Concordia’s mission is to prepare students for the transformation of society. Our curriculum does a great job helping students develop their transformational leadership skills. But today, more than ever, that means students must be prepared to live and work in a diverse, multi-cultural world. It is crucial to develop cultural literacy.
The faculty at Concordia University strives to provide our students with the competencies that help them succeed in their career goals, and that includes cultural competency — enabling students to work effectively in cross-cultural situations.
Students seeking a Bachelor of Arts degree (BA) from Concordia are required to participate in an intercultural experience before graduation. The experience is part of the general education curriculum and entails immersion into a culture that is not native to the student for a minimum of 40 hours. The requirement can be satisfied at any time during a student’s academic program at Concordia, but must be finished before completing REL 401: Faith for Life.
The intercultural experience is accomplished in three steps:
Step 1: Experience – select and participate in an immersive domestic or international intercultural experience.
Step 2: Reflection – write a reflection paper on the intercultural experience.
Step 3: Presentation – share the experience publicly with the university community as part of an intercultural day each semester.
There are several ways students can immerse themselves into an intercultural experience:
Study Abroad – Students can participate in a semester or summer study abroad program with an approved study abroad partner. Studying in a foreign country provides immersion into a different culture, especially if English is not the native language within that culture. In many cases, students can transfer academic credits earned overseas back to Concordia and apply them to their degree program. The International Studies Department can provide names of approved study abroad partners and answer questions concerning financial assistance.
Faculty-led Programs – Student can participate in a short-term faculty-led travel experience. Each year Concordia faculty from a variety of disciplines offer academic courses which include both an international and intercultural component. For example, each May the College of Education takes students for a month to Wittenberg, Germany, to study the education system in Germany. Biology students have opportunities for field experiences in such places as Belize, Iceland, Australia and Nepal. Psychology students have traveled to France to mentor students. These short-term experiences vary each year. The International Studies Department has a list of travel opportunities for the coming year.
Domestic Volunteer Options – International travel may not be an option for all students. Concordia University provides a variety of opportunities to meet the intercultural experience domestically, either in the Portland metro area or other US-based locations. For example, a student can work with refugee resettlement agencies or organizations working with immigrants. The World Trade Center in Portland has volunteer opportunities to assist international visitors to the metropolitan area. There are also trips sponsored by the Office of Service Leadership over academic breaks that connect students in volunteer work in different cultural settings within the US. The goal is for students to complete a minimum of 40 hours of volunteer service with an organization or group with a global population or global focus. The International Studies Department manages a list of potential domestic volunteer sites.
Prior Experience – Students may have participated in an intercultural experience not connected to Concordia University. This could include an international study abroad program with another institution, a mission trip or an experience with an immersive intercultural component. A petition can be submitted to the International Studies Department requesting the experience satisfy the intercultural requirement. Contact the International Studies Department for more details and the petition form.
The intercultural experience at Concordia University is designed to build cultural literacy of our students. The program proves an opportunity to meet different people and experience different languages, traditions, values and ways of interpreting the world in which we live. Contact the International Studies Department for more information on the engaging and immersive intercultural experiences available through Concordia University Portland.
Click HERE for a YouTube video on an intercultural experience led by Dr. Ted Engelbrecht to southern India over Winter Break. There are many fascinating options to satisfy this new academic requirement.