Between May 15 and 16, 18 faculty members and 135 students departed for trips spanning nine separate countries around the world. Across South Korea and Cuba, Ecuador and France, England, Scotland, Hungary, Greece and Zambia, Spring Arbor University will be represented abroad throughout the month.
“Each destination has as its core objectives the study of culture, through the primary lenses of religion, education, government, economics and family life as well as issues of justice, mercy and compassion,” says Diane Kurtz, director of cross-cultural studies. Each experience lasts three weeks and is led by two faculty members.
Faculty members facilitate the experience and the local people act as experts on their country and culture. “Students learn about collectivism vs. individualist societies and how that affects our values, worldview and the way we live our lives. The students learn how to successfully interact with others who are different from themselves,” says Kurtz. She explains how students generally come away from their experiences with a passion for marginalized people and are empowered to do something positive for people with no power. “The ideas students have for how they will live and what they will do with their education are enlarged as their worldview expands,” Kurtz says.
The cross-cultural program began in 1986. At the time, faculty felt that cross-cultural experiences were essential to a liberal arts education.
Today, Spring Arbor University faculty and administration believe that, in the United States, there is a growing concern for educated people to be cross culturally aware, sensitive and understanding, which has led SAU to develop and grow its cross-cultural program.
“To intelligently participate in the contemporary world, is to realize that we are not isolated people, but part of a global community intimately linked to the rest of humanity and the world. This becomes reality when there is actual interaction with those different than us,” says Kurtz.