My favorite class this semester, by far, was the CIEE Intercultural Communication and Leadership Class (CIEE ICL). I felt that I must include at least one blog post dedicated entirely to convincing future students to not pass up this amazing opportunity.
I encourage any student studying abroad to take this course. ‘Intercultural communication and leadership’ teaches students about their home culture and culture abroad, while challenging them to view these cultures in a more openminded and informed way. I had a 'pre-departure' class at my college, but all of the information and activities were very broad and basic. The goal was to make you aware of what culture shock was, but without being provided any information about the country I would be living in for over 4 months. Fortunately, the CIEE ICL course provided very useful and specific information about Korea. It really helps guide you through the study abroad culture shock while giving you many opportunities to deeply reflect on your own experience and values. The activities and readings are all very applicable to the lived experience abroad. I found myself changing the way I reacted to conflicts I encountered. In the beginning, I tended to ignore any negative experiences. Sometimes I was overly sinical and extreme in my thinking. I remember the first week being very frustrated by how strict the timing of things was. If a student was a minute late, the group leader would leave without them. I remember thinking how wrong that was. Why couldn’t we wait just a few minutes. After all, we just arrived in a foreign city, and one of the largest cities in the world, so people are bound to be overwhelmed and late. But this black and white thinking was soon replaced with a more objective and inquisitive approach. Instead, I now see that the leader was trying to not waste everyone’s time and would reach out to the late students to attend at a later time. This shift in mindset was heavily aided by the CIEE course.
The course also offers a safe space to talk about shared struggles while abroad, while receiving input from the professor who is experienced in both Korean and American culture. After the missile launch over Japan, or the horrific tragedy of the Itaewon Stampede, Teddy 선생님’s perspective was crucial to helping me process thee events. The class grew very close as we all shared in the ups and downs of a semester far from home. Some of my closest friends were made through this class.
Outside of class, there were two field trips to museums that were very helpful in understanding the history of Korea. We also would go to fun outings, like clubbing together, seeing the World Series games, and even having a final class dinner and drinks at the end of the semester. We really did share many laughs and tears together. I am so grateful to the other students for being so supportive and encouraging, and to Teddy 선생님 for caring so much about his students. No matter where you study, I definitely recommend taking this course. It is incredibly helpful in providing a safe and open space to seek guidance and clarification when overwhelmed in a foreign environment.