The Integrative Cultural Project (ICRP)

The Integrative Cultural Project (ICRP) is a component of the academic program of selected Kalamazoo-sponsored study abroad programs. The primary goal of the ICRP is the integration of students into local cultures, and the development of an ability to appreciate the cultural values around which local people organize their daily tasks. Other important goals of the project are:

• Improved target language use
• Increased understanding of the local culture
• First-hand experience with a facet of everyday life in the host culture

• Opportunities to interact in meaningful ways with local communities
• Opportunities to apply knowledge of the host culture
• Encouragement of the application of intercultural skills

Students and local project coordinators develop structured hands-on learning experiences that  that reflect your academic, career, or extracurricular interests. Occasionally, students complete apprenticeships, develop visual exhibits or arrange and give performances. All of these are suitable options if resources at the program site can support them.

The ICRP gives you the opportunity to earn 1 K-unit of academic credit while abroad. You will submit a final essay to the Resident Director (RD) or Project Coordinator (PC) in the host country before the end of the academic program. The  RD or PC evaluates the essay and submits a project grade to the Center for International Programs. Each program will have its own approach to the project as well as resources and requirements. For this reason  students should not expect ICRPs to be handled in the same way at every site. The following two and/or three quarter study abroad programs include an ICRP:

ICRPs Examples

Examples of Past Student ICRPs

Exploring possible project topics before traveling abroad will help you develop a successful project.  For this reason students preparing for the listed programs complete an ICRP Worksheet and an ICRP Résumé. To find out more about preparing for your ICRP, completing your ICRP Worksheet, and developing your ICRP Résumé, refer to the links at the top of this page or to the ICRP materials and questionnaire on your Hornet Passport Home Page.

Ecuador, Quito Liberal Arts

Placement Site: Fundacion Ecuatoriana Equidad
Date: Dec 2018
Title: Un caso de estudio de la violencia hacia la mujer y miembros de la comunidad LGBTI #NiUnaMenos

Learning Aspect: Through my time at Fundacion Ecuatoriana Equidad, I have worked with the LGBTI community in Quito. Ecuador, as many other Latin American country, is heavily influenced by religion and machismo. These two factor play a role in how LGBTI community members are seen and treated. Two recent events related to violence against women in Ecuador have sparked national outrage. This paper focuses on gender violence, specifically towards women and LGBTI members, in Ecuador. This paper examines the similarities between both communities when it comes to the violence and discrimination. Through cases that sparked national outrage, interviews, and statistical evidence, this paper aims to point at how machista culture influences institutions that are supposed to provide justice to the point that injustice prevails.

Germany, Erlangen

Placement Site: Radio Z
Date: Feb 2019
Title: Radio Z as an Example of Successful Independent Radio

Learning Aspect: For the internship section of my ICRP I chose to work at Bavaria’s only independent radio station in Nuremberg called Radio Z for its politics and culture program, titled Stof wechsel. Most of my activity there comes down to my own initiative, and I am free to broadcast reports I write about politics and culture, or conduct interviews. There is a diverse community of workers and interns at the station, and each day I got to know a little bit more about a new person. The work environment varies from relaxed and contemplative early in the day to breakneck speed as we approach and moderate our two hours of live broadcasting. It seems the enormous amount of independence each person has with their work was made possible by the phenomenon of independent radio as an undertaking separate from the direct influence of the state, corporations or advertisements, and this in turn made the radio’s determined focus on socially urgent — though not easy— topics a reality.

Japan, Hikone JCMU

Placement Site: Josei Elementary School, Shiga School for the Blind, and Maibara Kids Club
Date: Feb 2019
Title: Youth Education in Japan

Learning Aspect: My project was focused on learning about education of elementary school age students in Japan, and I achieved this by visiting three internship sites: Josei Elementary School, Shiga School for the Blind, and Maibara Kids Club. I collected information primarily through note-taking, conversation, and shadowing classroom instructors. Through my internship experience I came to understand how English is taught as a foreign language in elementary school classrooms, including in an after school program. In addition I gained newfound knowledge about special education in Japan; this involved no only awareness of disability but also how spaces could be accommodated to better aide those with disabilities. Finally, as a result of communicating with students, I learned about how Japanese cultural values permeate many aspects of social interaction. I believe my knowledge could be applied to many areas of American culture on my return, from ESL classes to changing public spaces to accommodate disability.

