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SARA Learning Activities

Search for Advice 

Using the database as a resource which students can draw on for advice about their intercultural experiences introduces the idea that the students themselves can take some responsibility for the success or otherwise of their time away, and can help them to start to develop explicit strategies for intercultural experience.  The production of 'advice leaflets' offers students a resource which they can take away with them and use for later reference.  This activity also familiarises students with using the database as a resource for advice which can also be used while they are away, as they encounter new and challenging issues.  The variety of different experiences on the database demonstrates the limitations of any single piece of advice, and the need to adapt to circumstances while they are out there.  Finally, working with returnees can enrich the static information presented on the database with live interaction.

1.  Students discuss the concept of what a 'successful intercultural experience' might consist of.  What are their own criteria for successful interactions?  When have they experienced successful and unsuccessful intercultural interactions, either abroad or in their home country?  What sorts of strategies have they adopted to try and ensure successful interactions, and what strategies have they used to repair unsuccessful interactions?

2.  Students are given the task of preparing a leaflet entitled "How to Have a Successful Intercultural Experience", and use the database as the main research tool for the production of this leaflet.

Students are divided into groups, each of which searches the database to explore a specific topic which will form a heading in the leaflet.  For example, a general list of topics related to the way the search form is arranged runs as follows::

  • Meeting people
  • Relating to host culture members
  • Aspects of society
  • Coping with your feelings
  • Finding things to do
  • Language and communication
  • Accommodation and administration
  • The work environment
Each group synthesises their research into a few paragraphs and / or a set of bullet points, which they present to the group as a whole.

3.  The group discusses how they experienced researching the leaflet. 

  • What difficulties did they encounter?
  • Had they thought about strategies for having a successful intercultural experience before?  Had their ideas about what might be a good strategy changed at all?  Had they generated any new ideas which hadn't occurred to them before? 
  • What had they learnt from the database? 
  • What are the benefits of giving students advice before they go away, and what are the limitations? 
  • Do they think the database would continue to be a useful source for advice when they are away?  What other resources are there available to them which they can draw on for advice?
4.  The advice generated by each group is brought together to form a single leaflet, which is then reproduced and distributed to the group as a whole.

Adapting the activity

There are various ways of running this activity, depending on the context, time available and resources.

The activities can be made country-specific or general, depending on the make-up of the group. 

Depending on your particular circumstances, a more focused list of topics could also be produced.  For instance, a leaflet could be produced relating to strategies for succeeding in a given work placement, as an assistant or as a university student.  Or in a teaching situation focusing on language, a leaflet could be produced relating to strategies for successful intercultural communication.

If returnees and outgoing students are brought together for this activity, the returnees can comment on the advice generated by working with the database.  Do they agree with the advice or not?  What sorts of successful and unsuccessful intercultural experiences did they undergo, and how did they deal with them?  What sort of advice did they wish they had been given before they went away?  What advice were they given which was misleading?

Similar questions can be addressed from a slightly different perspective if home students and overseas students work together on the activity.  What strategies have overseas students found to be successful and unsuccessful in intercultural encounter in Britain?