Supportive Immersion: The Use of Transformative Cross-Cultural Experiential Learning to Address Social Trends in the 21st Century
Abstract: In an era of globalization and rapidly evolving cultural changes, traditional support structures are struggling to equip our youth with the necessary competencies for a successful transition into adulthood. A thematic analysis was performed on interviews of participants of a therapeutic gap program providing what is known as “Supportive Immersion,” an approach to experiential transformative learning where facilitators and learners co-create experiences of learning.
Findings show two main points:
1) participants’ articulation of their perceived personal growth and skill development supported the positive impact of their cross-cultural supportive gap experience, and
2) the five themes identified (PROPS) described characteristics and skill sets of an “integrative learner,” which directly relate to preparing young adults for recent changes in societal trends.
This study demonstrated the outcomes and effectiveness of guided, supported crosscultural immersion experiences. Keywords: Cross-Cultural, Emerging Adults, Supportive Immersion, GapYear, Transitions
Cite this article: Youngberg, K., Recio, D., & Tracy, H. (2020). Supportive Immersion: The Use of Transformative Cross-Cultural Experiential Learning to Address Social Trends in the 21st Century. Journal of Therapeutic Schools and Programs, XII, 117–138. doi: 10.19157/JTSP.issue.12.01.07
We touched base with our program graduates from the first semester of 2018 to find out how they feel they are doing.
We wanted to know about their current main goal or goals, and how successful they feel at accomplishing those. For us, success is defined by people’s ability to integrate life lessons, so they are increasingly more effective at problem-solving and meeting their goals. This is why we don’t define success by their grades in college (or even if they are in college at all) or how low their score is on a measure of depression. Those are all important, but we can see better how they are practicing integrative learning when they are improving their capacity to reach their own goals.
The above numbers are in response to the question: to what degree do you feel you were accomplishing your goals before coming to The Bridge, and how do you feel about that now, after The Bridge. Their averages show, as you can see, a perceived 53% improvement in their ability to accomplish their goals.
Since it is their goals that we are talking about, and not an external measure of success, it makes sense to wonder if these are goals that seem overall positive.
Perhaps you’re eager to hear a bit more about these wonderful people? Here are few quotes that stood out to me from speaking with them:
“I was relying on other people to do the learning for me. Unless I was pushed, I would just sit there, stuck; I wasn’t applying myself. It’s drastically different now, worlds apart.”
“Before The Bridge, a lot of the time I’d sit in a ditch when things got hard, because it was comfortable. Now I see that as a waste, I don’t feel comfortable, and soon as I become aware I’m headed toward the ditch, I bounce back. I’d get this fear that I wouldn’t accomplish anything and then get in that cycle, but now I use the fear to motivate me.”
“Work ethic has definitely improved! Also, general life’s knowledge; understanding how life works. I deal with parts of life that I don’t like. I’m better at taking life as it is.”
“I’ve been sober for 19 months, and don’t see myself doing that anytime soon. Things may not go well sometimes but they would not be solved by doing drugs.”
(when things get difficult) “It helps me to do tangible things: doing homework, ride my bike, work out, meditation, yoga. I’ve gotten better at just getting up and doing something. The Bridge taught me that. It might not make you feel good right away, but at least you can say you tried to do something about it.”
What stands out to me from these comments is that life hasn’t necessarily become easier, but that they feel better equipped to deal with it. Through their experience at The Bridge, these young men learned their own unique way of problem-solving and that has drastically impacted their life positively.
What stands out too you?
"It was difficult but rewarding in Sepecue. This year the JumpStart program was led by former students, which led to opportunities for improvisation and learning for the new teachers."
"It's been nice to spend a week with the people I taught with. The week in Sepecue and the exchange with them here has allowed us to build a strong friendship."
Costa Rica is a relationship based culture, which strongly believes in apprenticeship. This has allowed us to connect our students with great mentors and have most of our graduates go on to follow the profession they first practiced at The Bridge. The dedication our students show once they are interning at the occupation of their dreams makes them highly regarded members of their internship’s teams, which allows them to create great resumes with strong letters of recommendation, and it opens up opportunities for other students to have the same internships other graduates have had. That’s why we keep on adding more and more to the list!
Watch this 45 second video of Christian at the welding shop, and see what we mean when we say our students feel at home in their occupation:
by Joey Steinberg
I took this photo before taking the class with Veritas while my parents and I were in Manuel Antonio at the national park. This was the first time I used my camera on its manual setting and had the photo come out viewable. This was the clearest photo of a monkey I was able to capture without having our guide put my camera to the telescope, a device he used for spotting and viewing different animals.
This was the fifth photo I took with my camera in Costa Rica that happened to be on my birthday in Guanacaste. I never paid attention to the photo, because it didn't look that good on the camera screen at first. When I was able to upload it to my computer, I was happy to see that I captured the boat as a silhouette with the sunset in the background. This is by far my favorite photo I’ve taken while in Costa Rica.
I took this photo one day while I wandered San Jose after class was canceled. I saw the kid on the far left showing the man sitting down in the plain white shirt a video. I wanted to capture the interaction without them knowing, but they looked up and saw me, so I asked to take their photo. I was not expecting the response I got from the three guys, which was surprisingly positive and enthusiastic. This type of photography is known as street photography.
Lastly, this photo was taken for class and is called drawing with light. To get this photo, I opened the shutter speed to 10 seconds while my friend, Will, was drawing with a ball of light. When the shutter speed is open, it captures everything moving in the photo. This technique is used for making photos of a river or waterfall look like a cloak.
Commuting every Monday and Wednesday to San Jose has become something I look forward to, because it forces me to speak Spanish and use public transportation. I also enjoy talking to the different cab drivers everyday and finding out which ones lived in the United States, and saying the same thing to them everyday, because they all ask the same questions. I’m looking forward to continuing the class and learning about different techniques
by Malcolm, written for the NSA student publication, The Milieu
As a great six months in a tropical paradise comes to a close, one phrase comes to mind: Pura Vida.
The time I have spent here in Costa Rica has been eye opening. I have had the marvelous opportunity to experience so many different things. The thing that I believe will stay with me the longest is the culture. This has come in many different varieties: getting on a public bus at six in the morning well knowing I was going to sit in traffic for at least an hour and a half, for example. This experience has been the cornerstone in my development into an international citizen.
I came here knowing barely any Spanish and now I can have an hour or more long informal conversation with a Tico. This did not come from a Spanish class it came from living in a culture that is different from my own.
Not only can you use transport or learn a language way faster. You can eat some ridiculously good food. Olla de Carne, casados, mamonchinos, Gallo Pinto, jacotes, and the big two; Chicharones and Ceviche. All of these are just a small example of the diverse food selection that any one can experience in one of Costa Rica's many sodas.
All of the things that I have learned have taught me about myself and who I want to be in my future. The importance of family and friends is something that I used to take advantage of and now it is something that I cherish.
If I could advise anyone in this world about anything it would be to never pass up an experience that lets you expand your own horizons. Take a gap year, move somewhere new, try a new food what ever it is.
You never know that experience could be the one you tell your grandkids about in 60 years. My grandkids will hear about my experiences in the great land of Costa Rica.
PURA VIDA, Malcolm
Graduation Tribute Video:
Short on time? Here are the highlights:
Overflowing with time?
Get Rob's full story in the full 7 minute video: