Course Description

Study abroad is a natural part of our adaptation to the exponential social change facing our species.  But the lofty goals of a sojourn may be overwhelmed by the logistics of travel, the delights of tourism, and/or the various distractions of “personal growth.” Many programs settle for doing what education they can while maintaining participant satisfaction, counting on the inherent value of cross-cultural experience to be sufficient. But we know that, at best, cross-cultural experience alone only increases tolerance of otherness. And tolerance is not a sufficiently strong antidote to the perversion of relativism and increasing xenophobia that is now occurring in many societies.


By facilitating intercultural learning in more effective ways, international educators can do more to position study abroad as a counterforce to xenophobia.


Unfortunately, the topic of intercultural learning evokes contradictory responses in many international education situations.  Study abroad and exchange students expect an intense intercultural experience, but they often are unwilling to devote the necessary time to acquire the knowledge and skills to enable such an experience.  Foreign students want to succeed in their intercultural relations with faculty and peers, but they often resist participating in programs that facilitate intercultural communication.  Administrators want to have a leading-edge international program, but they often are unwilling to highlight intercultural development as an outcome.  Faculty want students to become more interculturally sensitive, but they often are unwilling to acquire the skills necessary to facilitate this complex developmental process.  Add to this the normal resistance to intercultural issues engendered by ethnocentrism, and you have a formidable mix of institutional and personal obstacles to overcome in any intercultural program.

This course brings together a faculty of seasoned international educators who represent vast experience in addressing the challenges just mentioned. They will suggest state of the art approaches and methods to facilitate intercultural learning as part of international exchange programs, and thereby to make international education a major contributor to new forms of social adaptation.


Target group

This course is intended for faculty and administrators in international education and exchange programs that send and/or receive students. These programs include the European universities and other schools that participate in Erasmus Plus, the many universities and consortia throughout the world that send students abroad and/or receive foreign students, and the independent programs that organize educational exchange for high school, college, and life-long learning participants. Intercultural trainers and consultants who work with such programs would also benefit from this course. No prerequisite.



  1. Review the recent research that addresses the value of intercultural learning in study abroad
  2. Summarize the case of “intervention” as the key for transforming cross-cultural experience into intercultural learning
  3. Explore state of the art approaches to conducting pre-departure setup for intercultural learning, on-site facilitation, and re-entry programs to transfer learning to continuing contexts
  4. Attend specifically to how intercultural learning can be transferred into maintaining climates of respect for cultural diversity on campuses and in communities
  5. Discuss various ways of motivating students to engage in valuable intercultural learning activities
  6. Consider strategies for dealing with administrative obstacles to incorporating intercultural learning into programs
  7. Share techniques for incorporating non-specialist faculty into professional-level intercultural education.


John Sunnygard, MIM, is Executive Director of the Office of International Affairs at the University of Colorado Denver. He has been actively involved in international education for 26 years, seven at the University of Colorado. During this time, he has organized programs on six continents that have involved more than 15,000 students living and learning abroad.


Ida CastiglioniIda Castiglioni, Ph.D. has her doctorate in Intercultural Communication from the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). She teaches and administers the Management of Political and Social Services program in the Faculty of Sociology at the University of Milano Bicocca (Italy), and she coordinates its Erasmus Plus program.


Milton Bennett, Ph.D. is a frequent presenter on the topic of “Transforming Cross-Cultural Experience into Intercultural Learning” at various conferences, including NAFSA: Association of International Educators, Forum for Education Abroad (USA and EUROPA), and the International Association of Intercultural Education.