Just as a foreign student was asking a question in his chemistry class, his professor and classmates began to laugh.
The student concluded that he was being subjecting to such extreme public humiliation because he had said or done so terrible that the professor had decided to oust him from the class. Because the chemistry class was required for graduation, the student realized that he would not be able to finish his degree. He stopped attending classes and holed up in his room for three days, trying to summon the courage to tell his parents of his failure. He was devastated that he had let down his loved ones. His parents had saved for his college education for 18 years. His brothers and sisters had contributed by dropping out of school at young ages to work in the fields. Over the years, neighbors in his village had contributed to his education in a variety of ways: His elementary school teacher had tutored him in English after school, his aunt and uncle had bought him a pair of shoes when he graduated from eighth grade, a neighbor had arranged for him to stay with a family in a neighboring village so he could attend high school, his godfather had paid his bus fare so he could return home during Christmas vacation. As the first person from his village to attend college, there had been a huge celebration in his honour before he left for Canada. His failure to graduate will humiliate his entire family and leave them without a way to extricate themselves from dire poverty. His concerned roommate contacted the college Mental Health Center, which sent an emergency worker to his dorm.
After reading the article below, tell how a counsellor might use ethnographic inquiry to find out why the student responded as he did, clear up intercultural misunderstandings, relieve the student’s distress, and lessen the likelihood that similar intercultural misunderstandings would take a similar toll in the future.
Seeley, K. M. (2004) Short-Term Intercultural Psychotherapy: Ethnographic Inquiry. Social Work, 49 (1), p. 121-130.
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