Gettin’ Cross-Cultural in the Classroom

ImageThroughout this year of blogging, I’ve shared the ups & downs, ins & outs that come with the life of a traveling student; I have yet, however, to focus much on what it was I came here for: a Master’s in Cross-Cultural Psychology. The program is one-of-a-kind, the largest and oldest in its field throughout Europe, nicely condensed into a one-year program – and is cross-cultural in more than simply the literature and research.

Pictured above is the majority of students with one of our recent visiting lecturers, Markku Verkasalo from the University of Helsinki, who shared with us his expertise as a photographer, his integration between his life’s work in photography and his research in Schwartz’s values, and his overall experiences as a professor in Finland. Then, he shared with us his wife’s fresh hand-picked “cloudberries.”

The body of students is small, giving the course a close-knit academic seminar feel. There is roughly 10 of us – mostly women (with the exception of Tom, who is missing in this photo) – all from different countries around the world. Germany, India, Finland, U.S., England, Romania, Japan and Canada (if you include the lecturers) are all represented in our cross-cultural family. We’ve shared candies, dishes, drinks, sayings, stories, jokes, habits, and arguably the most important- perspectives. Engaging in round-table discussions about the cross-cultural research we’re reviewing each week has been one of the most interesting, beneficial, and thought-provoking aspects of the program this year.

The field itself seems to be equally small – in its finicky teenage years, as it bloomed in the early 70s – which makes it both a frustratingly limited body of research, and an opportune area to challenge and advance the current work and bring in interdisciplinary perspectives. With dissertations on the horizon, however, the collective notion seems to be that this presents us more of an opportunity to expand and create our own academic pathways from the existing research paradigms rather then dwelling on our limits.

I gotta say, I’m proud to stand alongside this group of burgeoning cross-cultural psychologists and I have no doubts that the next Cross-Cultural Carl (Jung) is amongst our group. With the second term and the academic year coming to a rapid close, I am humbled to have worked with such a multi-faceted, intelligent group of women (and Tom!) and am looking forward to seeing what we cultivate with the knowledge we’ve gained together.

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