Spring Arbor University

Cross Cultural Studies

Interfaith dialogues with Buddhist Monks

Interfaith dialogues with Buddhist Monks

Thank you for your interest in Cross Cultural Studies (CCS) offered at Spring Arbor University. The CCS office is housed under the Center for Global Studies and Initiatives.

At Spring Arbor University, the embodiment of the SAU ideology is the Concept, which informs each area of the University, including cross cultural studies. The Concept reads:

A community of learners distinguished by our lifelong involvement in the study and application of the liberal arts, total commitment to Jesus Christ as our perspective for learning, and critical participation in the contemporary world.

If we want to intelligently participate in contemporary world affairs we must realize that we are no longer an isolated people, but part of a global community intimately linked to the rest of humanity and the world. This vague notion only becomes reality when there is actual interaction with those different than ourselves. The Spring Arbor University cross cultural requirement attempts to bring theory and experience together in an embodiment of the Concept for each graduate.

About CCS

About CCS

Cross Cultural Studies (CCS) was introduced to Spring Arbor University (SAU) in 1986 when SAU began making it a graduation requirement for all traditional undergraduate students. SAU acknowledged the immense benefit for students who encountered other cultures through immersion experiences. This requirement quickly became very popular and has since become a mainstay of the SAU experience.

Whether it is through a three-week immersion experience, sojourning with other SAU students and a professor, or a semester-long experience where students become short-term residents of their country of choice, the cross cultural experience has proven to be essential in obtaining a liberal arts education. Prior to traveling to their chosen destination, students spend a considerable amount of time studying the culture into which they will be entering.



Cross Cultural Studies has identified certain objectives that each cross cultural program will achieve for participating students. They are expounded on below.

  • To help the student learn how to study a culture.
  • To help the student integrate his/her existence into the contemporary world more insightfully and more holistically, while making a contribution to the climate of international interest and understanding.
  • To enable the student to gain an awareness of, exposure to, and perhaps even experience in, practical Christian service/response-and especially to the varied ministries of the Free Methodist Church whenever possible.
  • To enable the student to experience both cognitive and affective learning experiences outside the traditional classroom.
  • To foster in the student, with a Christian perspective in mind, the need to begin to assume leadership and responsibility roles in the areas of justice, empathy, and compassion in international and intercultural situations.

More specifically…

  • Any cross cultural option should consist of an exchange of cultural ways, but primarily, we must see that the culture flows into the students from the host setting, and only secondarily, if at all, from the students to the host setting, in order for the experience to allow for observation and analysis to take place. Therefore, it is expected that there will be numerous formal contacts and meetings with a variety of nationals from the host culture. These shall be in addition to the normal informal interactions one might experience with guides, shopkeepers, etc. in the course of a tourist-type trip.
  • There should be emphasis upon the five major social institutions – economics, education, family, government and religion –and the cultural elements by which those institutions are articulated:  architecture, fine arts, music, artifacts, language, crafts, leisure activities, and eco-diversity.
  • The above institutions and the cultural elements by which they are articulated should be studied in historical context.
  • The above institutions should be studied in as much depth and breadth as possible to show the inter-relatedness between the cultural elements and to allow for comparison and contrast with the student’s own culture, while considering everything in the context of the global village and international relations.

Note: The minimum length of the experience is three weeks (21 days) in the host culture. The Faculty Cross Cultural Committee (FCCC) knows that some institutions may receive more emphasis than others and the means by which the institutions are articulated are not always available at the study site. However, the guidelines are to be followed as closely as possible. The FCCC closely examines whether a proposal appears to meet the above objectives/criteria.



We are sometimes asked why Spring Arbor University (SAU) requires cross culture experiential education for graduation. A simple answer will not adequately deal with this important question. Rather, a more comprehensive response includes a Biblical mandate and mode, the needs of a complex contemporary world, and the SAU mission.

