On Sunday, February 11, 2018, The Center for Global & Intercultural Study (CGIS) held their annual Global Course Connections (GCC) retreat for all accepted students on this two-component study abroad experience. These students have or are currently taking a themed on-campus course and then will spend 3-4 weeks on an off-campus field experience abroad. The field experience is a short extension of the on-campus course during which particular themes and topics introduced on campus are explored while abroad.

“CGIS created these pre-departure orientations because the students wanted to get an opportunity to get to know each other and build group dynamics,” Melinda Fenn, CGIS Intercultural Program Advisor said. “This is a great opportunity for students to build skills in regards to their host country’s language & culture.

This year for the first time, CGIS invited the Language Resource Center (LRC) to give the students a different perspective on cultures abroad. The LRC arranged for faculty members from across campus to give students a crash course on Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, Hindi, Thai, and Hebrew along with teaching them cultural customs/norms.

Director of the LRC, Julie Evershed, explained that one of their goals for the orientation was to give students exposure and comfort with basic introductory language.

“We have all experienced the difference in interactions when we greet someone in their own language—even if we cannot speak that language,” Evershed said. “Understanding basic cultural norms of interacting in a different culture will also help our students as they navigate their way through a foreign country. We hope to facilitate positive interactions with locals, thereby increasing the possibility that the entire experience will be more positive for everyone involved.”

The LRC offers many different services to support the teaching and learning of foreign languages, including English as a second language. Their resources include a media center with computer stations, alcoves for small group/individual work, a foreign language library that includes feature films from all over the world, language kits, graphic novels, and more. There’s even an audio/video production studio as well as a team of instructional technology consultants who work with faculty to create learn modules for language classes.

“It’s crucial to get initial exposure to culture and especially the language before going abroad,” Kristen Ellison, GCC Peru recipient said. “Language is how you will be communicating with others once you arrive and I’m glad that there is an emphasis on creating cultural competency in the GCC program. I’ve gotten a better understanding of formal Spanish that I can expect to hear and speak while I’m in Peru and I’m super excited to understand more about the historical topics that we’ve talked about in class and have a hands-on learning experience that correlates to my major and other areas of interest.”