Welcome to the first ever intercultural podcast. ‘absolutely intercultural!’ is its name and, as far as we know, this is the first podcast in the world to deal with intercultural issues. We’ll be releasing a new episode every second Friday evening, looking at all intercultural aspects of human intercultural communication. For example, we’ll be hearing from students on foreign work placements, asking how teachers can make use of intercultural exercises and simulations in their classroom and sharing with you any intercultural gossip we come across. ‘absolutely intercultural!’ won’t be so much about passing on information but more about starting an intercultural dialogue between the makers, and you, the contributors and listeners.
Isn’t it great to experience new cultures by travelling to different parts of the world? Four weeks ago I spent my holiday in Andalucía, in Spain. I have wanted to go there for a long time: Granada, Cordoba, Sevilla – the place names have always sounded attractive to me.
On the first day my wife and I took part in a guided bicycle tour in Malaga – and by chance – we met Nils Langer. He told me that in the framework of his studies at the university he is completing a tourism internship in a Spanish bicycle shop
Quite a number of my students take on internships abroad in order to gain intercultural awareness and to improve their language- and transferable skills. They are culturally immersed in their host country much more than during a regular holiday. Working as an intern abroad provides them with insights into foreign work environments and working styles. Afterwards they benefit from the new international contacts they made during their internships abroad.
On my holiday in Spain, I took part in a guided bicycle tour in Malaga. I was rather surprised when I found out that our very competent young guide; Nils Langer was a German student from Lippstadt – doing his internship in a shop which offers guided tours for tourists in a variety of languages. First I asked him what his main tasks during his internship were and if he recognized any improvement of his intercultural skills.
absolutely dressed up
Sandra Elsom – an Australian guest lecturer at RheinAhrCampus in Remagen, – recognized a great number of intercultural differences right when she came to Europe. She even noticed that Germans are physically different from Australians and it made her a bit uncomfortable. Would that mean that size matters after all?
I interviewed Vladimir Jescht the native Russian owner of Bike2Malaga, The Guided Tours& Bike Rental Shop right by the sea. In the brochure Vladimir calls himself the “bike adventure specialist”. He does not only offer bicycles for rent but also – as we heard from Nils – offers international tours for tourists. I asked him to explain the concept.
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If you like the podcast then LIKE US ON FACEBOOK HERE! The FaceBook link which has generated the most interest recently was a graphic representing the intercultural skills most valued by employers which we found on the British Council’s blog. These turned out to be colleagues who understand, accept and adapt to cultural differences. So let’s see how much understanding, acceptance and adapting we hear about as we explore the social enterprise called I Go To China.
I first met Lu Yin from China in Denmark. Lu is now back in China running a group of companies which work to overcome the gap caused by poor English language teaching outside of China’s well known cities. He does this by arranging for Westerners to come and teach English to children at weekend schools as well as matching university interns with smaller Chinese companies which could use English speakers to reach a Western market. So let’s go absolutely social and hear first about the schools…and then more about Lu’s internship scheme.
We also hear from one of the teachers that Lu has recruited. I spoke to Alejandro Bueno about why he went to China to join Lu teaching English. The newest recruit is Ignasi, who, unlike Alejandro, had never been to China before his assignment with I Go To China. So there were pros and cons of going to China to teach English, to work as an intern or to do both!
So how much understanding, acceptance and adaptation did you hear? You’re welcome to leave us a comment here on our blog or on our facebook page or YouTube channel. And if you are interested in a Chinese adventure then contact me directly.
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My co-host Laurent Borgmann is in Turkey at the moment with some of his students undertaking a citizen journalism project so expect to hear more about that soon perhaps on August 2nd when the next show will come out. So stay tuned!
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If you like the podcast then LIKE US ON FACEBOOK HERE!
