To facilitate MU faculty and students’ understanding of Asian/Taiwanese culture, a one credit cultural seminar, Expanding Cross-Cultural Competencies: Taiwan Up Close, was primarily taught by two Graduate Instructors, Yi-Jiun Lin and Chia-Lin Tsai. The primary purpose of the seminar was to promote the development of cross-cultural knowledge, awareness, and skills and was designed to provide an introduction to Taiwan and prepare participants for the 2007 cultural immersion journey in Taiwan. Furthermore, the seminar course aimed at providing an overview of various aspects of Taiwanese culture (e.g., history, language, cultural norms/values), and assisted the group members to develop basic “survival” skills relevant to this cultural immersion experience as well as to gain insights into the joys and challenges of becoming a cross-culturally competent individuals and professionals.
Professional lectures and on-site visits
Under the leadership of Dr. Lifei Wang, the BCCIP provided a wide range of professional activities such as: (a) presentations and lectures offered by NTNU faculty on a range of current professional issues in counseling in Taiwan, and (b) on-site visits to explore first-hand professional counseling activities in Taiwan (e.g., NTNU University Counseling Center). The group also met with hospital clinical practitioners and government officials from the City of Taipei to discuss the impacts of social issues such as changes in gender attitudes, family structure, work opportunities, and generational relationships on Taiwanese society. These social issues provided the context for understanding the innovations that are occurring in school counseling and assessment programs throughout Taiwan. Cultural immersion in professionalizing activities provided the basis to examine and re-evaluate European American cultural assumptions about the backgrounds and presenting issues for our Asian clients. For instance, parental expectations play a significant role in the career development of Asian students. These expectations are structurally supported by the prevalence of the cram school system and private tutoring in Taiwan. Parental expectations in the U.S., however, are not the same. By speaking with Taiwanese clinical practitioners, MU students and faculty gained a deeper understanding of the role of cultural values (e.g., filial piety) in shaping Asian students’ worldviews, career development, coping strategies, and expectations about counseling. Moreover, the experience highlighted the important role of culture in affecting behaviors. And thus understand the importance of cultural consideration in all of our work as counseling psychologists.
Students’ learning through cross-cultural professional collaboration was enhanced by opportunities to formally and informally network with NTNU administrators, faculty and students, as well as with other Taiwanese counseling practitioners across professional and cultural settings. MU faculty and students were also invited to participate in discussions with NTNU faculty and students at professional presentations and lectures. MU faculty and students participated in the regular classroom activities of NTNU students and connected with them during guided cultural exploration activities around the city of Taipei. This cross-cultural networking allowed faculty and students to discuss: (a) potential topics for future research projects and collaboration on convention presentations, (b) the prospects for becoming involved as visiting international scholars, and (c) the applications of counseling psychology in diverse and emerging institutions. In short, the BCCIP experience provided quality personal interactions which might otherwise not have occurred on the home campus. The BCCIP brought together MU ESCP students and faculty with broad interests in counseling psychology whose shared vision includes promoting the department’s commitment to multiculturalism and providing services to diverse.
To facilitate the breadth and depth of MU faculty and students’ cross-cultural learning in Taiwan, four process times were conducted by Drs. Heppner, Flores, as well as Yi-Jiun Lin, and Chia-Lin Tsai. These process times aimed at providing a safe and confidential environment for the group members to talk about their observation and reactions about the trip on cognitive and emotional levels. Issues discussed ranged from social customs, cultural shock, to implications of cultural differences (e.g., individualism and collectivism) with the NTNU faculty/students as well as applications with our clinical work with Asian/ Asian American clients.
“A Night of Missouri, a MU students’ presentation, served as a true cultural exchange between MU and NTNU. MU students described the culture of the Midwest region of the U.S. (e.g., geography, cuisine, and values), the University of Missouri, and counseling psychology programs in the U.S. and at MU, as well as reflection and experiences as an international student in the U.S. Our presentation introduced unique cultural characteristics of the Midwest to NTNU faculty and students to facilitate their understanding of the diverse dimensions of American culture.
