The Student As A Cultural Ambassador: Who Is A Cultural Ambassador?
A cultural ambassador is a person who is at the forefront of ensuring other people appreciate the uniqueness of his or her culture. A cultural ambassador is instrumental in ensuring that other people experience his or her culture from different perspectives that make up the culture including values, beliefs, superstitions, and customs. A cultural ambassador employs different tactics to ensure that other people experience his or her culture in a unique and participative manner. He or she can invite other people to research his or her culture offering assistance where necessary. A cultural ambassador also employs sensitivity and understanding. He or she understands the essay writer similarities and differences between cultures and the importance of celebrating them instead of criticizing them.
In my initial definition of a cultural ambassador, I failed to take into consideration different aspects including the learning theories that play a critical role in engaging a learner in a unique set of learning experiences. I defined a cultural ambassador as a person who acts as a representative or promoter of his/her country’s cultural background; acts as anchors or spokespersons for their respective countries. The role is not limited to festivals and events but includes day-to-day interactions with people in the host country. Moreover, a cultural ambassador represents the person’s as well as the country’s diversity.
In my new definition, a cultural ambassador is a person who acts as a representative or promoter of his/her country’s cultural background; acts as anchors or spokespersons for their respective countries. Besides, a cultural ambassador is a person who is at the forefront of ensuring other people appreciate the uniqueness of his or her culture. He or she invites other people to experience his or her culture from different perspectives that make up a culture including beliefs, values, customs, and superstitions. A cultural ambassador employs sensitivity, passion, and understanding of his or her role. A cultural ambassador is a person who employs different learning theories that are central in informing learning experiences. He or she understands that learning about culture requires one to experience it and therefore employs different mechanisms to fulfill that. A cultural ambassador understands that culture is all about people and sensitivity and passion in his or her role can shape the experiences that people have with his or her culture. It can determine whether people eliminate unfounded prejudices and misconceptions about the culture or keep them. It can also foster tolerance and increase cultural consciousness.
The Role of a Student As A Cultural Ambassador
As a cultural ambassador, I believe I played an instrumental role in promoting my cultural heritage. I was at the forefront of helping my friend to understand the different aspects of my culture. I was passionate about my role and demonstrated understanding whenever my friend asked questions about my culture. Being open and sensitive helped my friend to enjoy the whole learning experience of my culture. Also, it helped me to create connections with my culture and understand it from a whole different perspective. As a partner, my role as an ambassador allowed me to experience and celebrates the cultural similarities and differences between my culture and that of my partner. As a partner, what I learned during the experience enabled me to become a more respectful, tolerant, and sensitive cultural ambassador. Besides, it helped me to foster cultural sensitivity and eliminate any misconceptions that I harbored about other people’s cultures.
The parts I enjoyed most about the whole experience were the outings. The outings provided an opportunity to experience the different cultures from a completely different perspective other than the research I had done from books and other online sources. From our outings, we able to gather a lot of information to supplement the research we had done from books and online sources. The outings also provided us with an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of both our cultures. I must admit that there are things I did not know about my culture since I have not lived in the Philippines the whole of my life and the cultural outings provided an opportunity to learn them.
The parts I did not enjoy about my role as a cultural ambassador is the failure to integrate critical thinking and questioning throughout the research. I must admit that most of my questions were based on curiosity even though they were related to what we were researching. The open-ended questions I asked, for example, encouraged discussion but failed to provoke divergent thinking. Besides, integrating critical questioning encourages critical thinking. Critical thinking is all about knowing the facts and doing something with these facts. If I employed critical thinking, I would have reflected deeply on the information I received from my partner. Critical thinking would also help to foster deeper levels of learning and understanding.
Student cultural profiles
Cultural profile 1
I believe that my culture symbolizes and values respect and that is why it is accorded to everyone irrespective of age.
I believe that my culture has a deep respect for gender equality irrespective of the influence of colonization.
I believe that my partner’s culture is deeply entrenched within Confucianism, which has significant influence in different aspects of life including the social and moral one.
I believe that in my culture, close family ties are instrumental in keeping families together despite the influence of modernity.
I believe that in my culture, the family unit provides a safety net for individuals particularly the elderly.
I believe that in my partner’s culture, the family is a central unit and the father is highly regarded as the authority figure.
