After two years of intense academic barrage of information, the members of Intercultural Relations and Behavior, are treated to a more hands-on opportunity to be trained in the art of training. A partnership between Jacobs University and InterCultur, the course brings Jacobs psychology and sociology students mixed right in with aspiring and current intercultural trainers from Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, China, Brazil, and beyond. Beyond the theory of intercultural sensitivity and perception, we develop skills to create our own comfortable and provocative learning environments. We explored Kolb’s intuitive, extremely helpful model of how we learn (McLeod, 2010).
At the end of the two week course I was asked to draw a symbol to represent all I’ve learned and what I don’t want to forget. I composed the symbol for inward creativity and like a lei, flowing outward when full to the brim with the prism of diverse colors I’ve come to see inside. Just the same as I felt at those moments of the training when, among this group of Europeans, travellers, professionals and trainees, I stood up with a new perspective about perception of rank and hierarchy and rights, laughing at the absurdity of it all, professing my insecurities and feeling safe any way.
Out here, in the real world of consumerist shopping centers, I am much more liable to protect myself from judgement and weirdos. That drown me out in the grey ocean of their daily whims.
I feel sick at the thought of me-diluted in the muck of a grey drain, opposite to the point of college. I am ready to taint my own water; make a mark for myself in this world- to begin, with Deutschland, by offering 1) my observations of their delightful but sincere culture, 2) language 3) my understandings of local values of structure, time, abiding rules and a need for fun. And then by offering the creativity, the reusing materials, the selfless joking personality as I shift between theatrical selves of multiple cultures in order to give my audience, or trainees, a feel for how okay it is to really be anyone from anywhere and still find your own niche in society. So I employ the the cartoon sketches of the American rebel teen, the Bollywood drama queen, the Indian science geek, indignant civilian and lost young professional with the sincerest intentions to stick to the rules. I watch these comedians on Youtube and all the rich relieving humor they pull off, leveling society with flattening commentary on the same old classist, racist, sexist perceptions of our world. My trainer’s upfront question resonates in my minds eye, and I picture my skinny self in my green giant winter coat, bare feet on wet stone and pen in hand while he says, “Why aren’t you an actor?” Why don’t you go into acting?
Well why don’t I? The most comfortable person I can be is when I am a bit a jokester, getting people laughing, giving them the chance to move and make their own decisions while I monkey around and also am sincere in taking that space and that liberty seriously, ensuring that the space to ‘play with knowledge’ is a sacred space.
Professional Priyanka- It’s a great balance of taking myself seriously but also having fun opening to different and new concepts and learning along with other people.
My favorite moment of the intercultural competence course was probably my teaching an enthusiastic dance crew some blood-pumping Bollywood moves we performed for the farewell party at the University Club. I also liked the experimental excitement of my own teaching session with an external colleague, where everyone wondered where this was going, but also knew we were both very keen on the session. We had built up quite a bit of trust by then; although we started out with quite a bit of anxious doubt about procedures. It was rewarding. To have my mind stretched apart to cope with his critical, even harsh attitude while he is actually quite a warm-hearted guy… There were indeed so many inspiring people at this training. People who have honed those mentoring skills we aspire to as students, and are managing a career besides, not to mention building families, settling abroad, and making time for a collaborative training like this one- so much laughter and fun, fresh ideas and careful contemplation for those sticky, awkward, difficult situations.
Graduation looms in three months. Now, I’ve people I can aspire to. I’ve the tools to find such people. Even better, I have begun to be that person I aspire to be.
McLeod, S. (2010). Kolb’s Learning Styles and Experiential Learning Cycle | Simply Psychology. Retrieved March 2, 2015, from http://www.simplypsychology.org/learning-kolb.html