Taking the IDI
“Cultural competence is important because without it, our opportunity to build those relationships is impossible. Instead, we’ll co-exist with people we don’t understand, thereby creating a higher risk for misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and bias – things that can all be avoided.” Preemptivelove.org; blogpost January 23, 2020
During your time at Purdue, it is likely that you will take the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI). The IDI is an assessment that you will take several times throughout your college career, especially if you pursue global experiences, like study abroad. You will usually take it before and after you go on a short-term study abroad program.
The IDI is a questionnaire that you will fill out online. It’s not a personality test. It’s a tool that helps you identify the strengths and challenges that you face when experiencing a different culture. You will then have the option to be “debriefed” by an IDI Qualified Administrator (QA). Your QA will help interpret your results and give you a plan to help guide you into understanding yourself and your reactions to others.
The IDI is an important first step in becoming culturally competent. This not only helps you navigate your environment when you are studying abroad, but it can also help you when working here on campus, while interacting with professors and students from different cultures and/or microcultures, or while interning for the summer.
Differences between cultures can affect the team dynamics in a company… for example, in the way that people communicate with each other and their clients, or how aggressively or passively they speak up at a team meeting. This also gives you the skills when dealing with differences in microcultures within your own country, in regards to race, gender identity, or even differences between the areas we live in. Just think of the way you might be greeted (or ignored) on the streets in the East compared to the South. If you’re not aware of these differences, then it can cause a lot of unnecessary tension.
Let me share a story with you. Sometime in the 1990’s, I was working in a children’s library late at night. My desk faced the entrance and I was alone. I heard a noise behind me and was startled to find a woman wearing a Niqab, which is a type of clothing that covers everything except the eyes. I had never seen someone wearing this before, and that fact, plus not hearing or seeing her come into the room, frightened me. Then my fear turned to anger: Anger because I was afraid, anger for her (because I felt she was being oppressed), and anger for myself (wondering what I would do if I were forced to wear this). I didn’t express any of this verbally, but she could clearly see the fear and anger register on my face. I helped her and she left, but the experience stayed with me for weeks. I didn’t know who to talk to about it. The internet wasn’t what it is today, and I didn’t really know how to research the topic or even think that it could be researched. As the weeks went on, I felt more and more shame for my reaction. I felt incredibly sad that this woman had to experience my ignorance and I hoped that it didn’t stay with her as long as it had stayed with me. It wasn’t until I took my own IDI test in 2017, that I remembered that experience and then went online to find out whether women felt oppressed for having to wear this. I got both pros and cons. I read a lot of stories and could better understand the situation. All of this would have been so helpful back then. If I had been culturally competent, I would have been mindful of the differences between cultures. Also, even if I had reacted like that, I would hopefully have been able to recover enough to say, “Sorry, you scared me. I didn’t see or hear you come in.”
Taking this assessment will NOT make you culturally competent overnight. It will make you mindful and aware of your own beliefs and behaviors. It takes a lot of practice to become self-aware, and a concerted effort to make changes.
Being aware of yourself and others is something you will be learning for the rest of your life, and luckily, you are starting early. You will make mistakes along the way, just like I have, many times over. “Our goal shouldn’t be mastery – it can simply be having a heart that’s willing to share our own culture and learn about the culture of others.” That quote is from Preemptive Love, in a blog post called “What Is Cultural Competence? And Why Is It Important?” It’s a very nice read!
I would like to thank H. Parker, Director, Global Competence Initiative and Assistant Director for Latin America/Spain Programs, for helping to increase my understanding of the IDI. For questions or comments, please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Rhonda Haan
Photo Credit: Cherise Evertz, Unsplash