The sound we started with was an instrument made by Thomas Kubayi who sculpts, drums and plays music and who gave my daughter a sculpting lesson when my family stayed in the Limpopo region of South Africa last year. It just so happens that I am working with a South African partner in a European project, the Uni-Key project, so I was very excited to meet Marié-Tinka Uys on her home turf when she showed me round some of the many projects which abound in her region of South Africa which is centred on Hoedspruit just outside the famous Kruger National Gamepark. The UniKey project is about supporting university interns who choose to do their internship in small enterprises rather than the large well-known companies. This means that the interns have a better chance of working with the founder of the company and get a better feel for the entrepreneurial skills needed to run a company. Europe is starting to send interns outside the EU, for example to South Africa, and there are plans for promoting exchanges in the other direction too with South Africans able to do internships in Europe. The UniKey project has developed an online course for the interns to follow and what we needed from our South African partners was some feel for how well our online course would travel outside of Europe. For example when we talk about marketing and partnerships in the UniKey course, is our definition wide enough to encompass the African way of doing things? What about our definition of business even? Marcelle Bosch, a Dutch woman and former aid worker, has her sustainable tourism lodge business, Madi A Thavha where we stayed a few days. Can you make a living employing the former farm workers that gained their livelihood from the land that you just bought? I also spoke to Costas who works for a clinic supported by the farms, which in South Africa, are huge concerns employing thousands of workers who often live on site. This is very different to farming in Europe which is highly mechanized with very few employees. And while we in Europe depend on a universal health service paid for through taxation, South Africa is facing the HIV and Aids epidemic which affects mainly adults in their prime, so health projects are often centred around the workplace as in the case of the Bavaria farm I visited near Hoedspruit where the clinic is financed partly by the employers and partly by community efforts. We’ll also be hearing a new perspective on how to improve the status of women and how European experts can’t always cope with the differences they meet in the African context. Welcome to Melina, Akos and Omar who are the latest people to like our Facebook page.
So let’s start at Madi a Thavhi by seeing how we can be absolutely sustainable in the Limpopo region of South Africa on a former farm near Louis Trichardt or Makhado as the town is also known. And by the way, why towns have two names in South Africa is a whole other story which we could discuss on the Absolutely Intercultural Facebook page if you want to know more.
So that was an example of how to look after your employees in a small scale business and now you can hear the sound of my daughter having a go at sculpting wood with renowned local artist, Thomas Kubayi. While I was in South Africa I had the chance to discover that there is a wide range of community organisations working hard with the big employers to provide all sorts of health, education and other benefits for their employees. So this means that instead of local government or public sector provision, there is a much more local and volunteer based-coverage in South Africa. In the Hoedspruit area the two businesses I heard most about were the game lodges and the farms. So my next visit was to a clinic based on a fruit farm which treats mainly HIV and AIDs patients through the Hlokomela project. In speaking with Costas I learned that when you are HIV positive, a key indicator you need to look at are your CD4 levels and I also learned that, at least on this farm, the disease can be managed so that there are reasons to be absolutely positive!
As I was driven around the projects by Marié-Tinka Uys my eye was drawn to a set of murals painted on the wall of the Bavaria farm showing desirable male behavior such as not drinking and not using physical violence against your wife. When I asked Marié-Tinka about these she gave me a surprising solution about how to affect gender roles.
Marié-Tinka also talked about another part of the Hlokomela project which is an organic herb garden which has been started to supply the many game lodges in the Hoedspruit area. As we were talking she mentioned why interns should come alone and gave one example where the foreign expertise just could not cope with the differences experienced in South Africa.
Thanks to everyone who was willing to speak to me in South Africa and especially to Marié-Tinka Uys who introduced me to the wealth of activity going on in her area. She literally opened doors and gave me a peek into so much, which, as a tourist I would never have experienced. Thanks also to the UniKey project for giving me the opportunity to wonder about how people do business in other parts of the world. Who knows? This might even be the start of your own African internship adventure?
And if you want even more background as to broader issues behind what people were telling me about in this podcast then you might consider visiting the Absolutely Intercultural Amazon store here where we have both classics, basics and specifics for sale, a small proportion of which goes to us to support the costs of maintaining this podcast. You don’t pay any more to buy them through our store and every purchase contributes a little to the running costs of the podcast so if you’re thinking of buying, consider using our new store. There is a permanent link at the top of this blog page.
Our New Editor from Spain: Elena Colunga Caballero. Welcome to our team!
So what should we be listening to in this podcast:
How do you personally try to gain authentic information about a country and culture that you are interested in? Do you trust the official view of the foreign office website? Or do you go straight to Wikipedia? How about listening to some real people from that country? This way you will get the unofficial story from the citizens themselves. Perhaps it could be interesting to listen to a father of two children who can tell you what it is really like to take the two on public transport or to a restaurant? This is inside information that you may not find in any of the official publications of the country. Under a system which is called Rotation Curation Movement, Karsten Kneese will host the twitter account of I_amGermany for a week starting next Monday.
