Summer English Program Builds Intercultural Understanding | Duke Kunshan University

Summer English Program Builds Intercultural Understanding

August 19, 2015

Limmi Park was among the talented students from five top Chinese universities who joined the Summer English Program eager to get early exposure to DKU before the start of the semester. Park is from Seoul, Korea, but is currently studying at Beijing Foreign Studies University. She said she was “nervous about studying at DKU and wanted to prepare before the semester started and work on my English skills.” This was a common theme among the students, but as the week unfolded, it became clear that their travel experience and previous hard work in English study would benefit them while at DKU.

At DKU’s first Summer English Program, the students enjoyed making new friends and experiencing interactive classes with an accessible and involved teaching faculty. Classroom work focused on the importance of developing the good intercultural communication skills needed for personal success on an international campus and in today’s global workplace. But the study of intercultural communication skills also benefits others. As SEP Director Don Snow noted, "Students in DKU's Summer English Program not only build their academic English skills and understanding of intercultural communication theory. They also learn to be intercultural bridge-builders who help other newly arrived students more smoothly settle into DKU's academic and social culture, and who encourage the members of DKU's diverse student body to more actively seek to learn about each other's cultures."

SEP students practice oral discussion skills with English teacher Maxi-Ann Campbell and become more comfortable participating in class.

SEP students build skills in intercultural communication.

DKU administrators from the Office of Undergraduate Programs and the faculty of the Writing and Language Program led the summer program, with the able assistance of summer interns. English teacher Maxi-Ann Campbell worked with the students to develop their ability to think critically about the assumptions they make about people and to think carefully about why a person from another culture might behave in a certain way. Student participation is an important part of the DKU classroom, so the discussions on cultural incidents offered students both practice and new strategies for joining group discussions. Campbell also taught students valuable reading strategies that will help them navigate the intense amounts of reading assigned during the Global Learning Semester. Students attended lectures and question and answer sessions that supported and deepened their understanding of intercultural communication. In the evenings, they relaxed and watched a popular American television series in English to improve their listening ability. Acting as amateur ethnographers, students observed the cultural behavior of Americans as portrayed in the series, critically evaluated those observations, and questioned the authenticity of the portrayal and the motives of the show’s creators.

SEP Program Director Don Snow shares interesting insights and stories about his long teaching career in China.

DKU Summer English Program (SEP) students practice using valuable new reading strategies.

SEP students are engaged in their work and listen thoughtfully to new opinions and ideas.

Students worked hard throughout the week, finding both familiarity and new ideas in the content of the coursework. They engaged in active group discussions and had many opportunities to reflect on cultural issues and interpret behaviors from different points of view. Often the personal stories that they shared corroborated what they had learned in class. Recognizing the value of her background, Limmi Park further noted, “the study of the theories and practices of intercultural communication are new to me, but I have experienced a lot of the same things in my life. It was good to read about my own experiences.”  This was a common feeling during the week. Students also mentioned that they are more willing to talk in groups now and better able to facilitate discussions.

Fun and interactive SEP classroom activities give students a taste of the DKU teaching style.

Students have the opportunity to work with involved and accessible faculty, with SEP Chinese teacher Zhou Xiayun.

English teacher Maxi-Ann Campbell helps students to evaluate assumptions and think critically about intercultural experiences.

After a fun weekend exploring Kunshan, learning the bus routes, and finding interesting places to eat and shop, SEP students are now generously preparing to welcome the new students to DKU’s fall semester. They are well equipped to be sensitive to the intercultural exchanges and group dynamics that will unfold in the coming months. Their awareness of good intercultural communication skills will benefit not just the new students in their adjustment to life at DKU, but our entire community that is committed to respecting and embracing cultural diversity.

Watching American t.v in the evening offers SEP students a relaxing way to work on listening skills, learn about American culture and critically evaluate the way it is portrayed by the media.

SEP Students visit Kunshan Science Museum with SEP faculty Don Snow, Edie Allen, Maxi-Ann Campbell and Xiayun Zhou.


(Article and Photos by Edie Allen)