These days, more and more students are traveling internationally to develop their intercultural fluency. Travel provides an opportunity for self-discovery, allowing for intellectual and spiritual growth through cross-cultural connection.
Study Abroad programs are an excellent way for students to gain an education while broadening their cultural awareness. Through immersion, they develop a deeper understanding as they experience different languages, customs and day-to-day life.
Here are five important points to keep in mind if you are an educator offering youth travel programs and are intent on creating experiences for your students that are exciting and rewarding!
Focus on Intercultural Value
Add the term ‘intercultural’ to your program – this will help your students stay focused on the intercultural value during their travels. The term refers to the exchange of beliefs, traditions and values that exist in different cultures, and the objective is to build trusting relationships without cultural barriers. Students are then better able to connect and interact more effectively.
Learn Both Types of Culture
All cultures operate on both a subjective and objective level. Objective culture is surface culture, the visible characteristics we notice like eating habits, clothing or rituals. Subjective culture delves deeper, and includes things like beliefs and values. Students need to understand both types and their objectives. It’s not always easy to see the subjective side of a certain culture. Over time, distinguishing between the two types becomes easier.
Don’t Rush the Process
Over the years, exchanges between different cultures happened on a much more surface level. Today, we know the value of intercultural development and how comprehensive intercultural competence is. It takes time and requires effective cognitive and behavioral strategies to develop a strong cultural understanding. Our brains aren’t designed to make fast changes, and it’s especially true with these types of situations. Gradual development helps with the adjustment and the integration of different cultural values with our own, and demands constant effort. Ideally, it involves both students and educators.
Use an Experimental Learning Approach
Experimental learning will speed progress, as it offers more practical knowledge than traditional learning. Many studies show that person-to-person immersion is more effective than any other form of learning, and educators can support the process by discussing thoughts and reactions with students.
Plan Beyond Tourism
The travel needs of a group of students are unique. A travel company can take care of basic traveling needs, but can’t offer the unique experience that would come from spending time with a culturally-experienced guide. Government-imposed flight discounts may also be an option for those needing to work within a budget. And talking with students about your international travels can provide useful insight.
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