Culture Initiative

Primary Components

The Regional Flagship Language Initiatives-Culture Initiative (RFLI-CI) is sponsored by the National Security Education Program (NSEP) of the Department of Defense and administered by the Institute of International Education (IIE). It is part of a system designed to foster intercultural communicative competence (ICC) in participants preparing to study abroad in India, Azerbaijan, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia, a project in line with the goals of NSEP and IIE.

The RFLI-Culture Initiative is designed to improve student understanding of their host culture through materials that supplement their language curriculum during the domestic and overseas programs.

The culture initiative has three primary components:

  1. Culture App: A collection of online scenarios through which students are presented with several typical situations that they may encounter during their time abroad. Scenarios are grouped by topics such as: introductions, religious celebrations, or expressing negative emotions and are designed to give insight into the cultural norms and practices in different social settings.
    • Access the Culture App here: Create a login and password. Access is free, open-sourced, and available to the public.
    • Select your target language and read the materials.
    • RFLI students will interact with the Culture App through both the summer domestic program and the fall overseas program.
  2. Supplemental Lessons: To supplement the scenarios in the Culture App, Lessons (housed in Pressbooks) will be used to think about the question ‘What is Culture?’ and highlight historical context, current events, social society, local arts, politics, etc. The information provided in the Lessons are designed to impart additional regional knowledge to better prepare students for the in-country culture.
  3. Roundtables: RFLI students will attend roundtables which are moderated discussions about the Culture App topics/scenarios and Supplemental Lesson content in order to reflect and share thoughts and ideas with moderators and peers.
    • During the summer domestic session, Roundtables will take place two – three times during the program
    • During the fall overseas program, Roundtables will take place two – three times during the semester with your Resident Director

Goal of the Culture Initiative


The combined effect of the scenarios from the Culture App, historical/cultural context from the Supplemental Lessons, and discussions from the Roundtables is that all program participants will learn about cultural norms and practices in a variety of contexts. By reviewing Culture Initiative materials, students will develop skills to increase their intercultural competency. Students will have an opportunity to share their thoughts and hear the opinions of classmates through a productive moderated discussion, leading to a better understanding of the host culture and greater confidence that students are able to use their language skills in the host country in a culturally appropriate way.

How is the Culture App Used?

Example of context and scenario from Culture App
Example of context and scenario from Culture App

 Students will access the online app, click the appropriate Module and Topic for their review, and see a paragraph about the topic and learning objectives.

Students will then see ‘Situations’, which are the scenarios for the topic. When you click on a situation/scenario, you will find:

  • Context for the scenario
    • Who is in the scenario
    • Where the scenario takes place
    • Other relevant info such as ages, roles of participants in scenario, holidays/observances that might impact how the scenario unfolds
  • Short description of the Scenario
  • and possibly Language Notes


Example of Judgement Task from Culture App
Example of Judgement Task from Culture App

Students will read the scenario and be prompted with Judgement Tasks.

  •  In each judgment task the student will read a prompt which shares the thoughts or actions of a participant in the scenario
  • Then they will rate on a scale whether they agree with or disagree with the prompt
  • After the student provides their rating, they will receive feedback as well as a typical range of appropriate responses from our cultural experts


Example of Culture Note & Reflective Task from Culture App
Example of Culture Note & Reflective Task from Culture App

After reviewing the expert feedback, students will click the ‘Next’ button which will direct them to Culture Notes and Reflection Tasks.

These Notes and Tasks may be referenced in your Roundtable Discussions and may be assigned as a journaling task in your classes.  It’s important to consider these factors and cultural structures within your own culture and foreign cultures in order to foster more understanding and critical thinking about societal constructs and intercultural competency.

How are the Supplemental Lessons Used?

The first lesson students will view in Pressbooks is Lesson 0, “What is Culture?”. Within the first week of the summer program, there will be a workshop on this topic, defining “culture” as used contextually for the Culture Initiative, and inviting students to reflect on their own culture and how it shapes their world view.

Students will then read through the other Supplemental Lessons, building from the topics they read within the Culture App.

View the Pressbooks Supplemental Lessons here.

Roundtable Discussions

The Roundtables will reflect situations based directly on the student’s in-country experience and Culture Initiative scenarios, including issues which may lead to misunderstandings or produced some degree of cognitive dissonance and/or emotional upset for the participant.

Building on a co-operative learning approach, the Roundtable Discussion Moderator (in Summer) and the Resident Director (in Fall) will engage with the group, but individuals will be responsible for their own learning.

Working in small groups, all participants are expected to contribute in the discussion environment to broaden understanding of the situation in question, and they will learn strategies for anticipating, recognizing and dealing with the overseas environment in a culturally more appropriate way in the future.

Summer Roundtables:

Typically conducted in weeks 3 and 6 of the summer program. Specific information will be provided by the RFLI coordinator at the beginning of the program.