Xin Su

Breaking the iceberg of culture

Blog Post created by Xin Su on Nov 14, 2012

After getting warmed up from yesterday's two workshops, the entire IDSS group really hit our prime today! The overall two-day agenda was indeed perfectly designed since the workshops allowed us to sharpen our communication skills which were indispensable prerequisites for a successful discussion, as well as to get to know better about each other. On the other hand, today's discussion provided us with a great opportunity to put everything we’ve just learned into practice, serving as a timely reflection.


The entire summit has been a call to the alarming fact that a great percentage of international students in the professional society are living in the US and leaving without having close American friends. With these statistics in mind and Domestic-International student teams in hand we set out on a full day of discussion groups.


Dr. Darla Deardorff, an expert in international education from Duke University, oversaw the prelude to the formal discussion. We were exposed to the idea that differences that we can see between cultures is only the tip of an iceberg and that there is often much more below the surface to explain the disconnection. While getting impressed by the “iceberg” analogy for cultures, my mind for a second temporarily flew back to the moment when I was at the Titanic exhibition, and an image flashed by, where I clearly remembered seeing a giant ship moving full ahead. That ship reminded me of today’s chemistry, which, as the central science, has been growing at an ever increasing rate. However, it also faces challenges that might slow it down, for example, the iceberg of culture.


After that we moved on to breakout discussions, where Justin and I were assigned to focus groups on the professional society and global scientific network levels, respectively, addressing issues in mutual understanding between international and domestic student. Since our previous experience in promoting international-domestic interactions was mostly within Dartmouth, this was an invaluable chance for both of us to think about the same question in a larger picture and to broaden our horizon by exchanging with our peers.


Following three group presentations on their own topics, all of us came back to a round table setting and exhausting our thoughts and ideas to make every effort to complete the group list of recommendations for this issue that all of us care about. In our team perspective, we think that the ACS will play a pivotal role towards a better community for all chemists, in conjunction with the universities, local sections and global players, and will furthermore affect the greater international and domestic student populations in general. Oceanic icebergs are intractable even for the most advanced icebreakers, however, the iceberg of culture, formidable as it might seem, can be easy to break with the right minds, and the right tools.