When Cultures Connect

Tina Johnson '93 photoTina Johnson’s bumper sticker should read, “Born to study abroad.”

Johnson, Randolph’s Director of International Programs, is the daughter of a German-born mother and American father who made international travel a family priority. By the time she arrived at Randolph as an undergraduate, Johnson was hooked on the overseas experience. Johnson, a 1993 graduate, spent her junior year in England with Randolph’s flagship study abroad program, The World in Britain affiliated with the University of Reading. There, in addition to taking courses alongside British classmates, Randolph students participate in a special seminar covering the history of Britain from 1485 to the present. The seminar is a mix of literature, art, history, pop culture and stimulating excursions to famous sites across England.

“As we were studying the history, we're reading literature, different historical works—then we would take a trip as a group to very important sites in that period,” remembers Johnson. “You get a firsthand taste of British history, visual and in-person.”

Johnson calls these first-person encounters “intercultural” experiences. And they don’t have to happen halfway around the globe. Randolph attracts students from 40 different countries, says Johnson. “But we also have students from New York and California,” she adds, “two entirely different cultures.”

For Johnson, defining culture by ethnicity or nationality is too narrow. “It’s important for our students,” she says, “whether they’re planning to go abroad or whether they’re engaging with other experiential activities on campus, to recognize that a major skill they need to acquire in college is being able to deal with cultural difference in positive ways.”

That’s why Johnson’s so excited about Randolph College’s new Experiential Learning Center, a “one-stop shop” for all of Randolph’s intercultural offerings: study abroad, the American Culture Program, volunteer service and internships.

“Having everything under one roof,” says Johnson, “allows students to make connections between what they’re doing in the classroom with what’s happening to them outside of it.”

As Director of International Programs, Johnson’s intercultural focus is on Randolph’s 12 study abroad offerings and the college’s exciting, two-week International Study Seminars.

Randolph offers 12 different semester or yearlong study abroad experiences in ten countries: Denmark, England, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, and Spain. Randolph’s unique International Study Seminars are special semester-long courses that are capped off by a two-week trip to the region being studied. The trips planned for 2008 are “Belize: A PeaceWork Project,” “Mosaics and Frescoes in Rome,” as well as a service learning trip to St. Lucia in collaboration with another college. All of these trips are led by expert Randolph professors. 

Another trip in the works, says Johnson, is a combination International Studies Seminar and American Culture course examining the effect of World War II on both the United States and Germany. The class will be team-taught by an American history professor and a German history professor and will include trips to Northern Virginia, Berlin and Dresden. The World War II course is exactly the kind of intercultural exploration Johnson wants every Randolph student to experience.

"For the handful of students who cannot fit a study abroad experience into their schedule, there are amazing international experiences available after graduation. We help students explore work with the Peace Corps, the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program, and even offer a special one-year teaching opportunity for our graduates in the Czech Republic. After studying the language on campus - and abroad in England! - I volunteered with the Peace Corps in Perm, Russia."

Find out more about the Experiential Learning Center and Tina Johnson’s International Programs.