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Cross Cultural Studies at University of Nueva Caceres in the Philippines

On May 19, 2013, the day after my daughter’s wedding in Seattle, Washington, more than 15 of us took a 7-day cruise to Alaska on board the Norwegian Cruise Line. Besides my family and my wife’s relatives from the Philippines, our group was composed of my new son-in-law’s parents and relatives from Houston.

Once on board, I started to explore the cruise ship that appeared to me to be like a floating hotel. It was equipped with many built-in amenities. It had an entertainment area, a swimming pool, a casino, a basketball court, a souvenir shop, several restaurants, bars, kitchens, and a medical room.

 I read in a plaque near the main restaurant that the ship was made in Germany, but operated by a Norwegian company.  The captain of the ship was Swedish. As I continued to tour the ship, I met and chatted with several crew members from the Philippines, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Hong-Kong, Malaysia, and Mexico. The chefs were Filipinos, Americans, and Italians who were ready to answer questions about menus of the day.  The medical team was headed by a Filipino doctor, assisted by a nurse from another country.

The souvenir shop sells everything from wine made in Australia, Spain, and Chile to sweatshirts sewn in Guatemala, El Salvador, Vietnam, and China. I swung by one of the restaurants for a snack and got what I wanted:  cheese from France, a burger from Australia, coffee from Colombia, and another informal conversation with a fellow passenger from India.

A few hours later, as I was trying to find my way to our cabin, I bumped into an elderly Canadian passenger who was nice enough to show me the way to my cabin. We had a short conversation. In our cabin was a television set made in Japan. I turned it on and listened to the news in real time as they were happening in other parts of the world.

That night our group was entertained by a band from Jamaica.  As I looked around the crowd, many were Whites. But there were also those with black and brown complexion.  Some even looked like my Filipino friends.

My encounters with people from other parts of the world did not end with the Jamaican band and a couple of Heineken beer from Holland. Our group needed an early morning snack and went to the only restaurant open for Italian pizza.

In less than the 24-hour period just described, I interacted directly – and indirectly – with people from some 25 countries around the globe. My needs – nutritional, psychological, emotional, physical, and aesthetic – were taken care of by these people.

Indeed, our society has become globalized, and we have become interdependent and interconnected. As Marshall McLuhan, the Canadian media theorist predicted more than 50 years ago, we have become a “global village.”

Given the reality of globalization, how are we going to prepare our students acquire the skills necessary to communicate with people from different cultures?

In other words, how should the different educational institutions prepare their students acquire basic global perspective, global attitude, and global skills?

I must admit ignorance on the status of the various universities in Naga when it comes to teaching their students how to be culturally competent.  But I am convinced that teaching cultural competency is an idea whose time has come.

In my search for an educational institution that is open to the idea of teaching a course in cross-cultural studies, I was referred by Mits San Jose, a California-based townmate from Sipocot and a retired professor from the University of Nueva Caceres, to Dr. Bong Sison, Vice President for Administration at the University of Nueva Caceres.

I emailed my application to Dr. Sison aware that cross-cultural studies is probably not a priority of the university. But there was no harm in trying. To my surprise, Dr. Sison was very supportive and referred me to Dr. Yolly Castroverde who, in turn, referred me to Dr. Jo Alba, the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

In my email to Dr. Alba, I wrote, “Because of globalization and changing demographics, many of today’s graduates are exposed to people from various cultures, not only when they work in foreign lands, but even in the Philippines where the presence of foreigners in all facets of our society is obvious. The question, therefore, that needs to be asked is: Do our graduates have the knowledge and the skills necessary not only to understand and appreciate cultural differences, but also to successfully relate, deal and work with people from other cultures? “

“Simply put, I am of the opinion that students should be equipped with the knowledge and the skills needed to manage themselves effectively in a culturally diverse workplace and society…”

“I don’t know if UNC is already offering a course in cross-cultural studies.  If not, I think UNC will stand out in the region for pioneering a course in cross-cultural studies. No doubt, it will bring honor and prestige to the university. It will be another “first” for the university. It’s a small step, but a good one. “

Dr. Alba’s response was quite positive: “A course in cross-cultural studies would be very beneficial for our students.” To me her response reflects a profound understanding of the world we live in.

So starting this June, a course on “Cross-cultural Communication and Cultural Competency” will be offered in the College of Arts and Sciences.