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Interview Michaela Carrière

Project Leader & Trainer Intercultural Competence
23 September 2015

Your name, position?

Michaela Carrière, responsible for courses, facilitation and coaching in the field of Intercultural Competence & Communication.

How long have you been working at the Language Centre?

I started in March 2015, but only fully since 1 July.

What plans/goals do you have as IC project leader at the Language Centre?

I’d really like to help the University in its ambition to becoming a truly international university. A fundamental aspect of any strategic internationalization initiative is the development of intercultural competence, whether in the classroom or in the boardroom.

Not only does intercultural competence generally keep us from making those stupendous blunders that come from being blind to cultural differences (and helps us to address them competently when we do make such errors), intercultural competence has been shown to increase our capacity for innovation. But that can be the subject for our next newsletter!

Just to be clear, intercultural competence is more than just knowledge of specific other cultures – it is defined as:

  • Intercultural competence is the ability to interact and communicate in an effective and appropriate manner with people from different cultures and in different cultural contexts.

In general, Intercultural Competence requires 3 components: knowledge, skills and attitude.

  1. knowledge refers to the theoretical aspects of how different cultural groups behave, work, communicate and interact, as well as their values and assumptions;
  2. skills is related to one’s ability to interpret, relate and act based on one’s knowledge;
  3. attitude is understood as a mindset, or the way we think and feel about cultural differences.

We can know that face and face-saving are important considerations when dealing with Far Eastern cultures (knowledge), but do we also know how to address difficult issues without embarrassing our local counterpart? That’s part of the intercultural competence. As is the willingness to suspend judgment, or to hold cultural generalizations as hypotheses instead of as stereotypes. So my plans and goals for Intercultural Competence are kind of ambitious…, but I think if we want to internationalize effectively I think we do need to be ambitious.

What inspires you?

Let me start with a quote:

'In some ways, Obama presented us with an ideal case study of the man in the middle of many cultures. While various cultural groups may have sought his allegiance, he appeared to claim for himself an identity that is beyond any single cultural perspective…. Few who have not lived on the margins of culture understand how this identity affects his interactions.' (Bennett, 2014)

President Obama, has a couple of unique characteristics that come from his early experiences in an international environment. These characteristics include things like:

  • ability to deal with change (Pollock, 2009).
  • increased ability to deal with difference (Sheard, 2008; Dewaele & van Oudenhoven, 2009) – both of different cultures, but also of different backgrounds in general.
  • enhanced interpersonal sensitivity (Lyttle, 2011) – increased exposure to a variety of perceptions and lifestyles require one to monitor emotions and register societal norms and cues more adeptly, producing higher sensitivity to other cultures and ways of life; having an understanding that there is more than one way of looking at things.
  • an expanded worldview (Moore, 2012) – having a global perspective instead of an affiliation with only one culture; further, this perspective is three-dimensional – based on personal experience: sights, sounds, smells, personal relationships and lived situations instead of the two-dimensions of television newscasts, or newspaper headlines - with this three dimensional view of the world, comes the painful reality that behind the news stories, behind the journalist’s photographs are real flesh-and-blood people (Pollock, 2009).

I believe that early and deep exposure to different cultures can help develop these unique characteristics and I believe that these characteristics are critical in the increasingly globalized world we live in. If, even to only a small degree, we can help develop a more global mindset, contribute to in increasing sense of global citizenship, perhaps even be so ambitious as to help potential global leaders develop some of the skills they need to help make the world a better place, that is what inspires me.

To quote the president of one of the top 25 institutes of higher education in the United States: 'I believe that intercultural competence is one of the critical skills of our times.' (John R. Kroger, Reed College, Summer 2015).

What are you working on now?

From my agenda for today: after this article, I need to set a meeting with a researcher studying the development of intercultural competence during study abroad, I want his feedback on our Crossing Borders Series; I need to finalize the proposal for an international IT company wanting to work on developing their intercultural competence as they work a lot with people from many different cultures, I need to consult with a student doing his dissertation on measuring intercultural competence and I need to develop the second week of the open registration courses that we have on our website. Want to know more? Take a look at our Intercultural Competence Courses.

Last modified:01 September 2023 09.55 a.m.
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