Bridging Cultures: Bethlehem University’s Innovative Virtual Exchange Program with the University of Montana

In an era where understanding diverse perspectives and developing intercultural competence are more crucial than ever, Bethlehem University has embarked on a remarkable initiative to foster intercultural dialogue and communication. Integrated into the “Intercultural Communication” course at Bethlehem University, taught by Mr. Ramzi Asali, and the “Interpersonal Communication” course at the University of Montana, taught by Dr. Christina Yoshimura, this virtual exchange program aims to achieve these ambitious goals.

Consisting of eight virtual meetings, the program serves as a dynamic platform for students from diverse academic backgrounds to explore pressing global issues through the lens of intercultural and interpersonal communication. The inaugural session of this pioneering initiative explored the complexities of media consumption and literacy. Palestinian students shared insightful reflections on the portrayal of Palestinians in American media, the empowering potential of social media, and the critical need for media literacy in combating propaganda and misinformation. Their American counterparts showed a keen interest in understanding the Palestinian cause and culture from an unbiased perspective. This dialogue underscored the importance of critical media consumption in fostering intercultural understanding and challenging stereotypes.

The momentum continued with the second session, which explored the delicate topic of international migration. Emphasizing the Palestinian perspective, students highlighted the demographic challenges associated with international migration, particularly in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its impact on the Christian population. Through personal stories and scholarly discussions, the participants examined the effects of brain drain, ethical recruitment practices, and the identity challenges faced by Palestinians in the diaspora. Meanwhile, American students enriched the conversation with their perspectives on the significance of international migration in the U.S., especially in the context of current elections.

As the initiative progresses, the upcoming weeks will feature six additional meetings to discuss issues such as health and wellness, racial and gender identity, and climate change.

These sessions highlight the virtual exchange program’s aim of transcending geographical and cultural barriers to cultivate a global community of learners deeply engaged in intercultural exchange and understanding. By facilitating open dialogue on contemporary issues, Bethlehem University and the University of Montana are nurturing future leaders equipped with a global mindset and a commitment to intercultural comprehension and global peace.