Workshop - Intercultural Competence
Updated: Jan 25, 2022
Facilitated by Annika Maurer, intercultural expert and trainer.
The Intercultural Competence Workshop took place on the 4th of January 2022 at the Open-Dreams center in Yaounde. This workshop was led by Annika Maurer, an intercultural trainer, BA International Cultural and Business Studies, University of Passau, Germany, and Universidad del Salvador, Argentina. The workshop ran from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm.
The one-day workshop was aimed at providing practical tools to scholars planning to study abroad; providing strategies to help them adapt to and deal with new cultures and culture shock.
The workshop was very participatory, and scholars sat in a round-table arrangement, thus easing communication and exchange between participants. The learning experience was even more engaging because Annika always used her personal story traveling from country to country. To make it even more exciting, participants played an illustrative game before every subsection. These games were “fun-practical sessions” to demonstrate what the lessons contained.
In preparation for the first session, the participants played the first game that introduced them to the concept of culture and how vast the concept of culture is. They discovered their similarities and differences by walking up to each other and asking various questions. After this exercise, participants defined “culture” in their respective terms, and she defined culture as “a set of norms, practices or beliefs that are shared within one group of people.” Annika further explained that there are many definitions for culture. She also talked briefly about the different cultures she encountered while traveling across the world.
Deeper into the lesson, the facilitator brought up some important concepts:
Culture shock and
Cultural dimensions by Hofstede.
For each concept, Annika made cardboard presentations, diagrams, and drawings of her lesson, which made her session easy to grasp and less tiring. One could barely feel distracted because almost the entire hall was covered with card boards, so much so that at each turn of your eyes, you would land on another lesson to keep you learning and focused!
Far into the day, Annika taught on cultural identity. After the lesson, she offered worksheets to the participants on which they wrote their identities and values. And to keep reminding themselves of who they are and what they identify with, participants were offered the opportunity to take home these worksheets. One major thing that stuck in the participants’ minds was “no one should ever throw away his/her identity because of a change in environment.” After this session, there was a fifteen-minute break.
After the break, the following session was on managing culture shock. To begin, participants played a card game to prepare for the lesson. Three teams were created with each offered a different set of instructions (which was hidden from the learners), and after each round, each winner changed teams. With different rules and as winners changed teams, there was repeated chaos and arguments because each rotating member in a new team brought in a different rule that was either adopted or suppressed based on how each team resolved. A depiction of this is when you travel to a place where a law says everyone must eat with chopsticks, but you grew up where the law is eating with your bare hands. Spoiler: then it is a law! This example could also be the reverse.
Apart from this illustration of culture shock through this game, there was another activity to engage learners on this topic. Again, 3 teams were created, and each had 2 sub-teams. Each sub-team shared different rules and cultures, and they were to jointly construct a bridge using papers, rulers, pencils, etc. This was another frustrating moment for the learners because they played different cultures that were unknown to the other team, yet they had to work for a common course. Once again, it was fascinating seeing how each team resolved their differences, adapted to each other, and collaboratively completed fanciful bridges!
The session on culture shock was to elaborate on and provide measures of dealing with it. Participants took turns sharing their past experiences of cultural shock, and Annika shared that experiencing culture shock is normal. She affirmed that though an expert in intercultural dealings, she still experiences shock in a new environment. Afterward, the speaker and audience jointly brought out coping mechanisms for a cultural shock as per their different experiences.
This exercise involved a question and answer session where Annika invited to the conversation her Cameroonian friend, Valerie Viban, who had studied in Germany and who connected her to Open Dreams. He shared his experience and answered all the questions posed by participants. As the workshop drew nearer to the end, participants were asked to appraise the learning sessions in two sentences and fill out a post-workshop survey.
This workshop was indeed a wonderful experience as it sparked in the learners that people have their differences. The participants were able to learn the various techniques of approach that could be used to live peacefully and in harmony with those of different cultures. There was a lot of fun, engagement, cultural exchange, and Annika was very inspirational. We learned that no matter how tough things may be, we ought to be patient and persevere right up till the end because things will get better.
PelagieTheres Fenui Shutang
Teh Triumph Kia