The first week proved to be an exciting one, focused as it was primarily on introductions and allowing the students the space to break through cultural barriers. While the sessions were informative and structured, the informal spaces afforded the students by their living arrangements were witness to the biggest breakthroughs of all. The introductory activities dealing with individual and group identities involved play acting and means of communication excluding verbal language. They allowed for the students to better understand where the others approached this same course from while also promoting the idea that language barriers can be overcome, the reiteration of which came from the students themselves in the following days.
The crossing boundaries exercises involved learning about traditional means of measurement, the language equivalents for numbers and other necessary concepts such as familial terms of relationships. These proved to be cheerful sessions where the students to got to know each other and were introduced to the various differences woven into their cultural backgrounds. The success of these activities is best gauged by the stimulus they provided for discussions and conversation outside the formal space of the classroom.
In depth conversations directly or indirectly addressing cultural differences were certainly the product of these structured sessions. The first session of the cross boundary exercises involved a discussion on relationships and led the group to exchange their views on marriage, dating, divorce etc. from which they inferred that the sense of communities was very different between the groups and that individualism was as much alien to one group as it was instinctive to the other.
The students were required in the beginning to introduce themselves along with their approach and personal objective to be achieved through this course. They are required to keep tab of their progress along these lines by maintaining a journal on a daily basis. This will be followed up with the individuals to ensure that varied learning speeds and interpretations are recognised by both students and faculty. This will also ensure that they are all in accordance with the objectives of the course and are also able to balance their personal aims in an otherwise group oriented environment for learning.
By the end of the week a regular routine had been developed for each day, beginning with the CBE sessions in the morning and followed by lectures in the late morning and afternoon sessions. Each day ended with a half an hour (minimum) debrief after which the teachers attempted to meet and discuss the successes and drawbacks of each day. The students were well pleased with the progress they made in communicating with each other and found the course material a challenge that they are determined to keep at.
The tour of the Keystone campus, the living arrangements etc. have been different methods of allowing the students from both groups to acclimatize and settle in, for which week 1 has been a great success. The students themselves in their willingness to engage and learn have speeded up this process greatly. The method of learning seems to be new in many ways for both groups and it is encouraging to see the groups ever so often lost and questioning as they are at ease in this environment.