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Communication, Community & Sacred Sense of Place
Led by Dr. Johnston

Deirdre Johnston

Click here to see a slide show of the 2011 Scotland May Term.

The Study of Communication, Community & Sacred Sense of Place

Cultures differ in numerous communication variables, such as the expression of emotion, directness, listening styles, nonverbals, linguistic framing, relational expectations, and conflict style. Cultures also vary on cultural communication dimensions (identified by Hofstede), such as individualism/collectivism, low/high power distance, masculinity/femininity, high/low contact, high/low context, etc., and these cultural dimensions can create communication barriers and misunderstandings.

Scotland affords you the opportunity to engage cultural communication differences without language barriers, and it also offers the opportunity for a life-changing study/travel experience in faith, communication and community with the Iona Christian Community.

The Scotland May Term addresses three broad themes:

  • community
  • intercultural communication
  • sacred sense of place

Your individual project, which will directly correspond to one of these larger themes, will use oral history methodology and video camera technology to engage with Scottish people interpersonally. These projects will address a concept of intercultural communication in depth, exploring how Scottish people perceive and perform the concept, how the media represent the concept, and how the concept affects your own sense of culture, faith and identity.

Iona: Study & Reflection
St. Columba came to Iona in 563 A.D. to establish a monastery which facilitated the spread of Christianity in Scotland and Northern England. Iona housed a Benedictine monastery in the Middle Ages, and relics from these early centuries of the Christian faith are evident in Iona today. Currently, the Iona Christian Community is a “dispersed Christian ecumenical community working for peace and social justice, rebuilding of community and the renewal of worship”. The Community hosts individuals who will commit to a week-long experience of community living, worship, and study. You will be challenged physically (hiking), relationally (living in community), educationally (reading and engaging in workshop discussions), and spiritually (living the Iona Community common rule). The Iona Community attracts many international visitors so you will likely be engaged in learning with young people from all over the world

Glasgow University: Research Methods
In Glasgow you will engage a large university and large city environment. Faculty from the University of Glasgow Media Research Center will introduce you to media in the UK and explain the methods and results of research conducted through the Center. You will also engage in on-the-street interviewing related to your individual research project. Glasgow is a remarkably friendly city. The credibility of the University, and the friendly communication culture of Glasgow will help you develop confidence in interviewing strangers.

Edinburgh: Engaging Culture
Edinburgh is easy to navigate, and you can engage the historical sights of the Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, Old Town, the medieval underground vaults, Greyfriars Kirk, gardens, Museum of Scotland, etc. Edinburgh is a cosmopolitan city known for its arts scene and rich history. You will begin your understanding of the history, art and religion of the region in Iona (6th-14th centuries), and will continue your understanding of history in Edinburgh, focusing on the 15th-18th centuries.

Isle of Skye & Scottish Highlands: Bringing Together Communication,
Community & a Sacred Sense of Place

An understanding of Scotland would be incomplete without exposure to the geography, history and culture of the Highlands. This area will enrich your understanding of 12th-18th century history, the nature of clan and kinship in Scottish heritage and community, the violence and vengeance that defined these communities, the role of violence in the spread of Protestantism, and the communication and cultural practices that sustain contemporary Highland culture. Though this is a less populous region that depends highly on tourism, there will be opportunities to interview people who live in the small communities of the Highlands and Isle of Skye.

Proposed Itinerary

Day 1: Travel Grand Rapids to Glasgow

Day 2-4: Explore Glasgow

Day 5-6: University of Glasgow

Day 7-9: Highlands & Isle of Skye

Day 9-10: Oban, Travel to Iona

Day 10-16: Iona Community

Day 16: Travel to Edinburgh

Day 17-20: Edinburgh, St. Andrews

Day 21: Return to US

Credit: COMM395 (4 credit hours); or Senior Seminar

Estimated Cost: $2,500 (to be finalized 1/6/2012)

What's Included:

  • all transportation between cities
  • all accommodations
  • all breakfasts and approximately 1 additional meal per day
  • most admissions and tour fees

What's Not Included

  • tuition
  • airfare*
  • Approximately 1 meal per day
  • Optional tours/admissions

*You may choose to travel with the group by booking the recommended itinerary.



Dr. Deirdre Johnston or Dr. Isolde Anderson
Phone: 616.395.7595
E-mail: johnston@hope.edu
E-mail: andersoni@hope.edu