In today’s podcast we have special topic: the Muslim Ramadan. The reason for choosing this topic is the great number of refugees in Germany which comes with a great number of intercultural learning opportunities. At RheinAhrCampus we have embraced this opportunity and have reached out to those refugees who are interested in university life, have integrated them in our daily routines and they, in turn, have readily shared their new lives with us.
Recently we organized an international cooking event followed by Iftar (إفطار – the joint breaking of the Ramadan fast) together with some international students, German students, ordinary Remagen citizens and our new international friends, the refugees. The success of the event and the incredible Ramadan spirit that reigned in the two kitchens gave us the inspiration for our Ramadan Special today.
What are the pictures that you have in your mind when you think about “volunteer work“? Do you think of people travelling to developing countries and teaching people the right way to do things? Is “volunteerism” the new “colonialism” dressed up in 21st century social responsibility? Or could it be a way for the volunteers to learn some new skills? And, do you even have to go abroad or is it possible to volunteer and learn new things through volunteerism in your own hometown from other cultures? In this episode we will talk to Elena Colunga Caballero and John Kaethler from Brock University in Canada who will demonstrate that volunteering is much more about learning than about teaching.
absolutely reciprocal Elena is from Spain, where the majority of people are Christians. Through her international volunteer work she has developed an intercultural sensivity and awareness of different traditions and ways of thinking. She tells us how she embarked on this intercultural learning journey thanks to her parents, who encouraged her to get involved in a volunteering project at high school. Later she collaborated in an association called “Kala – Encuentro en la Calle”, located in her city , Córdoba, in the South of Spain whose aim it is to support children and young homeless and unprotected migrants from the Northern and Sub Saharan Africa. Also, a couple of years ago she was nominated to participate in a workcamp in the region of Kurdistan, in South Eastern Turkey. She is convinced that volunteering is a great recipe for reciprocal learning.
absolutely inexperienced Some time ago I interviewed John Kaethler from Brock University in Canada who told me that he had volunteered for two years as a development worker in Nigeria and again for two years in Papua New Guinea a long time ago. He points out that the international volunteer workers need to understand that THEY are the ones who are learning a lot and are growing in the process…
absolutely open-minded In our last category “absolutely open-minded” we will come back to the intercultural learning process triggered by international volunteer work. Elena tells us about a situation during which she learned about the frictions between the Kurdish and Turkish people and how the exposure to this conflict helped her accept the coexistence of different opinions on the same reality. This seems to be the key to intercultural open-mindedness. She also shares her first experience of Ramadan in a region with a majority Muslim population. We also learn that typical international volunteers seem to have some characteristics in common and finally she gives us some advice of how to start a volunteering experience through the European Voluntary Service.
Would you like to share with us your own experience as a volunteer in your own country or abroad? If so, we would be delighted to hear both positive and negative aspects of it, so don´t hesitate and share your intercultural experiences with it with us on our Facebook Page.
If you want even more background as to broader issues behind our intercultural stories in this podcast then you might consider visiting the Absolutely Intercultural Amazon store 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.
Our next show will be coming to you on 3 May from Anne Fox in Denmark.
In our show today we will be asking ourselves how we can learn about culture and what can be done in the classroom to raise the intercultural awareness of students who prepare for their stays abroad. As an example culture we have chosen China and in particular the Chinese and their food.
Jack Lonergan tells us how you can teach intercultural communication when you teach a classroom full of learners who have, in fact, the same cultural background and even the same language. Jack gives some very interesting examples of how you can explore a culture in depth even in monocultural classrooms.
I took the opportunity to ask Mingxia Zhou, one of my business students from the North East of China whether what we call Chinese Food in Europe and what real Chinese people eat in China are more or less the same thing? Mingxia talks about the delicious food in her home country and that the so-called Chinese Food in Europe is not a real substitute. While eating out in Europe can be quite expensive and is seen as a kind of luxury, we find out that eating restaurant food in China is so much cheaper and part of everyday life there – so ordinary people can dine out or order restaurant food to their homes, simply because of the heat or the bad weather outside.
We return to Jack Lonergan and listen to how he explains intercultural differences. In his project called The Intercultural European Workplace he makes sure participants perceive intercultural differences by understanding concrete examples. He talks about how a little bowl of soup available at sundown and offered by the university canteen can make all the difference for Muslim students during the fasting period called Ramadan.
Carina Mayer, who did her internship in Hong Kong working for the Olympics this summer, aimed for a cultural change and new experiences which she would not have been able to experience in Europe. She gives us some insight on her experiences with the Chinese cuisine and seems to have been very unafraid to try everything that the Chinese put on her plate. We hear that in China she often went out to enjoy the vast variety of the real Chinese cuisine with the whole department of the office and this gave her colleagues the opportunity to get to know her more informally than at work.
The next show will be coming to you on 12 December from Anne Fox in Denmark.