Holiday greetings from Seville!
Yes, the end of semester has arrived and students are in the process of packing their belongings and saying their goodbyes to Seville, to friendships, to their Spanish “moms” and “dads”…always a bitter-sweet time athough many from this group are determined to come back again.
We had a program farewell last week and many students spoke with me about their contentment with the program and their experience overall, how much they have grown as an individual, etc.
Here are a few photos from our end of semester farewell:
I will leave you with a writing from one of the IBC students in the Intercultural Communication in Context class, reflecting upon his intercultural competence development:
Early on, we said that the objective of this class was to help its participants -- students AND professors, I think? -- become more culturally competent. So then the question posed to us over the course of the past four months has been, what exactly is cultural competence? How do we define it, discover it, strengthen it? And in what way can we ultimately measure our progress, or lack thereof?
I used to use the concept interchangeably with intercultural communication, the ability to recognize cultural and linguistic differences between oneself and a communicative partner in order to circumvent those differences and effectively exchange meaning. Now I realize that, while the ability to communicate interculturally is definitely a component of cultural competence -- in fact, an essential one -- there’s more to it than that.
Cultural competence, I think, isn’t just the ability to communicate interculturally; it isn’t just an external thing that takes place between two people in a conversation. It refers to a person’s broader understanding that his language, along with his values, beliefs, attitudes, and the norms belonging to his culture (or cultures) are all relative, somewhat arbitrary, and, to an extent, changeable. With that understanding, a culturally competent person realizes that, while these things are important to him, they may not be important to everyone and are by no means the BEST in their respective categories. Furthermore, it dawns on that person that he may prefer some of the values, beliefs, etc. belonging to another culture and so he becomes willing to open his arms to them, adopt them as his own. In other words, cultural competence is one’s ability to immerse himself deeply and successfully (maybe even lovingly?) into another culture by giving up his tendency to rank and evaluate it compared to his own.
I hope that many students will walk away from this semester experience with a new appreciation of their home culture(s), a new appreciation of Spanish culture(s) and the desire to share gained knowledge with others.