Recently, I randomly remembered that one time 13 years ago when I drove a manual transmission 4×4 Jeep left-handed across Australia’s Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world. I saw a stunning shipwreck, wild dingos, and even got to slide down a sand slope into a freshwater lake below. (It was kind of like that scene in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” when Rey slides down the dunes!) Studying abroad in college will always be one of my fondest memories.
International experiences have always intrigued me, be that actually going abroad or engaging with international students here in the U.S. As an undergraduate student, I elected to live in a global living learning community on campus for four years. Therefore, I was neighbors and roommates with many international students.
As a student affairs graduate student, I did an internship with the international student office. I then wrote my thesis on trends I saw higher education trend toward more short-term and cohort model study abroad programs.
As a professional, I continue to engage in activities that promote multicultural understanding and inspire global citizenship. From hosting and attending events that feature this message to spending time in conversations one-on-one with international students, we all can embrace the international student affairs experience even when we might not be able to travel outside the United States.
Campus speaker and social entrepreneur, Andy Stoll, recently blogged that “the paradox of American travel should trouble us greatly. Not just because of dreams deferred and adventures never taken, but because in the emerging hyper-connected, technology-driven world, our ability to understand each other, to connect across borders, and to collaborate, will dictate how we live with the rest of the world — or in conflict with it.”
So how can we foster understanding and connection with each other and with our students? How do we contribute to campus inclusion and pluralism?
I believe developing one’s cultural competence should be ongoing and embedded in the work we do in student affairs, regardless of title or job description and despite limitation to personally travel. Diane Goodman says it so well when she describes her model for cultural competence for social justice. She describes it as “the ability to live and work effectively in culturally diverse environments and enact a commitment to social justice. Social justice refers to creating a society (or community, organization, or campus) with an equitable distribution of resources and opportunities. So, in socially just environments, all people are safe (physically and psychologically), can meet their needs, and can fulfill their potential. This notion of social justice entails equity (fairness) and a sense of real inclusion.”
What better philosophy could one have as a practitioner! Basically, her model requires development of awareness, knowledge, and skills and includes five fundamental components:
2) Understanding and valuing others,
3) Knowledge of societal inequities,
4) Skills to interact effectively with diverse people in different contexts, and
5) Skills to foster equity and inclusion.
So no matter where you are in your evolution of cultural competence, I encourage you to read as much as you can about different cross-cultural perspectives. This month we are excited to share a series of posts from #SApros who work in international student related services. We’ll also hear from those those who have had the fortunate opportunity to work overseas or have a global perspective to higher education. Follow along as these #SAinternational stories inspire us and teach us. Live vicariously through them. I hope you’re motivated to further develop your own cultural competence right here at home. Or, (as Andy Stoll would say) live your life with #noboundaries. Adventure awaits!
> BONUS <
Podcast With Alison Scheide on Study Abroad Programs