By Ajay Mehta, Trainer, AFS India
“As it is said by Edgar H. Schein, “most of my important lessons about life have come from recognizing how others from a different culture view things”, it is quite likely that people from a different culture have completely different perspectives on life than us. Instead of remaining in the same framework of thinking, they challenge our thought processes by showing us that there are completely different approaches to look at a specific issue or think about a problem. They challenge our singular view of looking at the world and allow us to start a process of being able to look at the world from multiple perspectives. They also provide for the most interesting intercultural learning opportunities.
I got an opportunity to see how people from a different culture perceive Indian culture. I was invited by Intercultural to be a part of Asia specific pre-departure orientation camp held at Rome, Italy from May 31st to June 02nd, 2019. There were around 200 plus students who would go on intercultural excursions soon. The main objective of the orientation was to give country specific tips to students. The orientation camp included students who had signed up for Asian countries like China, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan and Indonesia for their exchange year. Students were divided into groups as per the country of their exchange destination. Orientation of each group was facilitated by Intercultural returnees who have been on an exchange to those countries. Two Intercultural returnees namely Alessandro Genoni and Emily Zanardo were the facilitators for India group. Alessandro was hosted in Gandhinagar and Emily was hosted in Delhi during their exchange year in India. There were activities that aimed at equipping students with intercultural tools for their exchange year in a different cultural setting. We discussed topics like Stereotypes and Generalisations, Collision of Cultural Icebergs, Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions, etc. It was quite a humbling experience to be a part of this orientation.”