Increased intercultural skills

Published: 2022-06-06

Our school has an international outlook/perspective. We have international students, staff from all over the world and we communicate mostly in English. But are we trained enough in, and do we all feel that we have enough experience of, intercultural teaching and communication? To become more skilled in dealing with international students and intercultural teaching, Veronika Tarnovskaya, Associate professor in Marketing, went to Cyprus to learn more. Read her story and get inspired to do something similar yourself!

“It all started with an email from my colleague Ulf Elg, course responsible of a course at the MSc programme in International Marketing and Brand Management where I also teach, suggesting me to take a one-week-course hosted by the DOREA Educational Institute*. The course was about intercultural teaching. He thought I was a good candidate since I am myself intercultural and since I have been teaching from an intercultural angle on the programme at LUSEM for many years,” says Veronika.

Teaching on the very first course in a Master's programme with many international students (usually from between 22-24 countries), Veronika has become experienced and has learnt how to deal with the challenges that come with being a new student from another country at LUSEM.

Culture shock in two ways

Veronika continues:

“The students are basically thrown into both a new programme and a new culture. It becomes like a two- fold culture shock. I have found different methods to handle issues related to this, and knowing a thing or two about culture shock, that course in Cyprus caught my interest,” Veronika explains.  

Veronika attended the course in March and is now looking forward to applying her new knowledge when the autumn semester comes.  

Bringing people together

What was the greatest asset of the course?    

“We tested many different theoretical concepts, we worked with team building and did some training in using body language instead of English when we communicated with each other. That was a fun and good part. We also tried to teach each other typical songs from our different cultures and sing them together. These kind of sessions for bringing people together were really exciting!”

During the week Veronika also experienced how to use the Hofstede Insights approach further, an approach which she is already using in her teaching (“here it was more about finding examples and to place myself on the Hofstede dimensions scale”). Another great but quite basic asset to bring with her was the thought of leaving the cultural models and going back to what is human and common instead of putting people in groups.   

“Instead of grouping we must 'ungroup' ourselves and look into humanity more. We need to think about that and take the consequences of too much grouping into consideration. Humanity values unite us,” says Veronika.

Any ideas to make LUSEM more intercultural?

“I think we should invite all students and staff to an intercultural day, where different cultures could be represented, with tips for travelling, food, typical features of the cultures...That could really open up and get people to meet and start talking!”

Want to know more?

If you want help and further information about taking a similar course as Veronika and/or have ideas about how to increase internationalisation at LUSEM, please turn to Ulrika Qvist Mathiesen at the LUSEM International office and Garo Harwood at Academic Skills Services, both members of the LUSEM International Council.

What can LUSEM benefit from staff taking such a course that Veronika did?

“There are different ways to use it; I think all courses at LUSEM could benefit from this training. Programmes and courses that don't have intercultural components already could also use this knowledge,” Ulrika says. 

Garo adds:

“We would like to see more use of international cases when teaching, for example, but also in general to use the international experience and background of the staff and students, rather than minimising those kinds of differences in order to get all the students to fit into a Swedish way of doing things. We should try harder to utilise the backgrounds of the students and bring that into the teaching”.

*DOREA Educational Institute is a non-profit organisation offering personal and professional development training solutions for both the general public and professionals and also provides ERASMUS+ courses in 12 European countries.