Christ’s timeless example

First, Jesus Christ himself offers both the motivation and model for cross cultural experiences. Christ’s incarnation on earth was probably the greatest cross cultural experience of all time, moving from the perfect presence of God to fellowship among Adam’s fallen race. Christ was an “Asian-born baby. . . who became an African political refugee”1 before he was two years old. He moved freely among various ethnic and cultural groups (Jews, Gentiles, Samaritans) as well as different social classes. Christ Himself modeled numerous cross cultural interactions throughout His ministry on earth. A classic example can be found in John 4, where Christ presents both the mandate and the model for a successful cross cultural experience. He did not wait to have the Samaritan woman come to Him. Rather, He approached her on her own turf and intelligently interacted, displaying knowledge of her culture and background.

Historical testimonies

Besides Christ’s example, the entire Bible gives accounts of God’s people interacting cross culturally throughout history. In the Old Testament, Abraham, Moses and the entire nation of Israel found themselves in foreign cultures, sometimes willingly (but more often unwillingly) being used to help accomplish His purposes. Both Ruth and Esther grew to be culturally sensitive. The two women could discern both positive and negative elements within the distinctive cultures into which they were born and later thrust, thus displaying bi-cultural abilities. Continuing the pattern set before the New Covenant was established, the New Testament also offers insights into cross cultural encounters. In Acts 10:12, Peter came to realize that avoiding interaction with those different than he was no longer an option. God clearly showed him that his prejudices had to be broken by interacting with the Gentiles. In Acts 17, the apostle Paul used a bridge to the Greek culture by first knowing and understanding that culture and then using “the altar to the unknown God” to share the gospel. Beginning in Acts 8, the believers were scattered about the then known world and found themselves relating the gospel to groups of people different than themselves.

Cross-culture relevance

Beyond the clear example set forth in the Bible, Christian leaders of today call for interaction with other cultures. Dr. John Bernbaum, Vice-President of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (of which SAU is a member), states, “Cross cultural learning environments. . . should be a priority for Christ-centered higher education.”2 In a recent publication (F.Y.I.) Dr. Raymond Bakke said, “Students from council colleges need to address the realities of our world: urbanization, Asianization, racial changes, and linguistic shifts. The students. . . .must understand and internalize their minority status, not ignore it.”3

There is a growing concern in the U.S. about our educated population’s knowledge and understanding of the international scene and how the global village is interrelated. “Until recently it did not really matter to most people of the world if understanding stopped at national boundaries.”4 “Now, when nations are only minutes apart and it no longer takes eighty days to circle the earth, it is hazardous to base actions solely on one’s own viewpoint.”5 Government, service organizations, military, and the business world are crying for workers with cross cultural understanding, awareness, and sensitivity. At the inception of the Cross Cultural Studies (CCS) requirement, Wayne Shabaz, a Christian and a businessman (founder and president of W. Shabaz Associates), stated in a chapel address to the SAU student body on September 18, 1989, “In a world that is rapidly shrinking, whatever you do when you leave this place. . . .you will be impacted by the internationalization within this country. It will happen. It is inevitable. No question.”6 Shabaz indicated that Christians need to be in the forefront of international interaction. He commended SAU’s cross cultural program, stating, “It’s not by coincidence that this university has adopted the policy that everyone will do a cross cultural [experience]. . . .That’s foresight on the part of your school. And it’s up to you, whether you’re interested in cross cultural issues, or not, you don’t have a choice. Your school is doing you a big favor because I’m telling you that, when you get out of this school, you won’t have a choice.”7

Seymour Fersh, Director of International Services for the American Association of Community and Junior Colleges from 1978 to 1981, and the author of several books, states, “The greatest value of cultural studies can be in helping students transcend their own cultural conditioning.”8

“Through encounters with culturally different ways of thinking, students are reminded that their viewpoints are cultural rather than natural and that their potential beliefs are not limited to their cultural inheritances. This kind of awareness can help students realize and be reassured that other people are much like they are – concerned with the perennial human questions of survival and fulfillment – and it can help increase their confidence and encourage their ability to shape, share, create, and adapt to changing conditions.”9

