = the best.

You visit each other's respective home countries/towns and are pleasantly introduced to things you never thought you'd see, do, smell, taste and feel.

12. Planning future nuptials can be tricky.

Choosing a future wedding destination may actually be the most stressful decision you've ever had to make. (What place is special enough to both of us but also equidistant for both of our families to travel to?)

13. Rooting for two different teams during the Olympics.

This applies to basically every world sporting event that exists. During the Olympics and World Cup, your significant other is the enemy. Just playin'... kind of, sort of... not really. Hey, it keeps the excitement alive!

14. And lastly, proudly telling the haters they can leave. Bye.

Someone will eventually give you the disapproving stink-eye as they walk by the two of you. But you don't give two hoots about their thoughts on your relationship because you're a team now, a progressive cultural force to be reckoned with, and they (*cough* the haters *cough*) can take their old-school close-mindedness elsewhere, right?

Meanwhile, you're over here just being in love and learning something new almost every single day. So boop, haters be gone!

All images Getty unless otherwise specified.

Each teacher candidate will be required to complete one cross-cultural experience. The cross-cultural experience is a planned and evaluated learning experience that places the student in an environment where learning is accomplished through active interaction with a different culture, either within the U.S. or abroad.  Through this experience students will cross ethnic, racial, social class, and/or religious cultural borders.

The cross-cultural experience should help the student form a clearer understanding and appreciation of the characteristics of another culture and its complexity and diversity. While developing a sense of cross-cultural acceptance, students will also gain an appreciation of the sources and values of their own culture. The primary means of fulfilling the cross-cultural experience requirement will be through an internship, field experience, student teaching, job, or study abroad program that has been designated as cross-cultural. Students determine how they would like to fulfill this assignment, with the assistance of their education department advisor to ensure that the experience fulfills this requirement. All the full-time student teaching placements in an urban setting fulfill this requirement.  Other cross-cultural experiences include mission trips, the EUC 230 travel course, and volunteer opportunities such as Boys and Girls Club, Casa Amiga, Wayside Homeless Mission, and Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

Preparation for the cross-cultural experience should include the opportunity to investigate the concept of culture and its impact on habits, behavior, beliefs, and values. Each student should have an opportunity to develop skills and acquire the knowledge necessary for making informed observations and reflections. This preparation may be done through Hanover courses, workshops, and program orientations.

Students must demonstrate an increased ability to understand cultural differences and be able to conceptually relate their own culture to another. This should include an understanding and respect for the customs and social norms of the host culture regarding gender, class, and ethnicity. Students should exhibit knowledge of the physical environment, historical heritage, and social institutions of the host societies or communities. 

The cross-cultural experience is a planned and evaluated learning experience which places the learner in an environment where learning is accomplished through active interaction with the people, language, history, and institutions of other cultures.

The cross-cultural experience should help the student to form a clearer understanding and appreciation of both common characteristics of another culture's people and social institutions as well as their complexity and diversity. It should allow the student to experience the power of culture as a determinant of human actions, beliefs, and interactions with the environment. Through fulfilling this requirement a student should develop a sense of cultural humility and an appreciation of the sources and values of one's own culture.

Learning through the cross-cultural experience results from many varied components. Students should demonstrate growth in their ability to understand and acknowledge cultural differences and to conceptually relate one's own culture to another. Of course, each student will have a great deal to share about her/his cross-cultural experience, but please plan for your paper to be around 6 pages in length. Areas that should be incorporated in the documentation of this experience include the following topics.

1. Educational goals: What were your educational objectives? How did your expectations change during this experience?

2. Learning from the experience: What were your hopes for the experience? Do you feel you successfully completed the requirements that were presented to you in this experience? Why? How? Do you feel your performance best represents you? What were the benefits of this experience for you? What knowledge, insights and skills did you develop? What was difficult about the experience?

3. Institutional structure of the host societies or communities: What did you learn about the culture? What values, traditions, and social behaviors did you notice? What socio-economic class structure is operative? What are the gender issues? What ethnic groups are present in the culture? How do they interact? How did you interact with them? What religions were practiced? How were they practiced?

4. Self-reflection: Please reflect upon some aspects of your identity including: nationality, race, ethnic origin, gender, age, education, sexuality, and class. What did you learn about your own cultural perspectives, values and biases?

5. Historical heritage: Indicate ways in which you have developed an understanding and respect for the customs, practices, and beliefs of the host community. What differences among members of the community did you notice? How does this affect your understanding about your own position in the world?

6. Environment: Describe the variations in ecology and "built" environments (architecture, layout of towns, public transportation, and existence of integration or segregation).

7. Language: If you had the opportunity to speak another language, what were the challenges you faced? How did your language skills change?

8. Reciprocity: What were your contributions to the community in which you lived?

9. Conclusion: Summarize the topics raised in your paper. Include general observations regarding your experience as a whole. What did it all mean to you? Why? What decisions or conclusions have you made as a result of this experience? What questions did this experience raise for you?

Steps for Completing the Cross-Cultural Requirement

  • Student sets goals with his/her advisor before entering the cross-cultural experience.
  • Student participates in the cross-cultural experience.
  • Student completes a reflective paper or project on his/her learning gained from the experience.
  • Student has an exit conference with advisor to revisit goals established for the experience.
  • Student presents paper/project to peers and/or the larger community.  Some forums appropriate for this presentation include: EDU 221; EDU 101; ISEA meeting; faculty forum; newsletter; advisory board; and ISRA meeting (if project is related to literacy) and others.