KAAD’s Introductory Seminar as online event KAAD as an intercultural and global church community, November 20, 2020

The Introductory Seminar – originally planned in Haus Venusberg for all newly arrived scholars and as small replacement for the, in 2020, cancelled Annual Convention – could not take place as a face-to-face event due to the corona pandemic. In order to offer particularly the new scholars an opportunity to get to know KAAD and each other, it was instead planned and carried out by Miriam Roßmerkel and Santra Sontowski as an online event. 31 scholars from 21 different countries took part.

The seven-hour seminar consisted of an introduction to KAAD and an extensive intercultural workshop, which was based on the content of the annual face-to-face workshop on intercultural learning. The topics of this workshop were adapted and expanded to the digital format.

The seminar was opened by Dr. Nora Kalbarczyk, who introduced KAAD and its goals to the participants with help of a Power Point presentation. The introduction was supported by a video especially created for the seminar, which presented greetings from selected alumni from all regional departments to the new scholars and illustrated in a very lively way the strong commitment of the alumni to KAAD. Father Prof. Dr. Ulrich Engel spiritually accompanied the event and provided a spiritual impulse at the opening.

For the subsequent round of introductions, the participants were asked in advance to select a picture from their home country. Presenting this photo, which was uploaded as a background image in zoom, the scholars introduced themselves and their home country. This extremely entertaining and very personal trip around the world lead over to the intercultural part of the seminar.

In terms of content, various methods were applied to understand the concept of culture and identity (“Cultural Backpack” and Iceberg Model) and to raise, by these means, awareness of culturally determined differences in the way people think and act. The terms “stereotypes” and “prejudices”, as well as the “cultural glasses” were explained theoretically and illustrated and discussed with own experiences and insights of the participants.

The analysis of one’s own culture, intercultural competence and different cultural standards was particularly experienced and felt in the group work. For this purpose, well-known methods such as the “Albatross Exercise” were transferred into the virtual format by means of video and group work (the groups were organized according to regions of origin).

Special attention was given to the reflections on the issue of culture shock – a phenomenon that most of the scholars will encounter, albeit to varying degrees, during their time in Germany, but possibly also after their return. Knowing that this phenomenon exists and that it is not a weakness of the individual certainly helps to deal with this sometimes quite difficult phase and perhaps also makes it easier to talk about it with others. The discussions on the workshop’s topics were summarized and concluded by the video of Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s speech “The danger of a single story”.

After an evaluation by means of a zoom survey and a short final round in the plenum, the event was concluded by Father Ulrich Engel with a joint prayer and a virtual choir.

In summary, it can be said that the event was evaluated very positively by all participants. Despite only virtual encounters, a sense of community has developed over the hours. The variety of methods used, the group work, but also the open discussion, as well as the great willingness of the participants to play an active role during the meeting, and the great interest in the others, were decisive factors for the successful realization of this virtual event.