Sydney-Stanford Video Conferences: Reflections

Over the course of three days, University of Sydney students and Stanford University students will be participating in a series of video conferences developed to help them develop their intercultural communication skills.  Working in small groups, these encounters give students the opportunity to explore intercultural communication and to engage directly and practically with the issue of audience and how arguments are informed by cultural assumptions and contexts.

They began their exchange looking at the following Australia Tourism ad:

After watching it, they considered the following questions:
• What rhetorical strategies and appeals do you see at work in the ad?
• How does the ad define Australia and Australians? How does it define America and Americans?
• Do these definitions seem at all problematic?
• Is it an effective tourism ad? To what extent is it an example of effective cross-cultural rhetoric?

They followed up on this moment of cross-cultural analysis by sharing presentations on their own projects, ranging in topic from analyses of editorial cartoons, to a virtual exhibit of Stanford culture, to research projects on gaming, humor, and global citizenship and leadership.

After the exchange, the participants were asked to comment on either the ad analysis, the presentations, what they learned about intercultural communication, or a surprising or memorable moment from their session. Below are their reflections.

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13 Responses to Sydney-Stanford Video Conferences: Reflections

  1. Group C - Troy Andy and Elliot says:

    The Australian students we talked to were very nice people and interested in our topics. We found most interesting the following topics:
    1. Australians do not like New Zealand or its people. This dislike included rugby, and it they seemed to think that Americans viewed Americans unfavorably.
    2. The students we talked to took great pride in Australian actors succeeding in American film. They were likewise interested in whether there are Australian students studying at Stanford.
    3. At Sydney University, almost all students live off-campus. The school was also much larger, with nearly 50,000 students. Both parties were surprised at the size of the other’s university.
    We found the Australian students very engaging and highly interested in their respective subjects, as well as our research papers.

  2. 1. Not much of a cultural difference in terms of analysis or even in every day life.
    2. College life is a different experience in terms of living experience and tuition structure. Australian college system is closer to the US than in Europe.
    3. There’s an air of fantasy in terms of Australian culture and environment. But when you actually talk about it, there really are minimal differences.
    4. We learned about each others’ cultures.

  3. Group B says:

    1. There were some political references that needed explanation.
    2. It was interesting that they thought that the commercial didn’t portray Australia correctly.
    3. Differences in University life.

  4. Stanford Group "We Love Twitter Points" D says:

    1. Our cross-cultural communication extends beyond the scope of just America and Australia–we ended up incorporating a lot of other cultures as well, as we all have different backgrounds as well. For example, one of the people we videochatted with was from France.
    2. We watched a video for one of their presentations that took a satirical take on the idea of cosmetic surgery, which was really amusing.
    3. Many of them had been to America before and liked it, or wanted to visit. We had similar feelings about Australia.

  5. Group D (Australia) says:

    The topics discussed by the American students was much different to ours, as they were discussing computer science. This was juxtaposed to the seriousness of our political cartoons.

  6. Group D - Tina Andy, Rob, Maggie, Michelle, Lisa says:

    1. It’s difficult talking to someone from halfway across the world because we don’t know the same cultural references. So sometimes we had to explain these little quirks.
    2. Andy thought that sometimes we got too caught up in getting to know each other’s cultural differences and didn’t quite get to know the individual behind it.
    3. Tina found the most memorable topic/experience to be the Australian’s view on American politics because Americans are sometimes bombarded with propoganda. Americans see local issues at the forefront while the Australians see the international relations first.

  7. LTK says:

    The group that we talked to consisted of all foreign students. It was very interesting to see what they think of Australia after being there for a few years as non-natives. The most fun thing was discussing music and other stereotypes that we both have of the other country. In regards to our projects they definitely were not very familiar with gaming, but they found it interesting. Overall it was a fun experience…and I want to go visit. And one of the girls invited me to go surfing with her. It. Was. Awesome.

  8. Jack, Anthony, Katheryn says:

    Meeting and talking with everyone was really interesting. We spent quite a bit of time discussing the portrayal of America and Australia in the trailer. We felt that the portrayal of America was quite accurate, at least in reference to the big-city life. The idea that Australia is quite laid back and peaceful, as reflected in the trailer, was in turn very agreeable to our partners. All around, it is a very artistic trailer.

    We also discussed our various projects. We were shown a political cartoon about international education and how Chinese students who were educated abroad seem to have an incredible edge in the job market compared to those educated in their own country. This led to an interesting discussion about the benefits of educating international students, and whether universities should try to keep foreign students in the new country in order to help their own economy.