Cultural Exploration: Self and Student Guided
During our 10-day stay, a significant amount of time was also devoted to cultural exploration activities. The main purpose of these exploration times was to encourage our faculty and students to step out of our comfort zones and immerse ourselves into the various activities of the local Taiwanese people. We were given opportunities to either spend these free times to explore the city on our own (self-guided exploration) or join the NTNU or native Taiwan-student-guided tours. Both self-guided and student-guided cultural exploration times provided us with not only a unique window to see the diverse dimensions of Taiwanese culture but also a valuable opportunity for our faculty and students to interact with one another in a more causal way.
The student-guided tours were both experiential and educational, and definitely reflected the diverse dimensions of Taiwanese culture. With their thoughtful arrangement and cultural explanation, we learned about the wide spectrum of Taiwanese culture through visiting various internationally-renown tourist attractions. For example, issues surrounding the contested sovereignty of Taiwan and the development of a Taiwanese national identity were explicated during our visit to the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. A trip to the newly renovated National Palace Museum allowed faculty and students to learn about Taiwan’s rich cultural history through viewing artifacts and exhibits devoted to traditional Chinese and Taiwanese arts. Taipei 101, the world’s tallest building, illustrated for students and faculty Taiwan’s rapidly growing economic importance and its development as a major player in international affairs. BCCIP participants witnessed the visibility of foreign investment and influence in Taiwan’s economic development during visits to the East Commercial Zone and Taipei Main Station. A trip to the famous pottery town Ying-Ge permitted participants to engage with local Taiwanese artisans and to learn about contemporary pottery studies. Visits to famed jade and flower markets provided students with an opportunity to witness popular leisure activities and to observe local Taiwanese shopping and preparation for Chinese New Year celebrations. Finally, students participated in KTV (or karaoke television), an extremely popular leisurely activity imported to Taiwan from Japan. Since the medicinal properties of foods and mealtime rituals are integral to Taiwanese culture, we visited many establishments to sample authentic Taiwanese cuisine and to learn about the significance of mealtime practices. Tea cultivation and tea service are important customs in Taiwan; we learned the intricacies of these customs at the historic Mao-Kong Tea Garden. Taipei’s numerous night markets provided students with an opportunity to experience local Taiwanese shopping and dining experiences. As they negotiated prices with vendors and ordered night market standards like stinky tofu, duck blood soup, and bubble tea, students were encouraged to practice the Chinese phrases learned during the fall preparation seminar. Additionally, visits to the Confucian Da Long Dong Temple and the Taoist Pao-An Temple reinforced the significance of religion and spirituality in the lives of Taiwanese. Finally, participants were provided with opportunities to experience traditional Taiwanese healing and self-care practices, including acupressure-based massage and Tai-Chi practice. When not participating in guided cultural exploration activities, group members were encouraged to, and did, venture out into Taipei on their own. Although there is increasing Western influence in Taiwan, including children’s early introduction to learning the English language and a growing presence of many Western-style commercial outlets, MU faculty and students engaging in self-guided exploration opted to seek local Taiwanese culture and patronized traditional markets, navigated the Taipei Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system to visit nearby neighborhoods, and scouted out local antique markets and vendors.
In sum, cultural immersion provides the basis to examine and re-evaluate cultural assumptions about the backgrounds and cultural influences of our clients who seek counseling services. We have learned that students and faculty alike can benefit a great deal from the process of attempting to create meaningful cross-cultural dialogues and gaining insights into the process of developing cross-cultural relationships. It is striking that even a brief two week Cross-Cultural Immersion Program resulted in a wide array of outcomes such as: (a) promoting cross-cultural sensitivity, (b) enhancing self-awareness in relation to cultural contexts, (c) acquiring knowledge and appreciation of Chinese culture, and (d) increasing cross-cultural skills. In the future our students will be expected to be cross-culturally competent and they must learn to transcend boundaries and bridge cultures different from their own in order to sustain our planet Earth; these kinds of immersion experiences represent a beginning to promote such cultural sensitivity faculty.
2007 BCCIP: MU comes to NTNU (pages 28–29) http://www.education.missouri.edu/ESCP/resources/Newsletter/Spring2007ESCPNews.pdf