I believe that my culture holds in high regard the supernatural and views them as part of our existence.
I believe that my partner’s culture is deeply embedded in superstitions and despite the influence of Confucianism, they have managed to survive.
Student cultural profiles 2
I still believe that my culture symbolizes and values respect for everyone irrespective of age despite the modern influence that has somehow changed this perception to place more emphasis on respect for the elderly.
I still believe that my culture is one of the most gender-sensitive in the world going by the roles assigned to both men and women.
I now believe that Confucianism is not just a social philosophy but a way of life that guides different aspects of life including the moral aspect and social aspect as well.
I now believe that my culture holds high regards to the family unit because of the role it plays in society as a basic social unit. A family as a social unit has close ties that are characterized by reciprocity.
I now believe that the family as a safety net particularly for the elderly is instrumental in the close family ties that my culture enjoys to date despite the influence from outside.
I now believe that in my partner’s culture, the family is a central unit and even though the father is regarded as the authority figure, the mother plays crucial roles that keep the family together even in times of difficulties.
I still believe that my culture holds in high regard the supernatural and views them as part of our existence, which explains why they are accorded respect and are highly regarded.
I now believe that even though my partner’s culture is embedded in superstitions, the superstitions are instrumental in holding the moral fabric of the society irrespective of external influence.
Through this learning experience, I have become better at integrating communication skills in my learning experiences. I have come to appreciate the role these skills play in increasing the understanding of culture and the way they can help to shape perceptions and eliminate misconceptions that were held previously. Besides, I have had a better understanding of adult learning theories and the way I can integrate them into my learning to build my knowledge and change my perceptions.
The learning experiences have helped me to understand different aspects of my culture that I did not think of or pay much attention to. For instance, the learning experiences have helped me to understand that in my culture everyone was respected including both the young and the old. Albeit much has changed due to influence from other cultures that place much emphasis on respect for the elderly, it feels good to learn that at one time, everyone was accorded respect irrespective of their age. The learning experiences have also helped me to understand the reasons why Filipino is a gender-sensitive culture when it comes to gender roles. From the creation story, it is clear that man and woman emerged from the bamboo at the same time meaning both were considered equal. Though the influence of Christianity and other religions have changed the definition of gender roles, the traditional setup still plays a role in the culture.
The learning experiences were an eye-opener as to why the family institution is highly regarded in the Philippines. In Filipino culture, the family institution is esteemed and favored. Strong family ties are revered which is evident by the fact that divorce is illegal in the country. Besides, in the Filipino culture, close familial relationships often go beyond one’s genetic connections or bloodlines to incorporate distant relatives, close neighbors or friends.
The learning experiences also helped me to understand the reasons why myths and superstitions are still strong in the culture irrespective of the Spanish and American influence. I understand the reasons why people pay homage to elementals although they are Christians.
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The learning experiences have helped me to understand my partner’s culture from different perspectives including beliefs, values, influences, and traditions. Although I was partly acquainted with Chinese cultural values and beliefs, the learning experience provided an opportunity for me to open my mind to more aspects of the culture that I did not have any idea of or understand. Particularly, the learning experiences provided an opportunity to learn more about Confucianism not just as a social philosophy but a way of life. From the experiences, I got to learn that Confucianism has influenced more than the culture’s belief systems. It is deeply embedded in the culture including the social fabric and way of life. The learning experiences helped me to understand that Confucius philosophy advocates for compassion and love, which are cultivated by deprecating oneself. Deprecating oneself means avoiding speech that seeks to gain approval. It means behaving in a way that does not create a false impression and lead to self-aggrandizement. I also learned that family in Chinese just like Filipino culture is essential as a source of identity and a network of support.
The cultural outings were not only an eye-opening opportunity but also a chance for me to question my assumptions about different cultures. Before the outings, I must admit I was very sheltered with limited imaginations about how different people view and do things differently. Through cultural outings and learning experiences, I got to understand the importance of cultural appreciation. I was able to view culture from different perspectives other than through stereotypes, which is a common way in which people view culture nowadays. I learned that for one to understand the culture they have to learn, and the best way to do this is through experiencing the culture. Through a cultural immersion experience, one can change frames of reference that define the way they understand and view the world. According to Ogbu (1993), frames of reference selectively shape and delimit one’s perceptions, feelings, cognition, and even expectations. Therefore, for one to understand the culture of another person, he or she should make an effort to break these delimitations. Immersing oneself into a culture helps one to make his or her interpretations of the culture other than relying on beliefs, judgments, and superstitions fed to them through various sources especially the media which most of the time is limiting. Getting to learn culture from this perspective leads to transformative learning which develops into autonomous thinking that can change the belief in stereotypical behaviors learned over the years.
