Key Concepts in Intercultural Dialogue #3: Intercultural Competence by Lily A. Arasaratnam

Key Concepts in ICDThe third issue of Key Concepts in intercultural Dialogue is now available. This is KC3: Intercultural Competence by Lily A. Arasaratnam. As always, all Key Concepts are available as free PDFs; just click on the thumbnail to download. Lists organized  chronologically by publication date and numberalphabetically by concept in English, and by languages into which they have been translated, are available, as is a page of acknowledgments with the names of all authors, translators, and reviewers.

Intercultural competence

Arasaratnam, L. (2014). Intercultural competence. Key Concepts in Intercultural Dialogue, 3. Available from:

The Center for Intercultural Dialogue is publishing a series of short briefs describing Key Concepts in intercultural Dialogue. The logic is that different people, working in different countries and disciplines, use different vocabulary to describe their interests, yet these terms overlap. Our goal is to provide some of the assumptions and history attached to each concept for those unfamiliar with it. As there are other concepts you would like to see included, send an email to the series editor, Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz. If there are concepts you would like to prepare, provide a brief explanation of why you think the concept is central to the study of intercultural dialogue, and why you are the obvious person to write up that concept.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Sarah Bishop-Microgrant Report

NCA Micro Grant Report
Sarah Bishop, University of Pittsburgh

With generous support from the Center for Intercultural Dialogue and the National Communication Association, I traveled to San Jose, Costa Rica March 29-April 7, 2013 to gather the reflections of graduate students who had studied abroad at universities in the United States for academic credit.  My goal, in short, was to discover how international academic travel influenced an individual’s sense of national identity.  In preparation for the trip, I worked to familiarize myself with the relevant research about study abroad.  Additionally, I read many of the multitudinous study abroad testimonies written by students and currently available on study abroad websites at numerous institutions.  By the time I boarded the flight for San Jose, I felt confident about the kinds of effects academic travel had on students, and I looked forward to adding the dimension of “effects on national identity” to the impressive canon of existing research.  During the interviews themselves, however, I was surprised to find that the interviewees reported experiences, emotions, and challenges about multiple aspects of the academic traveling experience that I had not encountered in any of the relevant literature.

The preparation for this project included a two-month process of correspondence with the Director and other relevant staff at the Office of International Affairs at the University of Costa Rica (UCR).  I owe my deepest gratitude to this staff, including Ana Sittenfeld and Fatima Acosta, especially, for providing me with a list of interested participants as well as details regarding the group’s areas of research and U.S. destinations.  In addition, I completed extensive oral history training from Dr. Ron Zboray at the University of Pittsburgh.  One unexpected challenge arose when I estimated (based on flight costs at the time), that round-trip airfare to San Jose would cost no more than $800 USD.  The Center for Intercultural Dialogue generously granted this amount, but between the time the grant application was due and the time of my actual travel, flight costs had risen by more than $300, and I had to use my savings account to cover the remainder of the flight.  In the future, I will account for fluctuations in flight costs before finalizing my budgets.  Another challenge arose when I realized that none of the roads around the University of San Jose, where I conducted my research, are named.  In the absence of road signs, I relied on an iPhone photograph I had taken of a map I found on UCR’s campus and the patience of students willing to forgive my uncertain Spanish for direction.

UCR-smIn an effort to understand the ways an academic travel experience affects an individual’s sense of personal and national identity, as well as the intersection between study abroad, intercultural competence, and career preparation, I spent approximately one hour interviewing each graduate student.  Our conversation ranged from issues surrounding the legal preparations required before traveling abroad to negotiating needed friendships while away from home.  While I have yet to code and transcribe all of the interviews, one unexpected theme became apparent: though study abroad programs have been especially credited with encouraging a sense of global—rather than national—citizenship, in my own interviews, I found that the majority of students reported that study abroad strengthened, rather than compromised, their sense of national or geographic identity.  This finding requires further exploration and I hope to have the opportunity to find out whether study abroad alumni in other areas of the world report similar outcomes.

While multi-sited, international research is logistically complicated and time-consuming, my time in San Jose confirmed that in cases where interpersonal interaction and nonverbal communication are central to a project, video conferencing remains a poor substitute for face-to-face interaction and exchange.  I am honored to have had the opportunity to conduct this research, and look forward to reporting my full findings at a later date.


[NOTE: Sarah Bishop’s original project proposal is available here.]

Studentship-intercultural and health

The development of intercultural competence among medical students
King’s College London

First supervisor: Shuangyu Li
Second supervisor: Ben Rampton
Division: Medical Education
Type of programme: 4 years
Project code: MELiS

Project description: There is growing recognition of the need to develop intercultural competence among medical students, and this is reflected in the GMC’s Tomorrow’s Doctors 2009 and DoH’s the Race Equality Action 2004. But research suggests that intercultural training lacks coherence in UK medical schools, and the situation of international students is also a source of concern. Within this problem-space, this studentship addresses 3 questions at the interface of medical education and linguistic ethnography:

– what kinds of contribution to intercultural competence development derive from which settings, taking into account the full range of formal and informal contexts in which medical students participate?

– how far and in what ways are the intercultural learning needs of home and international students complementary or divergent?

– what are the implications for training?

Objectives for each year:
Year 1: a. review training frameworks and facilities available in UK medical schools; b. develop research skills c. design research tools year
Year 2: a. conduct ethnographic investigation with medical students at KCL
Year 3: a. analysis data; b. consider publications in journals and conferences
Year 4: write up and disseminate results.

The studentship will draw on training provided both by the Centre for Language Discourse & Communication and the College’s ESRC Doctoral Training Centre, and it will be affiliated to the DTC’s Education, Mind and Society Theme.

Salzburg conference call

Global Conference: Creating Cultural Synergies –
Setting Intercultural Competence to Work in a Changing World
Sept 29-Oct 1, 2011
Paris-Lodron University, Salzburg, AUSTRIA

Globalization, having brought people in contact with one another at a yet unprecedented scale, has also posed a general challenge to traditionally upheld concepts of race, gender, nation and class. For those living in this rapidly changing cultural landscape, intercultural competence has become a core skill.

The Global Conference in Salzburg aims to bring researchers and practitioners from interdisciplinary fields and settings together to discuss and share research, theory and best practices and foster a dialogue on issues related to setting intercultural theories to work. The conference will have sessions for talks, posters and workshops. We welcome papers in the following categories related to the broader theme of intercultural studies:
·         Interculturality and Leadership in Business
·         Intercultural Competence and Empowerment
·         Language, Politics and Intercultural Communication
·         Intercultural Competence in Understanding Religion
It is expected that talks should not last longer than 20 minutes. Speakers whose papers are accepted have to submit a full paper (10 pages, 20.000 – 25.000 words) by 1st November 2011 for publication.

Posters will focus on state-of-the-art research in intercultural competence. Workshops (to be held in German and in English in parallel sessions) will concern themselves with the following topics:
·         Intercultural Empowerment
·         Intercultural Education
·         Intercultural Coaching
Proposals (400-600 words) should be emailed until 15th April, 2011 to Dr. Birgit Breninger:

Please state on the proposal whether you want to give a talk, do a poster or hold a workshop.

For more information: