FAYETTE, Iowa (April 28, 2008) -The demand for intercultural communication skills is increasing as more and more businesses go global. For this reason, Visiting Professor Dr. Hassan Zand is teaching a class in Intercultural Communications at Upper Iowa University's Fayette campus.
"As the workplace becomes a smaller place due to the Internet and global business, it is imperative students know how people from different countries, cultures, race, and religions communicate and act," said Zand. "Learning about other cultures helps gain mutual respect and trust when working together."
Out of 22 students in Zand's class, 19 come from small, close-knit Iowa communities, where the population is mostly Caucasian and often rural. Many members of the community are either related or life-long acquaintances. The food is traditional Midwest cooking and religions are mostly Catholic or Protestant. Typically, the only experience these students have with different race, culture or religion comes from foreign-exchange programs at their high schools.
Zach Bauer, Miles, Iowa, did a three-month foreign exchange visit to Germany in high school. He talks about how his host mother misinterpreted his eating habits. "I ate what she cooked but did not eat a lot of it," said Bauer. "She took it to mean I did not like her cooking. Due to this, we did not get along very well."
Nicky Brown is from Farley, Iowa, but attended church in nearby Placid. She describes it as "a little community, filled with farmers who all have similar struggles." She adds, "Placid has two houses, one rectory, one church, one cemetery, one baseball field and one softball field." Brown says she saw everybody in Placid every Sunday of her life-if not at church, at a softball or baseball game.
Three of Zand's students come from large cities in Michigan, Oregon and California. Their exposure to a more diverse population has given them greater understanding of cultural differences. Stephanie Runkle is Caucasian but grew up in Ramona, California, which has a large immigrant population.
"My best friend back home, Marisol, is Mexican and her mother would reprimand her in Spanish," said Runkle. "For lunch, they had corn tortillas wrapped around some kind of meat." She added, "My mother yelled in plain English and fed us macaroni and cheese." Runkle said she did not pay much attention to people's differences because it was something she was used to.
"We currently have enough international students on Upper Iowa's campus to make a course in international communication more meaningful," said Zand. "Students from China, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, Nepal, and Sudan assisted in the class." Zand explained that the international students attended classes and shared their perspectives on various issues discussed by the students.
"After an hour of intensive interaction, almost all students who interviewed their international partners stated that they experienced cultural shock," said Zand. "Perhaps that was the best class period we all experienced." He added, "It was one hundred percent interactive, practical learning. I am really grateful for the contribution the international students made to this course."
Upper Iowa University currently has 34 international students attending the Fayette campus. These students come from China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Nepal, Mongolia, India and Venezuela. Zand is a visiting professor from UIU's center located in Hong Kong, where he teaches English and liberal arts. Hong Kong is also where he and his wife reside.
For more information about Upper Iowa University and its many educational delivery options, visit the Website at www.uiu.edu.
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