SU is such a richly diverse community that each day most of us work with a student who comes from a background and culture quite different from our own. In this sense many of our interactions and much of our communication is cross-cultural. Communicating across differences can be a key factor in a staff or faculty member’s ability to teach, support and guide students.
- Respect cultural differences – whenever possible, ask and listen for the student’s cultural framework and perspectives, and take time to learn more about specific cultures.
- Be thoughtful about how your style of communication might be interpreted by a student from another culture.
- Consider how a history of racism, oppression, discrimination and stereotyping could affect how a student perceives SU and your attempts to help them.
- Validate and acknowledge the student’s plight and pain – this need, while important for all students, is often accentuated in students who see themselves as culturally different.
- Offer to help in specific ways – consider a direct and personal intervention in the case of system difficulties. For example, make a phone call to help a student connect with another department or faculty member. Consider going with a student to introduce them to another department, office or faculty member.
- Explore with a student the wisdom of also seeking help within their more familiar cultural framework. For example, ask them if it might help to talk with elders, family members, and/or religious leaders.
- Familiarize yourself with culturally focused support services.
The International Cross-Cultural Center – (540) 665-1293
- Automatically judge a student and their problems based on your own cultural norms – for example, a lack of eye contact in some cultures shows respect while in others may communicate avoiding the truth – forceful, loud and expressive language in some cultures is intended to invite a strong and respectful dialogue; in other cultures it can be viewed as hostile or disrespectful.
- Make assumptions based on a student’s cultural background.