Let us explore what you, the listeners can find out about his culture if you follow him during that week. In our first category “absolutely twitter” I asked Karsten how the Rotation Curation Movement has developed since it started in Sweden last year. If you are interested, please find “I_amGermany” on Twitter on Monday and follow Karsten around for a week. This is grass-roots journalism on Twitter that I think you should not miss. You have the opportunity to find out the real story from real citizens without having to travel to the country.
I spoke to a group of students from the German-Jordanian University who jumped in at the deep end and decided to spend a whole semester in Europe. In our second category “absolutely stereotypical” I asked them what their parents and friends had warned them about before they left.
In our third category “absolutely international” I am talking to a young but very well travelled person. After spending all her holidays abroad since she was 15 she has also studied in France and has now started doing her practical training in the department of Languages /International Affairs at the University of Applied Sciences, Koblenz. I asked Elena from Spain what her friends and family had said when she was planning her big step.
Let us now return to the group of Jordanians who told me that in their country it would be very unusual for a lecturer to go to the university by bike, because there seems to exist a bigger “power distance” between lecturers and their students. We also learn that in Jordan, if you get invited to dinner you have to refuse several times in order to be polite before you finally accept. So one of the students politely said “No” to a dinner invitation in Germany but then learned the hard way that here you only get one shot, and he was not invited again. In our last category “absolutely different” I asked the students to explain major cultural differences which they have observed during the first weeks in Europe.
Our next show will again be coming to you on 2nd of November from Anne Fox in Denmark.
Today the whole show is dedicated to the go-out campaign, of BMBF and DAAD, the German Academic Exchange Service, which encourages young people to spend a semester abroad. I spoke to students and organisers and asked them how to plan your stay abroad, which skills are needed and what benefits we can expect to get out of it. They told me what reasons motivated them to plan this big step in their careers and but also in their private lives and which intercultural experiences they have made abroad.
Making intercultural experiences abroad is becoming more and more important for our working lives. It is generally agreed that students should pack up, leave everything behind, discover the intercultural world and learn about new cultures at least for one semester. I met a student who has done this more than one time. In our first category we hear how Tobias Pfanner went to Canada and after this experience he also did an exchange semester at our partner university in Australia. Right now he is applying for a scholarship to do his internship in China. But let us listen to how it all began during his first weeks on campus.
absolutely going out
In our next category I spoke with Wolfgang Kreft, from the go-out campaign of the DAAD, the German Academic Exchange Service. He told me how they tour from city to city – from university to university park their mobile stand with information in the middle of the campus they visit and try to convince students to make that big step and study abroad. I must say I am a great fan of the go-out campaign of the DAAD that reaches out to the students where they are – in the middle of their campus and sends out the clear signal that going abroad is not reserved to the best students and certainly not only to the richest students but should be an aim for everybody. On our campus this has inspired many students to find out more about our partner universities and scholarships and to visit the international office to get more information
In our next category, I interviewed David, a student who has made internationalization a priority and has studied and worked in Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Russia, and in Great Britain – no wonder he is strategically planning to join the diplomatic service after his studies.
absolutely german In our last category I did an interview with Dino, who is the student editor of this podcast and who has just come back from his experience abroad. He spent a semester at our partner university in Spain and told me what motivated him to make his own intercultural experiences abroad.
Our next show will be coming to you from Anne Fox in Denmark on 23 July
Today I would like to introduce you to the “Go-Out” Campaign of the German Academic Exchange Service and the German Ministry of Education and Research.
Both institutions have formed an alliance to increase the percentage of German students who spend time abroad during their studies. The aims include studying abroad, doing an internship abroad, writing your Bachelor or Master thesis abroad or following language courses abroad. One of the aims is also to encourage students to look beyond Europe and spend some quality time in Asia, Latin America, or Africa in order to round off their studies in Germany. Please visit the web page of the Go-Out campaign at www.go-out.de. Please have a look at the profiles of former outgoing students such as Birgit and Siegfried who studied in Israel and China.
absolutely connected Today I will invite you to listen to students from the University of Applied Sciences, Koblenz, RheinAhrCampus, who have already been abroad or are planning their stay but also to professionals from the international office who share their experiences with us and can perhaps whet your appetites for such a stay abroad.
