Tips from the EAIE Academy in Tallinn: How to become a ‘cultural navigator’

Tips from the EAIE Academy in Tallinn: How to become a ‘cultural navigator’

Yesterday the fifth EAIE Academy, a hands-on comprehensive training programme for international educators, kicked off in the enchanting city of Tallinn. More than 120 professionals gathered to gain tools and practical advice for their work in international higher education and draw up action plans for their departments. Below, the trainers of the ‘Advising international students’ course, Karin Klitgaard Møller from EDU, Denmark and Darla Deardorff from AIEA, USA share some tips and takeaways from their course.

What does it mean to be an interculturally competent advisor?

For starters, advisors need to have a foundational level of intercultural knowledge, including theoretical frameworks and tools of intercultural competence. A key element of intercultural competence is understanding one’s own cultural self-awareness and then using this knowledge in adapting to the students’ diverse communication styles.

Participant to the course, Kimberley Brewster who is International Communications & Marketing Coordinator at The Hague University of Applied Sciences (the host university of the 2014 Spring EAIE Academy) explains: “The course is providing me with tools for handling certain intercultural situations at my university and it emphasises the fact that we really have to learn about the different cultures. We need to look at the body language, so the non-verbal communication of the students, and at the same time give students the chance to also learn about our culture and customs.”

What are some of the tools interculturally competent advisors should use?

In the course the trainers outline the following suggestions:

  • Remember the various learning styles and design (orientation) programmes to accommodate them
  • Make programmes culturally relevant
  • Use interactive activities like cultural objects, name tag games, etc in your programmes
  • Be more observant and really pay attention
  • Utilise summarising as a strategy – for you and the student – also in e-mails
  • Consider cultural generalisations as a guide
  • Be clear on norms, rules, expectations for students
  • Get to know students’ backgrounds
  • Have other international students review information before sending it out
  • Don’t take it personally
  • Remember the importance of being a cultural navigator/guide
  • Learn from situation/interaction and reflect
  • Be aware of how cultural value differences impact behaviors/conflicts
  • Remember symptoms of culture shock
  • Recognise indirect communication techniques
  • Do not make assumptions: seek to understand students’ behaviors, especially the cultural conditioning behind behaviors.

Sign up for the upcoming EAIE Academy to learn more about the topic.