Intercultural Learning

AMIDEAST Education Abroad Programs are structured to include opportunities for students to develop greater intercultural competence. Using five frameworks – language use; non-verbal behavior; communication style; perceptual style; and cultural assumptions and values – as key windows for understanding cultural difference, students on AMIDEAST programs are encouraged to look under the surface of inter-personal interactions and search for deeper understanding of how host country nationals perceive the world around them. 

During the pre-departure process, on-site orientation, and throughout the program, AMIDEAST staff provide structured learning opportunities to help program participants act and relate appropriately in new cultural contexts. Equipped with these tools, students can then move to adapting their behavior to local norms while in country. Those same tools can later be used in other cultural contexts so that students can become truly effective intercultural communicators in a wide range of contexts both at home and abroad.

Some key components of AMIDEAST’s approach to intercultural learning include:

Cultural Dialogue Sessions

During semester programs, Education Abroad students participate in structured dialogue sessions with carefully-selected host country peers from local universities. Held either in informal small groups or as larger speaker-led discussions, cultural dialogue sessions provide an opportunity for Education Abroad students to discuss cultural issues and interact with host country peers.

AMIDEAST staff members strive to create a “safe space” for both Education Abroad and host country students to express their views and ask questions. These unique environments allow participants to discuss challenging topics that require contemplation and reflection, and promotes intercultural learning. Some of the topics that may be discussed during these cultural dialogue sessions include perspectives on identity, marriage, religion, and gender roles.

“I learned the ability to empathize, understanding another opinion from the perspective and circumstances of another. This skill was taught through dialogues and interactions with Jordanians facilitated by the excellent AMIDEAST staff.”
-  Jordan 2013 Student

Language Partners

In each host country, AMIDEAST field staff recruits local students, young professionals, and participants in AMIDEAST English-language courses to act as language partners for AMIDEAST students. During both in-class and extra-curricular activities, Education Abroad students work with host-country peers to practice language and build cross-cultural understanding.  Language partners are a core element of the Arabic language learning agenda of those programs.

Reflection Period

All AMIDEAST Education Abroad semester/academic year programs include a "Reflection Week" at the end of the term. Summer students will participate in a “Reflection Day” at the end of the program.

Over the years, AMIDEAST has found that at the end of the program, students often feel a great deal of excitement and anxiety about returning home. Reflection periods have been designed in order to create the time and space for students to slow down, look back on their experience, and plan for their return home.

While many students reflect informally during their time abroad, structured reflection helps improve intercultural learning and personal development. Structured reflection aims to help students step back from the everyday challenges and struggles of living abroad, and reexamine the bigger picture.  Further, reflection at the end of the program helps students apply the lessons they have learned in the classroom, from their friends, and from their daily lives abroad to their world back home.  Recent research has shown that without cultural mentoring and structured reflection students do not increase their intercultural competence at the same rates as those who do receive such structured ways to examine their experiences. Structured reflection allows students to take a step back from the everyday challenges and struggles of living abroad, and reexamine the bigger picture. 

AMIDEAST uses this part of the program to create the time and space for students to slow down, look back on their experience, and plan for their return home. 

The purposes of Reflection Week/Day are to provide students with opportunities to:

  1. reflect on academic learning that took place in each of their courses
  2. reflect on their own intercultural learning via guided activities organized by the programming staff 
  3. have closure to their experience with
    • their classmates (who they will not be with again, perhaps ever, as they return to their home campuses),
    • the friends they have made in the local community,
    • their host families, and
    • the places they have come to know and love.
  4. prepare for their re-entry to their home country

“I very much appreciate having had the opportunity to come to a sort of closure while still in-country. On my journey home I sat next to two students from a program in Germany who expressed their sadness at having to leave the country one day after their final exams. The Reflection Period helped me organize my thoughts about the semester before I even left, and gave me the opportunity to spend time with the people and places I had come to know during that time.”
– Fall 2014 Jordan Student