The Cross-Cultural Practicum is a distinctive element of DIU’s BA in International Service. During the practicum, usually completed in the year of graduation, students apply what they have learned in the classroom about language acquisition and cross-cultural servanthood. It is one of the ways DIU is preparing global leaders to partner with local communities.
Some students travel overseas for their practicums, but others, like Kati, find unique cross-cultural experiences closer to home. For her practicum, Kati served at the Vacation Bible School and summer camp of New Life Deaf Fellowship, a church in Fort Worth, Texas. As one of the few hearing members of the staff, she says that she “got to finally experience the wonderful, awful thing that is complete linguistic immersion.”
She explains that she was also immersed in an entirely different culture—even though her Deaf friends wear the same clothes as any American on the street, their habits and values differ significantly. For instance, she must continually remind herself that Deaf culture is more direct than hearing culture as she interprets her Deaf friends’ very direct conversational style. Although immersion was difficult and exhausting, Kati feels that she learned as much about American Sign Language and Deaf culture in two weeks as she did in years’ worth of ASL classes and self-study. Rather than merely learning vocabulary and grammar rules, Kati got to see how real people use their language and build relationships with one another.
Kati also got to apply other principles she learned in her DIU classes. She observed the creative ways leaders got kids’ attention when raising their voices was not an option, demonstrating what she had learned about different interactional and conversational patterns. In the chaotic camp environment, she was forced to practice tolerance of ambiguity, a much-talked-about virtue in her International Service courses. When translating a spoken phrase word-for-word into ASL, she discovered that she still couldn’t explain to her Deaf colleagues why the phrase was an insult—an illustration of translation principles, language-in-use, and cultural values wrapped up into one. Everything Kati learned about language and culture in the classroom made more sense once she finally saw it in action.
Best of all, Kati now feels more connected than ever to the Deaf community. Because of her practicum, she made friends at church, forged relationships with her coworkers, and spent “really precious” time with the children in her charge. Her practicum experience and the new relationships she forged have only deepened Kati’s passion for Deaf communities and sign languages around the world, with whom she hopes to work someday.
Kati had the opportunity to put her education into practice while earning her BA in International Service. Learn more about our program here, or write us at email@example.com to learn more about the cross-cultural practicum and other ways to gain cross-cultural experience.