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Culture and Stuff: Costa Rica 2006. Natalie A. Mello, IGSD David diBiasio, ChE Guillermo F. Salazar, CEE. Preparation & Reflection. New Design for Site Specific Orientation What’s Up with Culture Website

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Culture and Stuff:Costa Rica 2006

Natalie A. Mello, IGSD

David diBiasio, ChE

Guillermo F. Salazar, CEE

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Preparation & Reflection

  • New Design for Site Specific Orientation

  • What’s Up with Culture Website

    • Selected assignments from web site were due at weekly project meetings

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Collectivist versus Individualist Student Responses Revealed:

  • Unrealistic expectations regarding cultural norms and how to deal with them.

  • Superficial understanding of cultural differences.

  • Naïve interpretation of reading assignments.

  • No one knew how to do proper citations.

  • One’s unwillingness to participate in an appropriate way.

  • Plagiarism revealed through final assignment.

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On-Site Activities

  • Revisited Circle of Trust in response to an on-site issue: new version, signed by all students

  • Reflective essay, 3 weeks into program:

    • Please discuss an experience that you have had that has not met your expectations.  You should reflect on any and all preparation work you did during D term, how that work influenced your expectations, and how you are managing this conflict or situation now.

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Summary of Reflective Essay

  • Several references to usefulness of cultural stuff done in D term (no negative references)

  • Disconnect between PQP and project realities

  • Getting to know each other better

  • Cultural topics

    • Language issues of various kinds

    • Understanding “Tico time”

    • Appreciating Costa Rica’s natural beauty

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Some interesting quotes

  • “I traveled through the neighborhoods we will be experimenting and it was an eye opening experience. On Wednesday we were told we are not going to the poorest of poor, but after going to where we were today, I can only imagine how those people live. The “pobre” lived in houses, but they didn’t have floors, there was either a little cement, or it was just hard dirt. From the outside they looked fine, but until you saw random appliances, cloth lines through the kitchen, flies, and one room for a good amount of people. At least the residents had a roof over their head, but it was barely standing.”

  • “Although I never expected my time in Costa Rica to be completely problem free, I had hoped that my knowledge of Spanish would help alleviate many of these difficulties. Now it appears to me, that being able to speak Spanish can confuse the situation even more because many people expect that it means I have been here for a much longer time than I have, and should already know how to deal with the cultural idiosyncrasies.”

    (from an advanced level speaker)

  • “Through out D-term we were prepared thoroughly so that when we had to operate in a professional environment we would be prepared to be held to the highest expectations. Though learning these things has not been in vain, I was surprised to find out that although we were taught to act in a very professional manner, this would not be the same for all of the people that we would be working with . . . I was rather shocked when we came fully prepared to run our first official meeting with our sponsor and our agenda and presentation were never even used. We had gone from being treated as equals and professionals at WPI, only to be treated as students by our liaison.”