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Cultural Competence

Increase intercultural awareness and competencies for traveling abroad and living among culturally diverse populations.

How to Use This Guide

This guide will hopefully help you become more aware of different cultures and get started on building competencies. Keep in mind that increasing knowledge, building skills and shaping attitudes to communicate effectively and appropriately with others is an ongoing engagement with many different aspects to consider.

Included resource links will help you:


This subject of cultural awareness and competencies includes a variety of terms, such as intercultural (interaction between at least two different cultures), intracultural (within the same culture), cross-cultural (comparing cultures), and multicultural (more than one culture).

Cultures are not necessarily divided by political boundaries, so intercultural communication is also distinct from international communication.

For more information, view Igor Ristić's Intracultural, Intercultural, Cross-Cultural, and International Communication: What’s the Difference? article and UNESCO's Cultural Competences PDF.

Keep an Open Mind

Please note that the resources recommended within this guide may not reflect the University of Michigan or the library's position. Although they will represent a particular perspective, often Western, with varying levels of sensitivity, they should help you understand and respect some aspects of another culture without overriding your own values. Nonetheless, these resources will make generalizations, so it is important to keep in mind that every person thinks and behaves differently. Keeping an open mind and adapting accordingly to specific circumstances may be helpful.

Interested in learning more about open-mindedness? Take a look at How to Be Critically Open-Minded: a Psychological and Historical Analysis (ebook).

Why is intercultural awareness important?

The University of Michigan has a large international and interstate population, as demonstrated by the enrollment map below.

You may encounter people with different customs and values that may affect communication and mutual understanding. Your cultural knowledge, sensitivity and competencies will help you interact more respectfully with others in a culturally diverse community within the U.S., or abroad. Knowing about the local culture of your destination may also help ease anxiety and shock, making your travels more enjoyable.

How to Increase Intercultural Awareness

U-Pacific Cultural Training

Online training resource with units and sections for learning about the concept of culture and how skills, attitudes and behaviors affects adaptation to a new and unfamiliar environment.

World Citizens Guide (brochures)

Visually appealing, short PDFs with simple suggestions for Americans traveling or working abroad.

U-M Resilient Traveling

U-M's project website dedicated to helping students traveling abroad to learn how to cope with culture shock, stress, loneliness and more. Click on 'Self-Assessment' to take an online mental health screening.

Ready to explore? Click on a tag below.

 Or, view resources by category here.

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Fun Reads

U-M Resources

Global Michigan

International Center

Webpages and resources for study, work and travel abroad, as well as life in the U.S./Ann Arbor for international students.

Center for Global and Intercultural Study

  • Find courses at U-M on the Intercultural Learning page.


Portal to apply for study or intern abroad programs.

U-M Portal in Foreign Languages

Recommend Resources or Terminology Not Represented

This research project was completed by Sheila Chan as part of the Michigan Library Scholars summer internship at the University of Michigan Library.