“This kind of learning can help them develop the skill of empathy and the styles of humility. The learner’s introduction to other value systems need not result in a minimized view of his or her own culture, but it will surely result in changing his or her view of both others and self.”10

SAU’s mission and vision

Ultimately, what connects all the aforementioned rationale to this University is the SAU mission as expressed in the Concept, which is the philosophical base for the entire curriculum. The Concept calls for, “A community of learners distinguished by our lifelong involvement in the study and application of the liberal arts, total commitment to Jesus Christ as our perspective for learning, and critical participation in the contemporary world.” A basis of intelligently participating in the affairs of the contemporary world is to realize that we are no longer an isolated people, but part of a global community intimately linked to the rest of humanity and the world. This vague notion only becomes reality when there is actual interaction with those different than ourselves.

The SAU CCS requirement attempts “in today’s world of growing interdependence among nations and peoples,”11 to bring theory and experience together in an embodiment of the Concept for each graduate.

1 Raymond J. Bakke, F.Y.I., (Washington, D.C.: Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, Summer, 1989), p. 5.

2 John A. Bernbaum in Raymond J. Bakke, F.Y.I., (Washington, D.C.: Council for Christian Colleges and University, Summer, 1989), p. 1.

3 Bakke, p. 5.

4 Seymour Fersh, “Cultural Studies: Becoming Our Own Teachers,” New Directions for Community Colleges, 26 (1979), p. 31.

5 Fersh, p. 36.

6 Wayne Shabaz, Chapel Address. Spring Arbor University, September 18, 1989, sound cassette.

7 Ibid.

8 Fersh, p. 33.

9 Fersh, p. 34.

10 Ibid.

11 Fersh, p. 32.



Today’s employers are looking for entry-level employees with cross cultural adaptation skills. Résumés that show cross cultural experiences of value win interviews. It does not seem to matter what country (or countries) a potential employee has experience in or knowledge of, but it does matter to the employer that the potential employee has demonstrated flexibility and adaptability cross culturally.

Why? Because today’s businesses are becoming more and more “borderless,” therefore, there is a great need for this skill. The experiences and testimonies of graduates at the annual SAU job fair illustrate this information firsthand. Although this may have occurred in other disciplines as well, business and communication majors recounted how the interviewers concentrated on discussing the student’s cross cultural experiences. Those who left the cross cultural experience off their résumé were told by interviewers to rewrite their résumés, as they had left out valuable information. So, how does all this concern our students? While the three-week Cross Cultural Studies experience is valuable and broadening, those students who have been able to plan a semester abroad into their academic program will testify as to how rich the semester was and how they developed skills of flexibility and adaptability, as well as reached new levels of self awareness and understanding.

We encourage all students to consider building a semester abroad into their academic program. It will be one of the best decisions a student can make for his/her future! There is a scholarship available for semester, summer and year abroad programs. Students who receive a Pell Grant are particularly eligible for scholarships, specifically the Gilman Scholarship.

Course Description

Course Description

The ability to function in cross cultural settings is no longer a luxury, nor just a good idea. It has become a necessary skill in the ever-shrinking global village. The CCS program at Spring Arbor University (SAU) exposes students to learning about, observing, and participating in cross cultural, on-site situations (mostly overseas). Students are exposed to the five major social institutions – economics, education, the family, government and religion (found in any culture) – and the cultural elements by which those institutions are articulated: architecture, artifacts, crafts, eco-diversity, fine arts, language, leisure activities and music.

Cross Cultural Requirement

Students participate in the four credit hour CCS graduation requirement (CORE 274/275) after the completion of their freshman year. Prerequisite classes include CORE 200 or one semester of foreign language taken at the 102 level or higher. The CCS requirement is best completed during the junior year. CORE 274/275 is a pre-requisite for Core 400 for students who matriculate with less than junior status.

