Learning activities for use with the Interculture Project Database: Students' Accounts of Residence Abroad



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Academic Activities

The database can be used as a resource for the production of more typically academic activities, such as essays and presentations.  These stimulate prolonged reflection on a specific topic, and develop students' research and synthesis skills.  This type of activity complements the more active, discussion-based classroom activities.  It can be particularly useful in a setting in which traditional forms of assessment are required.

Students are given a selection of essay topics which can be researched using the database.  For example:



  1. How do students' expectations about the country to which they are going affect their interactions when they arrive?

  2. What successful strategies for meeting people and maintaining relationships have been reported by students living in the same context as you?

  3. Compare some of the positive and negative intercultural experiences reported in the database.  What factors appear to lead to positive or negative experiences?

  4. What factors do students report as causing difficulties in linguistic communication, and how do they overcome these?

  5. What stereotypes do students have about the host culture?  What effects do these stereotypes appear to have on their experiences?

These can be addressed in written form and / or as a presentation to the group.  It should be stressed that there are no 'right' answers to these questions.  Essays and presentations should draw on the database for evidence, but students are not being asked to produce definitive answers, rather to demonstrate that they have researched the database and reflected on the responses which they have found in it.

Outgoing students can write essays based purely on researching the database.  Returnee students can write more personal accounts which bring together researching the database with analysis of their own experiences, perhaps using the reflection on experience exercise as a lead-in.

Reflection on experience

Teaching intercultural awareness does not stop when students go away.  Activities which help them to reflect on their experiences and what they have learnt from their time away are an essential part of integrating their intercultural learning.  Returnees can also be a valuable resource for preparation.  The activity below is designed to help students to reflect on their memories of their experiences in the light of other students' accounts, and through situating their own experience in terms of the variety to challenge any simple stereotypes they may have developed while away.

1.  Returnees reflect on their experiences alone.  If students kept diaries while away, these could be used as a starting-point for their reflection.  Questions such as those below can be used as a stimulus for reflection:



  1. What was your most significant moment?

  2. What was your most difficult moment?

  3. What expectations did you have that were fulfilled?

  4. What expectations did you have that were not fulfilled?

  5. What surprised you the most about the host culture?

  6. What were the most important things you learnt?

  7. Were there any significant turning points during your time away?

  8. What do you wish you had known before you went?

  9. What would you have done differently?

  10. Who did you learn most from?

  11. What relationships were successful?  What relationships were unsuccessful?  Why?

  12. What would you tell someone else who is going away?

  13. What was positive about your time away?  What was negative?

  14. Have you changed as a person?  In what way?  Are these positive or negative changes?

  15. What experiences taught you most about yourself?  What experiences taught you most about interacting in the host culture?

2.  Students share their responses in pairs or small groups.  (It is important to stress at this point that students should only share those responses that they feel comfortable sharing.)  Did they all have similar answers or different ones?  What are the common factors in their experiences?

3.  Students select one or more of the experiences they identified above as significant for them: for example, an experience they feel they handled well or badly, an experience that they feel taught them a lot about the host culture, an experience which has left them with unresolved questions.  They search the database to find out whether others had similar experiences.  Did other students respond in similar ways to similar incidents?  If not, what other potential responses are there to similar experiences?






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