Going on a cross cultural is a graduation requirement at EMU, but students have a wide range of options when it comes to what they choose to do. Semester long trips to foreign countries are typical for EMU students.
Next semester, cross culturals are going to Guatemala and India, led by Byron Peachey and Lisa King, and Kim and Bob Brenneman, respectively.
Peachey lived in El Salvador for four years. “I fell in love with the warmth and generosity of the people — just as I find in Guatemala,” said Peachey. He always finds interest in the rich, indigenous cultures that have not only survived, but flourished in the country.
A reason that Guatemala is a recurring location is because of the reliable home stays in Guatemala City. “Many students walk or take buses to and from their host families,” said Peachey. “They commute in the city, just as many other Guatemalans.” Over time, the students develop a sense of self-sufficiency, blending in as if they were locals themselves.
Learning about Guatemalan history and culture is paramount on the cross cultural. The United States has played a large part in Guatemalan history, and not in the best way. Peachey said that students will see “windows into some of our U.S. ‘blind spots.’” Immigration is another hot topic on the cross cultural.
Guatemalans make up up a large portion of immigrants coming to the United States currently, according to Peachy. Students will spend the first part of their semester at the Arizonan and Mexican border looking at immigration issues.
Peachey believes it is important for students to experience how their country has impacted another. “Inevitably students reflect on their own culture, and see weaknesses and strengths in our own ways of living.” Students should look forward to journaling about their experiences.
Kim Brenneman holds a deep passion for India. “It always feels like going home to return to India for me,” she said. She studied at a boarding school in the Himalayan Mountain Range. This is Brenneman’s fourth cross cultural to India, and the first since all of her children have left high school. On previous trips, she brought her children along.
Traveling is a major part of the cross cultural. Brenneman notes that students should be ready to experience everything from destitute deserts to fresh forests, hardy Himalayans to clement coasts. The culture and religions of India change drastically as you move around the different ecosystems. Eight major religions are found in India: Hinduism, Jainism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Sikhism, and Zoroastrianism.
Indian culture is a high priority as well. Brenneman excitedly added that yoga, cooking, music, dancing, traditional and Bollywood, will all be part of the adventure. More serious issues will also be addressed, such as poverty, water pollution, and the caste system.
Brenneman also highlights the difference in cultural psychology. Students will get an introspective look at their own culture. They will grow to understand the cultural differences in every stage of life, from childhood to old age.
Brenneman hopes that students will “develop an openness and sensitivity to [India].” She hopes they will learn through each other as much as they learn through Indian culture. However, she does not want the students to only see the differences. She wants them to grow to notice the similarities. And, most importantly, that “they gain confidence in themselves as they navigate a new culture.”