The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

MLDP Recap: Approaching Other Cultures with an Open Mind

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I’m scheduled to board a plane to Paris to study abroad in less than a month. Since I will be spending ten weeks living with a host family, navigating French life and improving my language fluency, it is important for me to learn about how to approach these situations effectively. During this MLDP session, titled Developing a Global Mindset, Christianne Hardy Wohlforth emphasized how to develop an awareness of intercultural differences and how to operate effectively in different cultural contexts. In order to do so, it’s important to distinguish between understanding cultural differences and incorporating sensitivity to these differences into our behavior.

To illustrate her argument, Wohlforth provided us with a variety of examples. We saw videos of Dartmouth students talking about their study abroad experiences and discussed sample dialogues from the Peace Corps. These materials highlighted the need to communicate effectively, show an awareness of cultural differences and take active steps to engage with and accept those differences. One student described herself as a picky eater, but explained that she resolved to try new foods while she was studying abroad in Europe. This decision helped her take risks, expand her personal horizons and show respect for local customs. This example particularly resonated with me because while I am in Paris next term, I plan to fully embrace French culture, even if that involves eating cheese, a food I tend to avoid. I hope that I can actively implement this session’s emphasis on intercultural sensitivity by keeping myself attuned to differences between American and French cultures and make the most of my experience.

--Written by Mariel Wallace '16, MLDP Winter 2014 Participant

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