Friday July 7, 2017

Communicating Across Cultures

Twenty-seven University of Dayton communication students are learning first-hand about intercultural communication during a four-week University study-abroad program this summer in Italy and the Czech Republic.

Students spent 10 days in Prague, followed by about three weeks in Rome. Field trips, guest speakers and site visits helped familiarize students with the Italian and Czech cultures, and also helped them learn about communication in international settings.

“Communicating Across Cultures,” June 14-July 15, is the first multi-site study abroad program led by faculty from the department of communication. The program is open to students of all majors and intended to expose them to a variety of European cultural experiences.

“The unique attribute and challenge of our program this summer is that it puts students in two very different countries and cultures in four weeks,” said Kelly Vibber, assistant professor of communication and the program’s site coordinator. “This meant that just after they were getting comfortable in the first location, Prague, they moved to a new location, Rome, which put them through the growing pains of learning a new culture, system and city layout all over again.”

Vibber said the program encourages students to consider multiple cultural perspectives, rather than simply comparing one country or culture with their own. In addition, it allows them to further both their self-reliance and education by facing the challenge of adapting to living and learning in two different cultures.

“If we are successful I believe the students will return home not only having seen beautiful things and learned course content, but also having grown more confident in their ability to face challenges and possessing a broader world view,” she said.

While in Europe, students are taking an intercultural communication course and either an international public relations or a video production course, for a total of six credit hours. Some of those students also are shooting a documentary on location they devised under the guidance of faculty member Roy Flynn and University alumnus Kevin Meagher '73, an Emmy Award-winning television producer based in Los Angeles and co-chief executive of Pop Arts Media LLC, a television and web production company. The students wrote the scripts during the spring semester

“It’s been a valuable experience for the students to work with an LA-based filmmaker, and there’s great educational value in having Kevin in Prague and Rome to assist the students in their recording,” said Flynn, a communication department lecturer and Emmy Award-winning media production professional.

Flynn and communication professor Teri Thompson are also accompanying the students as faculty advisors.

In Prague, the students met with Monika MacDonagh-Pajerová, a former Czech Republic diplomat who directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs press department, and James Tira, a senior political officer for the U.S. Embassy. They also met with a nongovernmental organization that works with the Roma community in the Czech Republic to play soccer and learn cultural dances.

In summer 2018, the communication department will offer students a global learning experience in Sydney, Australia, where they can enroll in two courses and complete an on-location internship. The internship will be a first in the department’s study-abroad program history.

"The department, along with UD, understands the enormous benefit to students provided by studying abroad,” said Joe Valenzano, associate professor and communication department chair. “We are very excited by the leadership, energy and experience Dr. Vibber has brought to our department's study abroad program in creating new opportunities such as this year's dual-city program and next year's internship component. We are even more thrilled Kevin is accompanying the students for part of the trip this year so they can receive some invaluable on-location expertise from an industry professional.”

For more information about the department of communication and its summer study abroad programs, please visit the department’s website.

- Dave Larsen, College of Arts and Sciences communication coordinator, and Heather Parsons, department of communication director of advising

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