Spain, Cáceres

Placement Site: Divertea
Date: Dec 2018
Title: Immersion into the Spanish Language and Culture: Behavioral Therapy Internship

Learning Aspect: This essay reflects on my internship experience at Divertea, a local organization in Cáceres, Spain that provides occupational therapy services for children with behavioral problems and/or neurodevelopmental disorders, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder. I conducted my volunteer work twice a week for two hours each session, in which I worked either with a therapist or individually with a student. Each therapy lesson is different, as it focuses on the individual needs of each child; however, the main goal is to improve behavior and emotional control. During each session, the children normally practice activities that involve balance, breathing exercises, school work, detecting emotions in others, pronunciation of words, and answering questions to practice the use of pronouns, location, actions, and feelings. This essay reflects upon my internship with Divertea through cultural aspects and language progress, as this volunteer work immensely contributed to my development in the Spanish language and immersion within the culture by acquiring experience about Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy in Spain.

Spain, Madrid

Placement Site: Collegio Parque Conde de Orgaz
Date: Jan 2019
Title: Racism in the Classroom: An Investigation into the Effects of Everyday Racism in Montessori Schools

Learning Aspect: Through this project, I was able to gain a deeper understanding of the pedagogical process of learning a language, as well as the language itself. This was intertwined with the project goal of learning what life is like in the school being researched. This included acting as a teacher’s aide and private tutor for students. In this investigation, observations were written about the goings-on while performing duties as an aide or tutor and data was collected in the form of interviews from various members in different positions at this school. Through this project, I found a window into what it is like to grow up in Madrid. I learned that the difficulty to learn a language is a similar process, no matter what age. But what I did not expect to learn from this project was the concentrated amount of Spanish culture found within the school and the habits of the children. It was very helpful to learn these lessons within a school. The knowledge that I take with me from this project helps me better understand time management, personal space, and food in Spanish culture.

Preparing For and Choosing a Topic for Your ICRP

Words of Wisdom from Your Peers

Students recently back from Australia, China, Ecuador, France, Japan, Kenya, Senegal, Spain and Thailand shared some feedback with the CIP that we think could be helpful to you in getting ready to organize your ICRP. Their suggestions follow. Keep in mind that some of these ideas will not be appropriate at every program site.

  • A topic might not seem appealing at first (like mine), but it will usually turn out to be a very rewarding experience.
  • Choose the kind of people/organization you’d like to work with, not just the type of work.
  • I would suggest that the students explore other options [other than a list of past projects] for their ICRPs, because it is a great way to work on presentation skills as well as practicing the native language.
  • Pick whatever’s available and don’t be afraid to email and call people/organizations that seem interesting.
  • Don’t be afraid to try to push the limits of typical ICRPs because sometimes it’s the slightly atypical options that are the most intriguing.
  • Start looking and thinking about an ICRP about one or two months into the program. Ask the project coordinator for examples of past ICRPs. Do something that has something to do with the indigenous community or indigenous issues.
  • Go with an organization that is easy and safe to travel to and that can offer you many hours.
  • Don’t stress out about it. You will figure something out; the school will help you find something you will enjoy.
  • Remember to be flexible. Things won’t always work out ideally, but you can still make the most of your experience, and learn a lot.
  • Do what interests you the most but simultaneously is something you’d never be able to do anywhere else, especially at home.
  • Do something that will benefit you later in life.
  • Don’t be afraid to venture out in to the community and ask questions about things that interest you or what opportunities might be available to you.
  • Go for one that lets you be really involved.
  • It can be a life-changing experience. Make it your own.
  • Don’t pick something that allows you to interact only with tourists or ex-pats unless that is really what you want.
  • Do interviews/hands on stuff. Don’t be nervous not to have a host organization, or to do your own independent idea.
  • Your topic does not have to be conventional, make it your own.
  • Start looking online before you leave, email places with start and end dates along with info about yourself and the type of project/topic you’re interested in, and utilize your resources like your study abroad advisor.
  • Don’t let yourself be bullied into doing something another student has already done.
  • Plan and research ahead of departure
  • Follow your passion