The upper-division CCS courses listed below are available for those students who cannot complete CORE 275 (refer to the SAU academic catalog, General Education Requirements) and have been granted the on-campus exception via petition process by the Faculty Cross Cultural Committee (FCCC). This process must be completed prior to registering for the courses. The student must complete one course from both groups:

Group 1:

  • SOC 311 Racial & Ethnic Minorities
  • SOC 314 Cultural Anthropology
  • SOC 422 Socio-Culture Change

Group 2:

  • POS/ECN 322 Globalization
  • SPA 323 Civilization & Culture of Spain
  • SPA 324 Latin American Civilization & Culture
  • HIS/GEO 331 China, India & Japan
  • HIS/GEO 332 Africa
  • HIS/GEO 333 Latin America
  • HIS/GEO 337 Chinese Civilization & Culture

Alternative experience option

There exist two previous experiences which, if completed prior to SAU matriculation, may waive a student’s CCS 274/275 requirement. Students who wish to petition for a waiver should first participate in an interview appointment with the Director of CCS.

If the experience meets certain qualifications, he or she must apply for the waiver and complete the required paper for evaluation by the Faculty CCS Committee within two semesters of matriculation at SAU. This process is initiated through the use of a petition/application form available from the CCS office.

Program strengths and emphases

Cross cultural experiences led by SAU professors have included the following countries: American Samoa, Australia, Austria, Belize, Cambodia, China, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Egypt, England/Scotland, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Ireland, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Russia, South Korea, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Uganda and Zambia. Experiences at new destinations are currently being developed.

Individualized option cross cultural experiences (IOCCS) in almost any country of the world may meet the requirements. Overseas semester experiences may be worth up to 15 hours of credit and include travel for about the same cost as a semester on campus. Get additional details on the Individualized Options section of the Cross Cultural Studies Experiences page.  Get more information on semester-long opportunities.


Director of Cross Cultural Studies (CCS): Diane Kurtz, dkurtz@arbor.edu

CCS faculty are drawn from across all disciplines of the university.

Related majors and minors

Students that are interested in pursuing a degree that involves cross cultural learning are encouraged to consider a related major and minor that is offered at SAU. Below is a list of majors and minors that might meet those needs:

  • Global Studies Major
  • Cross Cultural Communication Minor
  • Sociology
  • Political Economy
  • French (major and minor)
  • Spanish (major and minor)
  • Individualized major or minor: Students are encouraged to consider an individualized major or minor in Cross Cultural Studies to complement the general education requirements. Students with special interest in ministry, missions, communication, and diplomacy have formulated such programs.

Career opportunities

Cross cultural principles and developed skills can appropriately and proactively apply to and be beneficial in any job or career which has connection with people. However, there are some specific careers that will reward those with the greatest cross cultural understanding and skill, including, but not limited to, education, business, diplomacy, political science, social work, sociology, and ministry/religion. In addition, careers in diplomacy, translation, broadcasting and journalism demand cultural experience and skills.



When should I plan to fulfill my Cross Cultural Studies (CCS) requirement?

It is best to fulfill the CCS requirement during the junior year. The senior year has scheduling difficulties with CORE 274 during the semester prior to participation.  CCS is a pre-requisite to CORE 400.

What CCS options are being offered?

View upcoming CCS experiences.

Which CCS option is best for me?

CCS is an opportunity to travel and learn on a three-week, SAU professor-led option or a semester abroad. To maximize the opportunity, students are encouraged to choose a destination to which they could not easily travel on their own. Semesters abroad can gain students several general education credits as well as fulfill the CCS requirement.

I have some health problems. How do I know if an option is possible for me?

Students should carefully consider the Physical Hardships of each CCS destination and select an option with their health condition(s) in mind. On-campus exception (OCE) courses are available via petition process for students with medically documented physical and/or emotional conditions that make CCS participation medically inadvisable.