The learning experiences have encouraged me to be more reflective and critical of what I think I know and what the reality is. Employing ambassador behaviors such as open-ended questions enabled me to be divergent in my thinking. I was able to think of a variety of possible answers that encouraged a deeper level of thinking. Immersing myself into the cultural experience through cultural outings enabled me to have deeper thinking that entailed more than the recall of the information. I was able to take additional steps to reflect on the information my partner shared with me which created a deeper level of understanding of her culture. Besides, the learning experiences provided me with an opportunity to change my beliefs, attitudes, and emotional reactions that I had about my culture and my partner’s culture. To be able to change these schemes I had to engage in critical reflection of my experiences. Critical reflection leads to a perspective transformation. Taylor (2017) defines perspective transformation as the process of becoming critically aware of the way assumptions we have constrained the way we understand, perceive, and feel about the world. Perspective transformation enables one to become more inclusive and understanding of another person’s culture. The learning experiences also led to transformative learning. I was able to change my frames of reference by critically thinking and reflecting about the perceptions, assumptions, and beliefs that I held about my partner’s culture. Besides, I was able to relate to the new knowledge acquired through the learning experiences that deepened my understanding. A positive and engaged attitude was critical in the critical thinking process. Listening carefully without any judgment provided an opportunity to acquire so much information that was essential in changing my perception of other people’s cultures. Though critical and reflective thinking, I was able to neutralize the misconceptions and prejudices taught to me through different avenues including the media.
The learning experiences have encouraged me to be less defensive and more accepting of new ideas. I have become more open to sharing things about my culture that I felt were not comfortable sharing before. I believe this was informed by the learning by experiencing the culture through cultural outings. Researching my culture has helped me to uncover interesting facts that have shaped the way I view my culture. By studying my partner’s culture, I have become more accepting of the cultural variations that exist and the way they contribute to the uniqueness of every culture. I have also learned that most things about culture are shaped through misconceptions. The misconceptions limit our view and beliefs about different cultural systems, which limits our minds. Learning about a culture by experiencing it has helped me to differentiate between myths and misconceptions that are misguided and not based on facts. I have learned that these misconceptions contribute in one way or another to people being defensive when asked about their cultures instead of being open and sharing more information that can help others to learn.
The learning experiences have helped me to understand that people view things from different perspectives. Doing this does not mean that their opinions should be undermined or invalidated. Instead, being open about other people’s perspectives helps one to be open and more willing to learn. The learning experiences have helped to keep an open mind and grow as a person. I have learned new things that can use in my role as a cultural ambassador.
The learning experiences have been transformative and have changed the way I view my family and way of life. I have understood the reason for the close family ties in my family irrespective of the distance between us. I have understood Filipino culture pre-colonization and aspects that changed after colonization and the way these aspects are demonstrated in my family. For instance, my family is very religious which can be attributed to colonization. The learning experiences also helped me to understand why my family holds to cultural values such as respect for the elderly.
Personal learning questions
One of the experiential learning process and transformative learning process that I liked most was being able to apply communication skills in my learning. All the learning experiences required an application of these ambassador behaviors and learning to use them correctly made the whole learning experience interesting. The learning experiences provided an opportunity to apply ambassador behaviors that I learned in the classroom in a real-life context. Through my experiences, I understood the importance of listening as a way of learning. Active listening enabled me to understand the information that my partner was sharing with me. Active listening enabled me to form a deeper connection with my partner. I was able to ask constructive questions because I was paying attention to what my partner was saying.
