Tuesday, September 16, 2008

International Experience...down the street!

I'm obsessed with travel and foreign countries. This semester I am enrolled in Professor Ric Calabrese's Global Communications class. My convergent journalism beat is diversity, and my Dominican Star beat is multicultural affairs. It seems there is so much variety surrounding my life at this moment!

"At this moment" is one phrase I learned that South Americans tend to use in their speech quite often. It's not necessarily odd; I just noticed they say it more than an American would. I'm not making generalizations--I hung out with four South American English as a Second Language students for two hours this evening on the Priory campus! In the Global Communications course, each of us American students is grouped with two to four international students, and our "assignment" is essentially to log 30 hours of time with them throughout the course of the semester...but most importantly, to develop relationships with them, and get to intimately and empathetically learn about another culture.

The international students are from everywhere: Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, China, Colombia, and Ecuador. I was grouped with the South Americans--two females and a male from Columbia, and another female from Ecuador. Ranging in age from early 20s to mid 30s, we were quite the diverse group.

We hit it off right away, quickly learning we all have much in common. According to Richard D. Lewis in The Cultural Imperative: Global Trends in the 21st Century, people from Latin/Hispanic countries are multi-active, as opposed to linear active or reactive. This means they tend to be more emotional, loquacious and impulsive...favoring relationships and connections and lively conversation. Other cultures in this category include Sub-Saharan Africans, Italians, Portuguese and Arabians.

(Linear active cultures are more task-oriented, planned, straightforward and direct [including Germans, North Americans, Norweigians and the Danish]. Reactive cultures are more of the listeners, introverted, and good nonverbal communicators [including Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, and Indonesians])

That the South Americans were multi-active was demonstrated quite clearly to me the moment we all sat down to chat! Each of my group members was eager to share about their lives and budding English skills, and the nonstop conversation was lively and exciting.

I honestly learned so much about South American culture in that short introduction time, random things about popular alcoholic beverages called aguardiente, or why the Galapagos Islands are popular (they have the world's largest and oldest turtles!), and personal things pertaining to family values and human rights. I will be sharing and discussing my experiences as the semester progresses.

People in any major would benefit from taking the Global Communications class, but you don't have to be earning credit hours to make new friends and hear different perspectives. I encourage other Dominican students to get to know our ESL/international students; It changes your paradigms and is simply fascinating!