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SARA Learning Activities

Reflection on experience 

Teaching intercultural awareness does not stop when students go away.  Activities which help them to reflect on their experiences and what they have learnt from their time away are an essential part of integrating their intercultural learning.  Returnees can also be a valuable resource for preparation.  The activity below is designed to help students to reflect on their memories of their experiences in the light of other students' accounts from the database, and through situating their own experience in terms of the variety to challenge any simple stereotypes they may have developed while away.
1.  Returnees reflect on their experiences alone.  If students kept diaries while away, these could be used as a starting-point for their reflection.  Questions such as those below can be used as a stimulus for reflection:
  • What was your most significant moment?
  • What was your most difficult moment?
  • What expectations did you have that were fulfilled?
  • What expectations did you have that were not fulfilled?
  • What surprised you the most about the host culture?
  • What were the most important things you learnt?
  • Were there any significant turning points during your time away?
  • What do you wish you had known before you went?
  • What would you have done differently?
  • Who did you learn most from?
  • What relationships were successful?  What relationships were unsuccessful?  Why?
  • What would you tell someone else who is going away?
  • What was positive about your time away?  What was negative?
  • Have you changed as a person?  In what way?  Are these positive or negative changes?
  • What experiences taught you most about yourself?  What experiences taught you most about interacting in the host culture?
2.  Students share their responses in pairs or small groups.  (It is important to stress at this point that students should only share those responses that they feel comfortable sharing.)  Did they all have similar answers or different ones?  What are the common factors in their experiences?

3.  Students select one or more of the experiences they identified above as significant for them: for example, an experience they feel they handled well or badly, an experience that they feel taught them a lot about the host culture, an experience which has left them with unresolved questions.  They search the database to find out whether others had similar experiences.  Did other students respond in similar ways to similar incidents?  If not, what other potential responses are there to similar experiences?


Interview by outgoing students.  This exercise can be used as a lead-in to activities bringing together outgoing students and returnees, for example having outgoing students interview returnees, or having returnees give presentations on their experiences for outgoing students.  (Outgoing students can prepare for this by doing the search by expectation exercise.) 

Advice leaflet.  Returnees can be asked to produce an advice leaflet for outgoing students.  If outgoing students are also producing advice leaflets based on the database, the two can be compared.

Essays.  Returnees can be asked to write analytic essays reflecting on their experiences.  These could be collated and used as a resource for outgoing students.