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Intercultural communication helps students face global challenges together

a man and two women in a greenhouse looking at corn
Professor Zerbe stands with lab members Katie Murphy and Prema Karunanithi. Not pictured is lab member Kyle Pelot, who did much of the Zerbe Lab's previous work on switchgrass. Photo: David Slipher

By Bridgette Johnson, Mary Martin-Mabry, Ashley Vater, and Kyeema Zerbe

"Before the electronic era, young adults used to learn about foreign cultures through ‘pen pal’ exchanges. What did people in each country eat, what were their interests and concerns, how did they differ from our own? Through letter writing, these insights would inform our own global thinking.

Today, character limits on social media prevent such a deep knowledge exchange, holding us back from bigger picture learning. Consider this First-Year Seminar as ‘project pen pal’. It is designed to orient the international student to American cultural thinking, and provide an international perspective to domestic students through interaction with the many cultures UC Davis hosts on campus.

Professor Philipp Zerbe, the course instructor, brings his own intercultural point of view, and students receive additional input from guest speakers in developing comprehensive solutions to problems they care deeply about. “Essentially, we want to bring together students from different backgrounds, viewpoints and approaches to form partnerships in discussing global challenges that we all share despite these differences,” explains Zerbe. “In my experience, differences in how we approach a problem are often based on our upbringing, education or cultural background.”

Read the full article at First Year Seminars.