Eleven Tabor College students, accompanied by faculty members Frank Brenneman and Aleen Ratzlaff, toured Southeast Asia during January.
“This course is designed to give students a three-week immersion into several Southeast Asian cultures,” Ratzlaff said. “The primary goals are to increase sensitivity and understanding about worldviews, cultural patterns and communication behaviors that influence cross-cultural interpersonal interactions.”
To introduce them to the Asian culture, Brenneman and Ratzlaff led the group through several major cities: Singapore; Kuching and Sarawak in East Malaysia; Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia; Georgetown and Penang in West Malaysia; Bangkok, Thailand; and Taipei, Taiwan.
“We wanted to have opportunities to experience the cultures of several countries, in particular ones where we would encounter the major religions of Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism,” Ratzlaff said.
“In each of the cities, we had a tour, visited museums, industries, religious sites and cultural sites.”
Religious interaction was a major focuses of the trip.
“Our activities ranged from taking a long ride in a long boat to a long house, where we interacted with the indigenous Iban of Borneo, to attending worship services with fellow believers in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Chonburi, Thailand,” Ratzlaff said.
Valerie Burns, a senior from Wichita, said, “This trip made me a lot more patient with people around me and appreciative of different cultures, whether that means across the world or in the United States.
“I was also reminded of how big God really is and how he is working in Asia. With this is also the idea that most of the people aren’t Christians. That’s something I wasn’t used to. Hearing the Islamic call to prayer was not something I expected.”
The trip also connected Tabor students with alumni who are serving in Southeast Asia.
Some of the places we visited-Kuala Lumpur, Chonburi and Taipei-offered opportunities to connect with people we know, including TC alumni Andy Owen and Chen Ying Chie,” Ratzlaff said.
In addition, students were exposed to the daily life of Asian culture through experiencing alternative forms of transportation and food. They enjoyed para sailing, an elephant trek and a bamboo-raft ride.
“I definitely think the trip broadens the perspective of TC students; for some, it’s the first time they’ve been ‘in the minority,'” Ratzlaff said. “It stretched their tolerance for ambiguity-from the food to values and preferences.”