How do I enroll on a three-week CCS option?

Students should review the steps to enroll to ensure they have gathered all of the required information and documents.

The Application for Credit for Cross Cultural Studies must be signed by the Student Accounts Coordinator in the SAU Business Office for students to enroll in CCS. This signature indicates you have paid the $150 study abroad fee and that your student account is in good standing. Students whose SAU account is not current and/or in good standing will not receive this signature. These students should make an appointment with the Student Accounts Coordinator as soon as possible to solve the account problem and gain clearance to enroll on CCS.

Students who enroll in a CCS program after April should complete the same process (see the steps to enroll).  All complete documents and forms should be submitted to the CCS office.  Enrollment is not complete until all required documents and forms have been properly completed and submitted.

When will I know what CCS option I am enrolled in?

Students who enroll before April the year before their CCS participation will see their CCS registration on their academic planner once the registrar enters them in the course on the day their class is registering for the following academic year. Students who enroll after April will see the CCS registration in their academic schedule after they have submitted all of their enrollment documents and have been cleared by the CCS office.

What happens if my first choice fills before I am enrolled?

Students should specify their first and second choice program options on the Application for Credit for Cross Cultural Studies.  If the first choice is full, the student can be enrolled on their second choice OR wait listed on their first choice. (Students cannot be wait listed on one option and enrolled on another option).

What are my chances of getting on a program from the wait-list?

If a student is wait-listed in April or May, chances are fair he/she might get moved onto the program by the fall semester.

How can I afford to go on CCS?

Most students receive the CCS benefit from SAU to help with the cost of the program. With the benefit, some programs are offered at no cost while others are a bit more. Because CCS is required to graduate, SAU financial aid applies to CCS program costs. Students may also apply for loans to help cover the costs of CCS. Students are advised to speak to their financial aid counselor for individual details.

Does my SAU financial aid apply to three-week, professor-led CCS options and/or off-campus semester programs?

SAU financial aid can apply to three-week, professor-led CCS options and to SAU owned semester programs. Students should see their financial aid counselor for individual details. Students interested in an off campus semester owned by other program providers (Best Semester and others), should attend an International Semester Workshop. No SAU institutional aid applies to non-SAU off-campus semester programs, but a student’s state and federal aid applies to these programs. Students planning a non-SAU semester may apply for the Semester Off Campus Study Opportunity Fund (SOCSOF). SOCSOF applications are due to the Cross Cultural Studies office by the last Friday in February to be considered for the following academic year. FAFSAs must be submitted by March 1.

SAU aid does apply to SAU programs such as SAU Japan, SAU Guatemala, SAU Jordan, SAU Tokyo Christian University, student teaching abroad, etc. There are also SAU semester workshops students should attend to know how to apply and work toward an SAU semester abroad.   Planning ahead by 16-18 months is very important.

Is additional financial aid available for CCS or semester abroad program costs?

Students who enroll on CCS are sometimes eligible for additional loans if the program cost increases the student’s need level. Students should see their financial aid counselor to inquire if this applies to them.

For semester abroad programs there are scholarships which may be applicable:

If you are a U.S. citizen and a Pell grant recipient, please attend the Gilman Scholarship workshop in the CCS office. The Gilman Scholarship, for Fall or Spring semesters abroad, awards up to $5,000 for a semester abroad and an additional $3,000 for study of certain languages. There is also a summer award cycle for programs that are four weeks or more and the summer award is up to $3,000. In addition to the Gilman, Freeman-Asia also awards scholarships to U.S. citizens who are receiving any kind of need based aid and planning to study in Japan, China or other countries in Asia. Contact the CCS office for dates or see the CCS announcements on this website. (See financial aid to learn if you are a Pell grant recipient.)

Both the CCS Director and the student’s financial aid counselor must certify the Gilman and/or Freeman-Asia application prior to its submission – SAU has application deadlines for this that precede the Gilman deadlines by about 3 weeks.  Students must work closely with the CCS Director and their financial aid counselor when completing the applications per the scholarship’s specifications.