The learning experiences provided me with an opportunity to apply both open and close-ended questions in my research. Open-ended questions were essential in expanding the discussion. The questions triggered critical learning. Close-ended questions provided us with an opportunity to respond to short and prompt questions that were critical in clarifying some aspects of both our cultures. Eye contact and facial expression were also used as part of the learning experiences. The facial expressions were critical in conveying meaning (Elliott & Jacobs, 2013). The expressions were used in response to interesting situations. Eye contact was an indication that I was interested in what my friend was sharing about her culture. The learning experiences provided an opportunity for me to employ reflective thinking in the different aspects of the cultures that we learned about.
Although the learning experiences went well, I would have loved to experience both cultures through cultural immersion. I would have loved to visit a local community that is mostly Filipino or a local community that is mostly Chinese or visit both countries for an even better experience. Cultural immersion is about actively integrating into the local culture, interacting with the local people, and seeking to understand their culture by engaging in their daily activities. Living with the community every day for even one month can be instrumental in understanding different aspects of the culture because one is experiencing them. Extensive involvement with members of the host culture enables one to learn through their experiences and have a better understanding of their culture and the reasons why they view things the way they do. Cultural immersion provides one with an opportunity to discover that our cultural values, beliefs, and norms are just a small part of the huge diversity that exists (Addleman, Brazo & Cevallos, 2011). It helps one to understand the variations in culture because one experiences them. I also believe that cultural immersion enables one to become a better cultural ambassador because he or she gets to appreciate different cultures. Therefore, although the different places I choose for my experiences such as the Filipino restaurant and my home could provide an opportunity to understand some aspects of the Filipino culture, they did not provide details about the culture the same way staying with a local community for one week or more could.
I believe that if I approached this task from a traditional perspective that is using books, readings, and texts alone, I would not have learned much about my culture or my partner’s culture. Experiential learning through cultural outings provided me with an opportunity to engage my emotions and enhance my skills and knowledge about the respective cultures. Experiential learning provided an opportunity to learn and experience culture from experience, which is not possible through books and texts. According to Kolb (2014), experiential learning provides the learner with an opportunity to get directly in touch with the realities of what is being studied. I immersed myself in the culture, which changed my perspectives, attitudes, and misconceptions that I had about culture. The cultural outings also provided me with an opportunity to understand different cultural constructs from a broader perspective other than the one defined in books and texts. I was able to appreciate the experience of learning more because of the use of non-verbal communication cues such as eye contact and facial expressions. Studying the cultures through experiential learning was also an opportunity to authenticate information gotten from texts, books, and readings. Some texts especially those that I found on some websites contained confusing information that I had to authenticate from my cultural outings.
Adult learning theory questions
Applying the Adult Learning Theory in my learning experiences was essential in enhancing my learning. Adult learning theory enables adults to learn considering that adults learn differently from children. Andragogy is the “art of helping adults learn” (DePew & Duncan, 2010, p.149). The core principles of andragogy are essential in planning the learning experiences of adults. The principles and their contribution in shaping learning are explained below.
Transforming the role of the faculty from a content provider to content expert, facilitator, coach, and process manager
The principle enhanced my learning because my faculty advisor played an instrumental role as a facilitator in the process of learning. He guided me on the type of content I needed to research to be able to finish my paper. My faculty advisor acted as my coach. He provided the motivation I needed to continue with my learning experiences even when it felt difficult. As a facilitator, the faculty advisor was instrumental in helping me accomplish all my learning experiences and projects. Besides, as a facilitator, the faculty advisor was instrumental in helping me discover meaningful aspects of my culture (Gardner, 1981). As a process manager, the faculty advisor played an instrumental role in helping me to write the objectives I was going to pursue the learning experiences and work towards actualizing them by conducting research.
Transforming the role of the student from information receiver to navigator, active learner, information interpreter, and implementer of knowledge
The principle enhanced my learning because I was able to conduct research that was instrumental in my research papers. I was not just a passive learner. Instead, I was engaged in conducting research, which transformed me into an active learner who actively participated in learning through questioning and researching. I had clear objectives that I needed to achieve from my learning experience and to be able to attain them I had to be an active learner. Besides, as an active learner, I placed a lot of emphasis on developing critical communication skills. Active learners in experiential learning can control, supervise, adjust, and even motivate their own learning (Palis & Quiros, 2014). As a navigator, I directed the learning experiences and made major decisions on what I was going to research and where I was going to get information. As an information interpreter, I played a key role in helping my partner to understand my culture. As an implementer of knowledge, the learning experiences played a key role in exploring my values and attitudes.