Resources used to choose topics and placements

· I tried to do something new, but the places I contacted were not interested in my help as a volunteer, so I chose a place that people had worked at before.

· A list of locations previous participants had done ICRPs.

· I was initially encouraged to think of a setting in which I would explore Spanish culture to its best. I was inspired by a participant from the year before, who took guitar lessons. Being a creative person, I wanted to do a creative project.

· Our resident director made the connection for me.

· The Program director and the internet.

· Program Staff

· A list of organizations and the one I chose was the first one that was close to my house and could give me the hours I needed.

· School sources

· Other students with me on study abroad

· Teachers, and program coordinators

· My personal interests and knowledge given to me by past participants

· Host family, community resources, personal research/ internet

· Project Coordinator

· I like science and wanted to repay the institute that saved my life after being bitten by a venomous snake.

· My interest in dentistry

· Course leaders and their connections

· We visited an ecotourism resort and I found it fascinating. I was wondering how well ecotourism fit with the ideals in practice, since it is a big industry in Thailand and we were learning about the sustainability ideals in class.

· Fellow students (American and Japanese)
It’s a lot easier to get an in if you can work through personal relationships. Especially in South America, knowing people and making personal connections is the way things are done.

· Emphasize going to a place where you will have real participation working alongside peers and have low expectations.

Suggestions for Completing your Project

  • Start early and keep track of what you do and what you’re thinking throughout the whole project, and what interactions you have with people. Detailed field notes REALLY help with the final paper.
  • Choose something you’re interested in.
  • Keep up with all of the journal entries and start the paper early, so that you don’t feel overwhelmed at the end of your program.
  • Be assertive.
  • Choose something that will allow you to really use the language. It sounds daunting, but it will be so helpful in the long run.
  • Get involved, ask questions, speak the language, and go as often as you can.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute to do your write up since it will only result in you being more stressed than you have to be about the project.
  • Don’t expect too much; I had to change my plans about what I wanted to accomplish because I was too specific and the organizations were too unorganized. Remember that the idea of ICRP is to learn about the ways your host culture operates!
  • Don’t try to impose too many ideas, and be flexible.
  • Make sure your project site has work for you to do.
  • Just stay on top of your work and make sure you give proper time and thanks to those people that you work with or interview.
  • Immerse yourself in the experience.
  • Be timely at your ICRP site, keep track that you will finish your hours.
  • Do it yourself.
  • Take the initiative early especially if there’s no placement or help in place.
  • Be self-reliant and enthusiastic.
  • Don’t procrastinate on writing the final paper.
  • Commit time to immerse yourself – this may be the only chance you get to do something like it. You get what you put in – you can make a meaningful project but only if you make it that way.
  • I found it best to complete my ICRP after school was out and write my ICRP following the project.
  • Make sure the institution you are going into actually understands what you need to complete the project.
  • Make sure it gives you a chance to delve more into the culture.
  • Pick a small topic! Don’t try to do too big of a research project, better to do a well done smaller / more specific one.
  • Leave a lot of time for writing and editing you final paper!
  • Things take forever to get rolling in Senegal, so even if you have a solid idea and an organization, you may not get started doing what you actually want until about a month or so after you would have thought you could start. Things just move slowly.

Final Thoughts

Students who have returned from study abroad often comment that their ICRP experiences were among the most engaging, challenging and rewarding aspects of their study abroad experiences. The quality of project experiences and essays typically depend on the time, thought and planning that students commit to this portion of the academic program. We hope this introduction helps you as you begin to explore your options for your future project!