When does CORE 274 meet?

CORE 274 classes are held on Fridays from 10:00 am – 11:00 am, and on Mondays from 10:00 am – 11:00 am on weeks when there are Friday chapels, as well as a few class sessions on a TBD basis by program professors.

What if I am student teaching or interning during the semester of CORE 274?

Students are expected to attend all CORE 274 class sessions unless prior arrangements are made with the CORE 274 professor. CORE 274 meetings are critical preparation.  The registrar will not enroll students for CORE 274 during student teaching. Students are encouraged to complete their CCS requirement prior to student teaching and internships!

What should I do if I plan to study abroad for a semester or summer?

Students interested in studying abroad should attend either an SAU Semester Workshop or an International Semester Workshop, depending on the chosen program/destination, 18 months in advance of departure to learn how to apply and fit coursework into your graduation plan.  Students hoping to complete their student teaching abroad should attend the International Semester Workshop and work with the CCS office. Contact carol.haavisto@arbor.edu to register for a workshop and begin planning.

How am I to get to and from the airport on the days of my departure and arrival?

Three week professor led programs:  SAU will provide airport transportation both to and from the departure airport (typically Detroit Wayne County Airport or Chicago O’Hare Airport) for all three-week, professor-led CCS programs. Students must sign up in the CCS office no less than 30 days prior to departure. Families who choose to take their student to the airport should follow the professor’s instructions regarding when the students are to be at the airline ticket counter. (If you are late meeting the SAU bus, you will be responsible for getting yourself to the airport on time.)

Students on SAU Japan, SAU Jordan, SAU Tokyo Christian University, Accès France and all CCCU programs must arrange their own transportation to and from the airport.

Students on SAU Guatemala will meet on campus or at an airport hotel for orientation prior to departure.  See your professor or the CCS office for current information.

Students planning a non-SAU owned semester should check with the program provider for departure and arrival instructions.

Does my medical insurance provide coverage outside the U.S.?

All SAU students traveling abroad are required to have medical insurance which covers them in their destination country.  If it does cover outside the U.S., the student should inquire about authorization, necessary documentation for submitting a claim and reimbursement procedures to list on all CCS medical forms. If a student’s medical insurance does not provide that coverage, the required BASIC international ID card (ISIC) provides some emergency medical insurance outside of the U.S.A.  Semester students without coverage outside the U.S. are required to purchase the Premium ISIC coverage.

Will my insurance cover the cost of my travel immunizations?

Students are encouraged to check with their medical insurance provider to verify payment coverage for the cost of travel immunizations. If insurance covers these costs, students are responsible for arranging to receive these required immunizations from their family physician, a local travel clinic, or from SAU Holton Health and Wellness Services (HHWS). Students are provided an opportunity to order and receive immunizations from the SAU HHWS.  All students are encouraged to read the attached information pertaining to immunizations available at the SAU HHWS.

Should I purchase travel (trip cancellation or interruption) insurance?

Travel insurance can be very helpful if a student’s CCS travel unexpectedly needs to be cancelled or interrupted prior to departure or mid-program.  Students can purchase this on their own – they may speak with CCS personnel for helpful information on obtaining such insurance. Travel insurance is not purchased by SAU and is not a part of the program cost although it is available from various commercial providers. It is recommended. Students can purchase this insurance over the phone or online.


132 Ogle Street     Look for the house with the flags!

Feel free to stop by the cross cultural office, located inside the Center for Global Studies and Initiatives. We are located at 132 Ogle Street on campus near the SAU White Library. If you need to contact us by phone, fax or mail, see the contact information below.

Diane Kurtz, Director

Spring Arbor University
Cross Cultural Studies
106 E. Main Street
Station 18
Spring Arbor, MI 49283

Phone: 517.750.6663
Fax: 517.750.1536