Use of push strategies [e.g., student-student contracts and responsive tutor]
The use of push strategies greatly enhanced my learning. A responsive tutor played a key role in guiding me through learning experiences. I could ask for clarification on things that were not clear. The tutor was also supportive. I could feedback every time I asked a question or sought clarifications. A responsive tutor made the learning experiences enjoyable and easy for me.
Use of pull strategies [e.g., samples are posted on the website]
The use of pull strategies enhanced contemporary thinking. I was able to question what I did not understand and write better essays that demonstrated contemporary learning (Bassendowski & Petrucka, 2013). Besides, pull strategies enabled me to create learning experiences that demonstrated my understanding of the course content.
Conducive learning environment [e.g., dynamic website]
The Athabasca University website is created in a way that enhances students learning. The content is clear, the page is navigable, and the resources to inform further research are provided. The website contains a description of the course content and the expected learning outcomes from the course, which were crucial in informing the way I conducted research.
Creating own content [e.g., learner determines, within imposed limits, what will be taught and learned and how]
This principle proved instrumental in all my learning experiences. I determined what I wanted to explore in this learning exercise including where I was going to find the information I needed and where I would conduct my cultural outings. The learning experiences encouraged insightful critical thinking that played a key role in helping me complete my assignment. I was able to apply the knowledge I had gathered from research in real-life situations. Identifying personal learning needs proved critical in helping me to set my goals and objectives that I wanted to achieve from these learning experiences.
Varying the stimulus [e.g., ‘hands-on’ real-time cultural outings, essays, developing web pages]
I was able to apply this principle to enhance my learning. I had hands-on real-time cultural outings that informed a critical aspect of my whole learning experiences. Developing a web page helped me to integrate everything I had learned from my cultural outings and make them easily available for other people to have the same experience. Completing three essays on my learning experiences helped me to be more creative in the way I presented information on the different things I had learned about our cultures.
Social context [e.g., use of non-cultural metaphors, and sensitivity to slang that references cultural origins]
The principle enhanced by learning experiences because I was able to understand that using slang that references cultural origins should be done with sensitivity to avoid hurting another person. Employing sensitivity throughout my learning enabled me to be more open-minded to other people’s cultures and the differences that exist between them.
Opportunities for engagement [e.g., sharing and exchanging cultural aspects, building on success, developing presentation and web skills]
This principled enhanced my learning because I was able to share and exchange cultural aspects with my partner. The cultural outings provided me with an opportunity to experience culture through real-life experiences. I also understood that adults learn best through mutual respect and in this case, it was respect for each other’s cultures. By experiencing the culture, I was able to remove any misconceptions and prejudices I had in my head about my partner’s culture. This principle also proved instrumental in my website building skills. I must admit it was not easy at first because of the complexities involved in building a website but the education knowledge I acquired throughout the learning experiences proved essential in this step.
Addleman, R.A., Brazo, C.J., & Cevallos, T. (2011). Transformative Learning Through Cultural Immersion. Northwest Journal of Teacher Education, 9 (1), 55-67.
Bassendowski, S., & Petrucka, P. (2013). The Space between: Teaching with Push-Pull Strategies that Reflect Ubiquitous Technology. Journal of Modern Education Review, 3 (1), 1-7.
DePew, R., & Duncan, G. (2010). Transitioning from LPN/VN to RN: Moving ahead in your career. Clifton Park, N.Y: Delmar.
Elliott, E. A., & Jacobs, A. M. (2013). Facial Expressions, Emotions, and Sign Languages. Frontiers in Psychology, 4 (115). doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00115
Gardner, J. N. (1981). Developing faculty as facilitators and mentors. New Directions for Student Services, 1981(14), 67–80. doi:10.1002/ss.37119811407
Kolb, D. A. (2014). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc.
Ogbu, J. U. (1993). Differences in Cultural Frame of Reference. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 16(3), 483-506. doi:10.1177/016502549301600307
Palis, A. G., & Quiros, P. A. (2014). Adult learning principles and presentation pearls. Middle East African journal of ophthalmology, 21(2), 114-122.
Taylor, E. W. (2017). Transformative Learning Theory. Transformative Learning Meets Bildung, 17–29. doi:10.1007/978-94-6300-797-9_2