Each fall semester Northwestern students participate in an Intercultural Studies (ICS) internship that culminates with a half semester of travel to several countries. The fall 2008 ICS trip included 20 students and two faculty/staff members who visited France, Palestine, Israel, Thailand and Japan. Growth and learning opportunities abound on personal, interpersonal and intercultural levels, as seen in the following testimonies from some of the 2008 interns.
God is there before, during and after
"God has shown me that He not only works in a Western American culture but also around the world in every culture. When I was in the mountains of Japan singing Christmas music, God was there. When I was doing office work in Palestine, God was there. When I was teaching English in Thailand, God gave me the opportunity to be a witness to my students! Not only was God with me in all these places, but He was there before I was, and He stayed when I left! It was as if I was given a small taste of what Heaven might be like with people from every tongue and nation serving and worshiping the Lord."
– Jake McLellan ’11, ICS major
A lesson on true needs and selfishness
"I learned about the bigness of God’s work around the world. I saw a lot of needs, particularly spiritual darkness and emptiness, but I also saw a lot of ways that God is working through missionaries and native Christians to meet needs. Our travel adventures (including losing my luggage) taught me a lot about myself—about my own sin and selfishness and the things that get in the way of God’s working in and through me. These lessons will enable me to be a better steward of the gifts God has given me."
– Emily Seppala ’10, English as a Second Language major
Intercultural challenges in unexpected places
"Not dealing with particular conflict within our team and keeping hurt feelings inside affected our team’s unity. Eventually, we talked together about the intercultural issues we were having as a team. It was beautiful how we could still love and hug one another at the end of that day. I learned that it’s OK that we had issues with intercultural unity; but what wasn’t OK was if we didn’t forgive each other and love one another as Christ taught us to. This internship would not have lived up to its name if the group were not made up of people from different backgrounds, cultures and races. I’m glad that I got to partake in the ICS trip because by persevering through those months, I learned more about a skill pertinent to life and the Church: being one in the body of Christ."
– Mai Nyua Xiong ’08, English Writing graduate
The trip that made the news
When anti-government protests led to a takeover of the Bangkok Airport in Thailand last November, the ICS team’s departure plans from Thailand were affected and also captured the attention of Western media. Once we knew that the airport would not be open by our expected departure, we were able to secure new flights through an alternate airport.
While the media covered the situation with significant alarm, our students were somewhat removed from this perspective and were in reality given an invaluable opportunity to see the situation from a different perspective. As we waited for our flights we enjoyed some extra time with teammates and new Thai friends, many of whom earn a living through tourism. UNW students listened to their concerns for families and futures as jobs were threatened by the blow to tourism. They heard political discussions and how possible changes would impact local economies and other freedoms.
Hearing from those who were being affected personally and indefinitely by these protests was a great experience for the team. The students reported a much different perspective of media and were personally challenged to interpret news and global events through a Christian worldview rather than a merely American one.
Written by Melody (Everson ’07) Walburg.