How should you prepare for your stay abroad? Why do German employers think that if you have spent some time abroad you will be a better employee? Let us try to find out why your stay abroad will be a unique opportunity. A stay abroad during your studies is certainly a valuable extra for your career planning. Your experience abroad, whether study or internship, will help you develop and round off your personality but will also provide impressions and insights which perhaps others will envy you later. Many job advertisements nowadays list the requirement “experience abroad”, even if the job itself does not seem to require international contact.
Before and during their stays abroad students are often not really aware of what the real benefits of their experience will be. This will only show years later. And sometimes students unfortunately give up their plans because they cannot imagine where they should get the extra money from, whether they can survive with their basic English, or whether they should really leave their friends and family behind for several months. When you have these doubts, you should not give up but ask for help from your university. In this category I spoke to Andreas Faulstich who is responsible for the language program at RheinAhrCampus of the University of Applied Sciences, Koblenz. I asked him how many of his students do actually go out to study or do an internship abroad. And what keeps those who decide against it from seeking that valuable experience? Is it always the extra costs that students may have to shoulder?
So let us turn to our next step, the preparation for a stay abroad. Some time ago I interviewed Carsten just before he went to Great Britain to do his practical training He is from a little village near the university and put a lot of effort into preparing himself for his practical training abroad and, as a consequence, managed to secure a scholarship for himself under a program called ERASMUS Placements. One of Carsten’s aims is to “grow up” through new personal experiences.
How can students find out what exactly needs to be prepared before they take their decisions and hand in their applications? At every university in Germany students will find help with these questions in the international office. In our last category I asked Barbara Neukirchen who works for the international office how early she needs to get in contact with students to prepare them strategically for their stay abroad.
The next show will be hosted by Anne Fox in Denmark on 28 May
Today we are a little student-centred and try to solve the question whether from the cultural point of view it makes more sense to study abroad or to do an internship abroad. If you want to participate in this debate, please feel free to post your opinion. I am sure we can pick it up in one of our future shows.
I have Kyle Hickman from California in the studio. Kyle is doing an internship with a big national newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine and tells us a little about the cultural differences he has noticed between California and Frankfurt in Germany over the last couple of months. For example, he seems to have detected a difference in attitude towards interns who are doing a practical training in a company. While he expected to be exploited as cheap labour – making coffee, copies or “cold calls” he noticed that his present internship in Germany is really centered on the development of the intern – often even based on the intern’s personal interests. So, from the beginning Kyle has been trusted with what he calls “real work” and has been able to contribute to the success of the newspaper. However, he also found out that smiling too much could be seen as negative and has adapted his behavior in this respect. He did not find it difficult to integrate as he jumped at every opportunity to be social with his co-workers. Listen out for what Kyle shares about eye-contact and how he had to adapt to a different cultural approach because I think eye-contact and smiling are two pieces of mostly intuitive behavior we need to think about every time before we visit another culture.
When students come to my office and express an interest in going abroad one of the first decisions to be taken is usually whether they want to study at one of our partner universities or find a workplace abroad to do an internship. Personally, I find it difficult to assist in this decision as the two are so different and both have their advantages and disadvantages.
I interviewed Marie Nielsson, a Swedish student who has been to Germany twice, once as an intern and then as a student. You may remember her from Episode 7? During her internship she seemed to have learned a lot about the German working style in an office but she thinks that as an Erasmus student it was easier to find out more about the foreign culture as she had closer contact.
When you sit in any university restaurant anywhere in Europe, you will often hear students complain about their own university. “There are too many lectures, too much too learn for the final exams and sometimes there is even a queue for the food in the Mensa. However, a couple of weeks ago I heard completely different opinions at a neighboring table. One student sounded more positive than the next. Enough to get me interested and in our last category today we listen to some students who are praising their own university, RheinAhrCampus in Remagen as if they were paid for this. So what has happened? Have times changed? Why are these students so positive about their campus? I asked one of the students, Christian Gauglitz, and it turned out that he was, in fact, the minder of a student-led marketing activity. The students had developed a flyer and an audio file highlighting the strong points of RheinAhrCampus. He told me how they had worked and what their aims had been.
The next show will be coming to you on 24 July from Anne Fox in Denmark.