INTERLINK directors and teachers help students open wide the beckoning windows and doors of Possibility. English language acquisition is the lever. Cross-cultural learning is the view beyond. INTERLINK invites and prepares its students to begin a lifelong pilgrimage of learning. Linguistic competency and academic skills provide important preparation. Beyond these, the INTERLINK mission calls for helping students “learn to bridge those precious differences that give us roots and rudders in an ever shrinking and restless world.”
The cross-cultural learning integral to the INTERLINK experience increases students’ understanding of their own and others’ cultures; it informs respect for the worth and consequence of the norms, values, and behaviors in all cultures; and it allows the student both to discern and communicate cultural differences with sensitivity and confidence. Thus, each student is better prepared not only to be culturally adept but to be able, in Francis Bacon’s summary phrase, “to retain one’s own dignity without intruding upon the liberty of others.”
If INTERLINK Language Centers are to serve their purposes well, cross-cultural learning must especially inform every aspect of its curriculum, services, and personal relationships. This may have immediate impact on students’ positive adjustment to a new educational, social, and cultural environment. Additionally, cross-cultural learning — and the teaching of it — achieves even more. It creates in students self-awareness, awareness about one’s own culture, and appreciation for cultural differences. The resulting self-efficacy frees students to share themselves in ways that demonstrate respect, assurance of one’s identity, and friendship.
Although ever student-centered, the INTERLINK faculty and staff are equally conscious in recognizing their own need. As cross-cultural educators, they must be continuously sensitive, alert, and adroit in response to the different assumptions, expectations, needs, and surprises confounding the individual student’s encounter with the new culture. They, too, must be eager, humble, and diligent in their own cross-cultural learning.
A further challenge for INTERLINK is to engender, encourage, and endorse cross-cultural learning at its partner institutions and in its communities. Its purpose and function at each university is to provide the Center Director and colleagues both opportunity and responsibility to be active participants in and contributors to international education on campus and beyond. To consider itself successful, each INTERLINK center must be recognized and utilized as a significant part of the wider educational environment. Effective efforts in these areas offer desirable, expansive potential.
In this vibrant, creative pursuit of cross-cultural learning — in classrooms, on campuses, and throughout our communities — “dwelling in Possibility” becomes possible. Such cross-cultural learning is an INTERLINK hallmark and ever its own reward.