UMU Students Discuss Facilitating a Cross-Cultural Simulation

April 24, 2015

During the eighth annual SCHOLAR Day on April 21, five Mount Union students discussed their experience facilitating BaFa BaFa in November during the University’s annual Not Another Statistic Conference. BaFa BaFa, a cross-cultural simulation created in 1974, is a diversity training tool used to create the feeling of culture shock.

This year’s presenters included Caitie Shimp, sophomore psychology major of Hartville, Ohio; Jacob Ward, senior art and education major of Kensington, Ohio; Kelly McMahon, sophomore early childhood education major of Atwater, Ohio; Joshua Scott, senior physical education pedagogy of Hamilton, Ohio; and Maya Brown, senior music major of Tiffin, Ohio. They chose BaFa BaFa because based on past research studies, this simulation has proven to have many personal and professional benefits. They also thought that experiencing culture shock would be a perfect stepping stone into discussing culture and diversity on a college campus.

“Diversity is something that we need to discuss more,” said Shimp. Brown added that, “to truly understand a whole new culture, we need to see it from their perspective. The BaFa BaFa simulation truly does that for us.”

After two cultures were created (Alpha and Beta), the participants at the conference were split up into two cultures and briefed separately about their culture’s values, expectations, language, rules, roles and power, among other things. Each group was allowed to observe the opposite culture to gain knowledge and anecdotal evidence about their culture before starting the simulation. Next, each individual was thrown into the opposite culture and was immediately forced to act and adapt to a completely new and different environment than he or she was used to. During the simulation, friendships were tested, feelings were hurt and tongues were tied as each member tried to learn how to acclimate to a new culture. After each person had an opportunity to be exposed to another culture, the simulation ended and a group debriefing was held immediately to discuss the challenges of the exercise and value of the experience.

“After you do an experience like that, there’s going to be a lot of confusion,” explained Scott. “Alphas were wondering why they couldn’t understand what was going on in the Beta culture and the Betas were wondering why they didn’t know what was happening in the Alpha culture.”

The simulation at the conference proved to be valuable to everyone who participated.

McMahon shared with the audience about what participants had to say about their experience. She indicated that many felt it was valuable to have an out-of-cultural experience and had a greater appreciation for other races, cultures and religions.

“This activity taught me a lot about myself and my patience level with others who many not speak the same language or know the same norms as myself and my culture,” said one participant. “I learned how to treat people of various backgrounds and the problems that still exist today.”

Brown added that, “the simulation got our participants out of their comfort zones with an open mind and an empathetic heart. It created an adaptive experiential learning environment which had real-world applications.”

To conclude the presentation, Ward expressed that in an educational setting, this simulation provides a safe environment to explore diversity. “People get frustrated, people get angry and people don’t understand things, but it’s all a game – there’s no harm, no foul,” he said. “They leave feeling better without the real-world consequences. They have new experiences and cultivate understanding.”

To The Top!