    All in all, it was an extremely fascinating conversation, and we’re really glad that we had this opportunity to chat with our friends in Australia. It’s certainly fun to hear things from a different perspective (all of us were CS/EE people, while our partners were concentrating in the humanities) and see what opinions they had about their own research interests, and gaming as well. It was a great time, and to our partners, it was wonderful meeting and talking with you!

  9. Stanford Group E says:

    The Australian students we met were extremely nice people. Although at first the conversation was a bit hard to start off at the beginning as we were adjusting to the video conferencing program, by the end the discussion was going great. Since there was soo much to learn about from each in terms of cultural differences, most of the time we spent going off on tangents in order to better understand each other rather than actually focusing on analyzing each other’s research topics. Here are a few things that we learned from each other:
    1. Both sides think the other have accents
    2. Political rhetoric is very similar in both countries
    3. Australians do believe that Americans are constantly stressed out, although we deny that its as prevalent as in the advertisement. Moreover, we learned that part of the reason maybe because Australians have more holidays than in the U.S.
    4. We had to explain that not everyone in America was joyfully celebrating the death of Osama Bin Laden to the extent that was being covered by the media.

    However, overall, it was definitely a great experience to get to learn about Australia’s attitudes towards the U.S. and Australia in general from a student perspective.

  10. NOBLE Team - Tim, Jose, Jeremy says:

    The conference started off somewhat slowly as we worked through some technical kinks, but as soon as we started to discuss the Australian ad with the students from Sydney it was amazing! We had some really interesting and thought-provoking discussions with the Australian students. Frankly, our college lives weren’t that much different from theirs, as we tried to explain our studies to each other. Though, they couldn’t adequately explain to us what the baked “biscuits” they were eating consisted of (they did look entirely delicious though).

    What was interesting cross-culturally was the fact that the Australians knew a lot about American culture and politics, whereas we hardly knew anything about them. This allowed the students from Sydney the opportunity to relate to us through what they see on TV and movies. Also, with regards to their projects and studies, they said that the Liberal Arts programs that they were studying were actually derived from the syllabi of Stanford programs.

    Additionally, due to our nations being allies in the War on Terror, we could both talk about the recent development in the death of Osama Bin Laden when the topic of dead American and Australian soldiers in video games came up (in Tim’s presentation).

    The most surprising moment in our conversation came about as one of the students from Sydney talked about his visit to family in New York City. Jeremy is originally from Manhattan, and the two of them both ended up talking about an area in New York City where they both lived at a certain point. We also had some humorous moments that helped to lighten the mood and maybe help some people laugh and open up.

    This mutual experience next to our mutual experiences in playing various video games led to a decent discussion where we could both relate cross-culturally.

  11. Group D (Australia) says:

    Australia and The United States
    The tourism commercials use rhetoric to appeal to pathos to enhance desirable stereotypes

    We thought the most memorable moment was that the boys thought…. Was that Stanford cheerleaders aren’t hot, contrary to
    popular media

    we learned that intercultural communication isn’t difficult with
    more similiar cultures. we share a common language, and due to
    globalization, we also share many of the same tv shows, sports, even
    similar slang! The only communication difficulty lies in the fact
    that we’re talking over video chat with inconsistent sound quality.
    We (Stanford students) found it interesting that two of them hadn’t
    been to the outback before, and that there’s no box jellyfish in
    the sydney area.

    JULIAN GARCIA
    Ryan Miller
    Alex Relic

  12. Michael, Shirley and Tim :D says:

    The two commercials had different approaches to reach their audiences.
    American commercial had many celebrity endorsements and used a joking, sarcastic
    method.
    Austrailian commercial was very serious.
    Same as what Austrailians would have expected from an American commercial.
    They both conflict as the Australian ad shows Americans to be serious and the American
    ad shows Americans to be fun.
    No cross ccultural difficulties encountered.
    It was interesting how Australians don’t live on campus where as Amaericans do. The
    different slang used was interesting.

    Tas (Anastasios), Nick, Jing, Jwon.
    Awa, Paige, Lucia.

  13. Thursday 5pm, Friday 11am Group C says:

    We learned how little we know about other cultures. For example, we (Americans) didn’t get the film reference in the ad for Australia. We also learned that intercultural communication can be difficult because there are so many little differences in culture that are hard to account for. But in general, we still managed to communicate well and get our points across.

    We (Australians) though that the American ad seemed unrealistic, with its suggestion that you will see celebrities all day everyday. The Stanford students confirmed that it only represented a small part of California.

    The most memorable thing was being introduced to the brand of chocolate Fantales, which we do not have in American unfortunately because they seem to offer a source of nutrition and entertainment.

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