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Our Cultural Curriculum

La Vida Local

At CIS Abroad we are committed to helping your students “live the local life.” Built into each of our programs is our La Vida Local culture series. Facilitated by the CIS Abroad Site Director, the activities combine high energy group challenges with more focused cultural encounters and reflections in order to encourage students to:

  • create dialogue about issues in the local environment
  • share cultural experiences and observations with fellow students
  • engage with the local community
  • compare culture(s) at home and abroad

The Purpose of La Vida Local

The La Vida Local series gives the students an opportunity to engage each other, their surroundings, and the local community. Participating in this program leads students to greater cultural understanding on local, global, and personal levels.

Objectives of La Vida Local

The main objectives of La Vida Local are to increase students’ experience of culture, including cultural differences, and to provide an opportunity for students to process their thoughts. We want to challenge students to understand more of what they are seeing, feeling, and perceiving, while helping them understand more about the issues that confront the local community by increasing cultural awareness, sensitivity, and understanding.

La Vida Local for Customized Faculty-Led Programs

The La Vida Local program is designed with the ability to be modified to fit an increasing number of faculty-led programs. CIS Abroad recognizes that programs in which student do not take courses with locals require greater cultural introduction to the host community. La Vida Local can be implemented to complement the content of any course abroad. Each CIS Abroad faculty-led program is staffed with a CIS Abroad On-Site Program Coordinator to support the faculty and university by running the program logistics on the ground. On-site program coordinators confer with faculty to determine if they wish to implement any of the program elements as an additional aspect of the course abroad. Whether one week long or a full semester program, these activities are extremely useful to help students integrate an understanding of the host cultures into their experience.

La Vida Local for Virtual Programs

We have adapted our traditional La Vida Local program in order to provide students a virtual cultural experience. This is done through a combination of virtual guided tours of local sites such as monuments, museums, and markets; live classes to learn about local traditions such as cooking or dancing, history talks and personal anecdotes, and more. Our virtual internships also include weekly cultural debrief sessions with our site directors, where students have the chance to ask questions and reflect on the cross-cultural experiences they are having as part of their work placement – and learn more about the everyday life of their virtual host culture. These virtual experiences are provided by CIS Abroad site directors and local experts.

Activity Examples

The La Vida Local program creates memorable and lasting impressions through fun, engaging, and challenging activities and sessions. Below are a few examples!

Market Visit/Cooking Class

This activity exposes students to the host country’s food and market culture by taking students to a local market and then participating in a cooking class. This class helps aid students in shopping for and preparing local specialties, trying new dishes, and introducing them to the host culture’s perspectives on food and meals.

The Cultural Gift

Site directors and host families engage students in a discussion about something unique or special to where they come from that will not be available in the host country, the importance of this “gift,” and what it represents about their home. Our goal is for students to think about their own cultural identity and how it relates to their new environment, as well as to create a context for sharing and engaging students in conversation about the host cultures.

Out and About

With guidance from the site director, students are divided into teams and given a set of destinations to visit, as well as certain information to gather by interacting with locals. Teams are prompted with a set of questions at each location, which help them to identify and observe cultural norms, historical significance, and activities unique to the local cultures. Students reconvene for an opportunity to have group discussion and reflect about what they observed and experienced.

Site Director Spotlight

Jackie Chapman, Australia Site Director

What are some of your favorite La Vida Local activities to do with students?

I love encouraging the students to ‘live a local’s life’! With the ocean being such a big part of our lifestyle we ensure that all students get to experience the water in their first couple of days in country. As part of our 4 Day Australian Orientation on the Reef, we spend a day on the ocean learning both about water safety and the brilliance of the largest living organism on Earth. And, during the semester, students have the opportunity to discover significant cultural sites, attend national sporting events, and try award winning meat pies!