Students speak: experiences with Intercultural Communication Skills course

Published on
March 6, 2018

Four times a year Dine Brinkman teaches the interesting course Intercultural Communication Skills to Wageningen students. Two of her students tell about their experiences.

Taliah Dommerholt

American student at Wageningen University

The modular skills course, Intercultural Communication Skills, has made me even more aware of cultural differences, and I hope I will be able to apply everything that I have learned to future interactions and experiences. Intercultural communications are far more complex than I imagined; when I take a step back and truly assess situations in which I believed an individual was acting strangely or inappropriately, I am much more able to contextualize such behaviours, and am hopefully a more understanding and empathetic person as a result.

In such an international setting as Wageningen University, it is really important to consider how different backgrounds impact classroom behaviors and interactions. For example, in one text from the course, the author described a Taiwanese student’s belief that in group work there should be a designated leader whom everyone respects and follows. In general, ‘non-Western’ (i.e. non-European) students are more process-oriented, whereas in contrast, Dutch (and ‘Western’) students are much more product-oriented, often taking individual responsibility for their own work so that a ‘leader’ is not necessarily needed. This is also an example of collective versus individualistic cultures, which relate directly to how people are likely to communicate in interactive settings. It is really important to remember that something, no matter how seemingly insignificant, might seem completely normal to one person and yet be very strange to another. I think it is critical that expectations are explicitly discussed in group work to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings or conflict.

As a result of this module, I’ve also become even more aware that cultural background does not define an individual, and that it is really worth getting to know people from different upbringingings. Feelings of discomfort or shock are completely normal, and being able to recognize, assess and respond to intercultural situations are truly vital life skills. Needless to say, I highly recommend this course!

Ye Tian

Chinese student at Wageningen University

I was glad to attend the course, Intercultural Communication Skills. The teaching style of Dine Brinkman was like the spring rain, which moistures everything gently and softly. Instead of imparting practical skills or details tediously, Dine combined knowledge with different activities and assignments in groups.

During the group work, we learned to stop judging the strange behavior of other people by our first impression. As an alternative, we utilized various frameworks provided by Dine to find the hidden reasons why a person did it, and gradually, I started to understand some “weird behaviors” I had observed. I realized all of these behaviors were bred from their local societies and cultures. They are reasonable and appreciatable.

Also, my group made one poster about the Chinese culture, and we used the onion framework to analyze my culture. During this process, We peeled Chinese culture in deeper layers, and I introspected my behavior, and that let me know myself and my culture better.