Have you been researching study abroad programs? Chances are you have encountered the term ‘cultural immersion’; but what exactly does this term entail?
The cultural immersion experiences provide immersive learning in another country and may include short and long-term study abroad programs, global service learning initiatives, or similar initiatives.
It’s a way of learning
Cultural immersion is an engaging learning method that gives participants a glimpse into other lives and allows them to develop their own perspectives about the world. Cultural immersion can also serve as an excellent way for developing language skills and helping students retain and use that knowledge in real-life scenarios.
Study abroad programs provide one of the best means for cultural immersion, immersing participants in another country’s culture for an extended period. Such programs may be credit or noncredit based, with programs taking place anywhere across the globe (Grusky 2000).
Transformational learning is one of the cornerstones of cultural immersion experiences, manifesting as changes in self-knowledge, effective experience, strength motivation and personal development.
It’s a way of living
Cultural immersion refers to living abroad in an immersive manner that immerses you in its culture and lifestyle, such as staying with host families or volunteering within communities abroad.
Engagement may involve staying with locals, learning their language, hearing their music and sampling new dishes. Or it could involve visiting a market and hearing more about people’s lives and struggles.
A recent study investigated the effect of cultural immersion experiences on self-identity transformation and perceptions of diverse others. Data collection involved conducting semi-structured interviews with 26 students who took part in global service learning or study abroad programs.
Findings indicate that cultural immersion experiences facilitate transformative learning, which contributes to self-identity development and construction. This finding aligns with Hoggan’s typology of transformative learning outcomes.
It’s a way of interacting
Immersing yourself in another culture provides the chance to discover its art forms, practices, traditions, perspectives and methods of connecting with others.
Cultural immersion comes in many forms, such as study abroad and global service learning (GSL). Such programs combine educational instruction with meaningful reflection on local or global experiences within a global community setting.
Recent research examined how participants’ views of themselves and others changed after participating in cultural immersion programs. Data collection involved semi-structured interviews conducted 6 months post cultural immersion experience.
The results of this research provide invaluable information for program designers and participants. They suggest that perspective transformation is an ongoing process which is supported by intentional immersion and guided reflection in cultural immersion programs. Such transformative learning helps students reevaluate their perspectives, expectations and assumptions about themselves and others when returning home.
It’s a way of being
Cultural immersion is an unforgettable experience that takes place within and among local populations. This could range from studying abroad or volunteering with an aid organization, to becoming part of an entirely foreign culture and community.
Understanding a culture’s art forms, traditions and ways of connecting with others is the goal. Travel can also give us new perspectives on our world – be it music videos or learning a sport!
Most people know their comfort zones and boundaries, yet true cultural immersion requires moving outside these realms of familiarity to achieve. This might involve attending events, markets or festivals while trying to interact with locals and learn as much as possible about them.