Focus Area 5: Intercultural Engagement
6. Enjoy The Journey
Committing yourself to intercultural competence is a process of ongoing discovery. It is a lifelong journey through challenging terrain. There will be ups and downs along the way as you continue to recognize and address your conscious and unconscious biases. Some days you’ll confront prejudice, some days you’ll be tempted to just turn a blind eye. But when you remember your ethical obligation to the young people you serve you’ll most likely muster the resolve you need to stay the course.
Over time, you’ll accumulate a solid foundation of cultural knowledge and understanding. And that’s good. You’ll feel more confident working with people who are different than you in any number of ways. You’ll be less likely to make assumptions based on surface appearances and more likely to tap into a genuine curiosity to better understand and appreciate diversity on every level. You’ll have new skills to create meaningful programs and spaces that welcome and include and provide equal opportunity to all young people, without judgment or barriers.
You’re on the path. You have a choice to struggle through every step of the way or to simply take pleasure in your slow and steady progress, enjoying the journey for what it is.
ACTIONS FOR A YOUTH WORKER
Exploring your own culture is as important as exploring the many different cultural dynamics of the young people you serve in your community. Expand your horizons beyond the walls of your work environment and take your intercultural engagement learning journey to a whole different, experiential level.
Let your curiosity and your imagination open new worlds to you, just by being willing to step into different experiences, with different people.
Intercultural engagement takes practice and an ongoing process of gaining knowledge and insight as well as adding skills to ensure the learning is put into action. It takes time to learn. It takes intentional effort to sustain behavior change. This is a lifelong journey, and it’ll be more interesting if you don’t go it alone. Dr. Angela Jackson, (Your Cultural Makeup), suggests identifying an “accountability partner” with whom you can discuss cultural issues, ideas, questions, and struggles. Ideally this will be someone with whom you can be honest, someone who is willing to tell you the truth about themselves, and who will give you honest feedback as well.
Maybe you already know someone who has an interest in the cultural discovery process and could be your accountability partner. Think about inviting friends and family members along on your journey. If you don’t feel like you have someone in your life currently who could be a good accountability partner for you, seek out new connections through local associations, educational programs, or volunteer opportunities.
There’s nothing like first-hand experience to teach you the full richness of diversity and immersing yourself in cultural activities and celebrations is a perfect opportunity for learning.
Some ideas to consider:
- Cultural heritage centers
- Local library events
- Culturally-specific nonprofit agency events, activities, fundraisers
- Civic events such as cultural parades, bazaars, and fairs
- University seminars and guest speaker engagements focused on diversity
- Local shops and restaurants that feature cultural wares and foods
Find out what local events are available to you and go! Bring your accountability partner along to double to fun.
Cultural Exploration Through Media
There are so many options for you to explore in every medium you can think of. Attend a foreign film. Browse online versions of foreign language newspapers. Subscribe to newsletters that cater to culturally-specific audiences. Explore books about different lands and cultures and customs. Make new friends of different backgrounds through social media connections. Attend a free online course with a global focus. It’s easy to find a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) that fits your interests. Maybe learn a new language. One example of a resource for this option is edX. A quick Google search will give you plenty of other resources and ideas.
Journal Your Journey
If you enjoy writing, a nice practice is to journal your thoughts and experiences as you explore your own and others’ culture. If you’re not into writing, create a photo album to capture your experiences and just add a short caption about the learning or insights that occurred to you in that moment. It can be a fun way to share your progress and a tool you can use to help others grow their cultural understanding and appreciation of diversity.
And please check out this TED Talk1 for some parting inspiration. You’ll love the energy and enthusiasm these two young women bring to their mission to help us all work toward a more just, inclusive, and equitable global community.
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