Students learn ‘cultural humility’ in class and in Fiji

Students learn ‘cultural humility’ in class and in Fiji

Riverside, Calif. (June 21, 2023) – Two faculty members at California Baptist University teach a unique course to make students aware they are part of a global village.

In Cultural Social Service Engagement Practicum (BEH 334), Dr. Doug Wallace, professor of sociology, and Dr. Carol Minton-Ryan, professor of sociology, want students to think globally and consider their future decisions and impacts on the world.

 “To be educated in the 21st century, you have to have a global awareness. At a minimum you should have one cross-cultural international experience,” Wallace said.

The course focuses on a specific country, its history, people and social issues. The class also prepares students for a cross-cultural international experience.

“We get them used to cultural humility – the idea that you're going to be a learner,” Minton-Ryan said. “You're going to experience some culture shock. What happens when you feel uncomfortable?”

This past spring, students studied and visited Fiji. The course looked at the country’s history – including the British colonization – its healthcare system, the environment and tourism. The group of 15 learned a few words in Fijian and then traveled to Fiji for 10 days to learn about coral reef health, eco-tourism and the Fiji healthcare system. They visited a wild adventure park, snorkeled with manta rays, stayed overnight with families in a village and planted 39 trees there.

For Lily Griffing, a biomedical sciences sophomore, learning about the ethnic and religious diversity beforehand helped her understand the Fijian people. During the trip, she saw the conundrum of tourism – which is important to Fiji’s economy but detrimental to the environment.

Students learn ‘cultural humility’ in class and in Fiji

“The country’s beauty should be enjoyed but at what cost? There is pollution, coral destruction and labor exploitation,” Griffing said. “On the one hand, tourism is a necessary industry but on the other hand, it is harming the ocean and the environment.”

For Madi Swain (’23), the overnight stay in Komave village was the best way to experience the culture, from seeing how different clans work together to how the children play and interact with nature. The CBU group also helped prepare a lovo meal, which is cooked over hot firewood and coals.

“One of my trip highlights was sitting on the floor of the community hall, helping to prepare the food,” Swain said. “It was a wonderful experience to interact and contribute to the lovo dinner preparation with the women of the village.”

Swain, who loves to travel, said she was grateful for the experience.

“The hospitality we experienced in Fiji was absolutely amazing,” Swain said. “Everywhere we went, friendly faces met us and invited us to experience the beautiful island culture. Hearing a loud and excited ‘bula’ (Fijian greeting) as we passed by strangers never got old.”

Learning about a country and meeting the people can provide another viewpoint, a benefit for both students and faculty.

“It’s a privilege to go to these places and learn about the cultures and people,” said Minton-Ryan. “It just gives you a different perspective.”

Wallace commented on how people around the world are more alike than different.

“We've got hopes and dreams. We've got people we love and care about. We hope somebody loves us. I think it's good for students to see that human interaction,” Wallace said.

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