Connecting University of Venda (UNIVEN) students and local communities with the global world is central to internationalisation. An important aspect of this work is the creation of opportunities for UNIVEN students to develop intercultural competencies through interaction with their international counterparts in educational programmes. On the occasion of a visit by a study abroad programme from Virginia Technical College of Engineering (Virginia Tech) in the United States of America (USA) to UNIVEN’s Institute for Rural Development (IRD) a one-day workshop was held. In this workshop some postgraduate students from the various UNIVEN schools explored together with 19 visiting Virginia Tech students and three academic staff members how intercultural competencies can be acquired. The Bushbuckridge local Municipality-based Limpopo Rural Enterprise Development Initiative, a non-governmental organisation that Mr Jan Vermuelen directs, facilitated this visit.
Through facilitated group interactions, participants defined the concept of intercultural competencies and considered strategies with the potential to enhance their attainment. The groups conceptualised how homestay
programmes for international students could be utilised to develop such competencies in students and grassroots community members. Similar workshops will be facilitated in some grassroots communities of the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and North West Provinces. The results of such engaged activities will be used to develop a model for homestays for rural development.
Professor Joseph Francis, the Director of the IRD, facilitated the programme on 19 May 2017 at the UNIVEN Research Conference Centre. This event was organised in collaboration with the International Relations Directorate.
Dr Elewani Ramaite–Mafadza, the Manager of UNIVEN’s Indigenous Music and Oral History Project, introduced the group to the rich Venda culture and heritage. Most significant was the fact that the day provided a unique opportunity for social interactions involving local and USA students.
The activity was facilitated as a component of the National Research-funded project coined Internationalising Postgraduate Training and Grassroots Social Chance, which the IRD and the Directorate International Relations
collaboratively implement with the University of Fort Hare and North West University Mafikeng campus. This project will be formally launched on 6 July 2017.
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