Tina Acuna, Alistair Gracie, Mojith Ariyaratne, Buddhi Marambe, Pradeepa Silva, Chalinda Beneragama
There is a significant body of scholarly literature on outward-bound mobility programs, which provide participating students with the opportunity to take part of their study abroad (Dall’Alba & Sidhu, 2015) and connects student learning with life outside the classroom. Potential benefits to students are self-awareness, adaptability and resilience, experiences in culture, study and travel. It is suggested that these benefits and the development of intercultural awareness of small groups of students who participate in short-term mobility programs is less than those on semester-long exchange (Dwyer, 2004). Approaches to embed intercultural awareness in short-term programs include pre-departure training, reflective practice in assessment, and debriefing sessions with students (Forsey, Broomhall, & Davis, 2011). There is scant scholarly literature on how peer learning abroad between visiting and host students contribute to their intercultural awareness. This paper examines this topic via a case study that evaluated the reflections of 12 Australian students who participated in a short-term mobility program on tropical biodiversity and sustainable agricultural systems in Sri Lanka using Barnett and Coates (2005) framework (HREC approval H16859). Small groups of three Australian students were paired with a Sri Lankan student throughout the 4-week residential program, who together worked on a project of their choice for presentation to faculty at its conclusion. The Sri Lankan students acted as translators and through conversation they provided the Australian students with a personal insight into the culture that they were immersed and vice-versa, whether through formal study, the associated activities or in their free time. The students described a range of personal insights and attributes that demonstrated enhanced knowing, acting and being, consistent with (Barnett & Coates, 2005). For example, ‘Inclusion of the Sri Lankan students in the program facilitated the formation of valuable friendships, which increased the learning experience beyond academia. The informal nature of information shared between friends provided a very personal insight into the culture and society as viewed by people of similar age, undergoing similar personal university experiences. We recommend that providing the opportunity for peer learning abroad that is linked with assessment is one approach to embed intercultural competency in the curriculum.