Facilitating the CCIP has been a great experience for me both professionally and personally. It was a rare occasion where groups of people from my two worlds intersected – Taiwanese people with whom I grew up with and my US students and colleague. It was extremely powerful to hear about the impact this trip had on the MU participants. Many students became strikingly aware of the power and privileges they had as Americans and native English speakers. They realized they had taken many things for granted, which were not the case in Taiwan and other countries. They learned about the impact of American psychology on Taiwan to the extent that of inappropriate cross-national generalizations. They also described being treated with “undeserved kindness.”
This cross-national immersion experience also touched the identity of several participants. It brought out awareness of similarities and differences between race and nationality. It shed light on internalized identity challenges that were previously in a blind spot. On the other hand, being a minority without the ability to communicate with the mainstream language also raised a great level of empathy towards international students and sojourners. They realized the inconvenience, frustrations, and barriers due to lacking knowledge about how to navigate in a specific environment and the language skills to communicate. Moreover, most students were deeply touched with how accommodating the Taiwanese students, faculty, and locals were. I was most touched by the cross-national relationships that were developed on this trip. Seeing how our students progressed from the initial anxiety and avoidance to engaging, relating, and connecting was extremely rewarding.
Personally, being able to introduce my home culture to the MU students has been very rewarding. First, I got the opportunity to share my culture through a structured course to prepare the students during the Fall 2012 semester. In the course, we introduced Taiwan’s cultural values, religious practices, social relationships etiquettes, communication style, basic language, counseling profession, societal issues, food, art, and pop culture. Through this systematic preparatory class, I got to learn more about my own culture and the values operating beneath. It was also rewarding to see the students’ eagerness to learn about the Taiwanese culture and also to witness how they applied their knowledge during the actual immersion trip. In other words, it was rewarding to see them successfully navigate and interact with others during the immersion process. Similar to our students, I also experienced the warmth and hospitality from the Taiwanese colleagues, students, and locals. As a fellow Taiwanese residing in the U.S., I experienced a strong sense of belongingness and connection with my own people. These encounters also deepened the awareness of my Taiwanese identity and made me more in touch with who I am culturally. I hope it will allow me to more genuinely incorporate my Taiwanese values and wisdom into my teaching, research, and mentoring back at MU. All in all, this experience has been way more impactful than I had ever imagined both for the students and myself in developing a deeper sense of cultural knowledge, self-awareness, and cross-cultural skills. – Kenneth