AFSers 'leveled' up in their Intercultural Learning skills

The four day event was held from 30 July to 2 August 2015 in Subang Jaya, Malaysia with 21 participants consisting of returnees, volunteers, and chapter leaders who have completed the Level W Workshop: What Every AFSer Should Know about ICL.

Key trainers Suyin Chia, Raja Rodziah, Jason Lee, and facilitators from Level 2, Amelia Rashid and Johan Yap created a cohesive program structure that provided a comfortable and stimulating learning environment, bringing us on a Indiana Jones (intercultural) Exploration.

Participants learning and engaging the different kind of Communications Styles

The workshop launched with an exploration of AFS goals and ICL and how they come together. As we are all “unfinished products” on an unending journey of “crisis learning”, Intercultural Learning (ICL) is a road that would help us to gravitate towards achieving the AFS mission and creating a more peaceful world. Level 1 Workshop examines concepts pertaining to culture in a deeper, more meaningful way. There were discussions on topics that were familiar such as cultural dimensions, cultural adaptation and communication styles. As participants have “leveled up”, ideas from the Level W were expanded by the addition of new viewpoints to already existing concepts, such as understanding people’s intercultural competencies based on the Developmental Method of Intercultural Sensitivity framework.

One of the most significant aspects of Level 1 is that it allowed participants to feel connected with the topics by having them become their own subject of study. Before the workshop began participants were asked to complete the Intercultural Effectiveness Scale (IES) online survey, a multiple question tool to measure intercultural competency. IES focuses on whether a person is likely to work effectively with people from different cultural backgrounds by testing 1) what they know and how they learn about another culture, and 2) how they develop, manage relationships with people from other cultures, and how they manage challenges or stress created by interactions with people from different cultures. Cultural competency was explained in the light of three factors; continuous learning, interpersonal engagement and hardiness. This activity created a personal intercultural awareness for participants to enable them to further develop those intercultural skills.

Participants exchanging ideas and knowledge during one of the sessions

Dr. Ngeow Yeok Meng presented a session on Cultural Proficiency

The workshop further benefited from the presence of Dr. Ngeow Yeok Meng who shared on Cultural Proficiency. This session relatably hit close to home as the speaker focused on the awareness of cultural learning in Malaysia. She summed up the session about sensitivities of the heart or emotions as something that is often neglected by society in this fast-paced material world; especially in dealing with other people.

Participants also welcomed one unexpected surprise every night. Letters were delivered under each participant’s room door containing special mission tasks that pushes them out of their comfort zone. The Stretching Your Cultural Comfort Zone letters ensured that participants mingled and integrated with non-familiar faces while attempting small activities they would otherwise be uncomfortable doing. This activity was a fun way of practicing the knowledge that has been accumulated and it gave participants some ideas on developing their ICL skills.

The last day of the workshop was taken as “the Great Day of Presentations”. Participants presented a mock ICL session in groups for different AFS program situations such as the Host-Family briefing, End of Stay Orientation, and Sending Family briefing. It was definitely a level up with a dynamic range of teaching and learning approaches, in which participants were able to place themselves in the concepts and develop their application in their respective AFS roles.

The knowledge that we have accumulated throughout our ICL journey transcends beyond the AFS community. This workshop has presented many educational lessons that can also be taken as valuable life lessons that has proven to be applicable in our personal life, dealings with different people and hopefully create a revolution of global intercultural awareness.

Participants at Level 1 Workshop contributing ideas, sharing knowledge and exchanging information

The 'Graduates' of Level 1 Workshop!

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