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Crossing Borders

Raising Cultural Awareness Through Young Adult Literature

Dr. Elisabeth Pölzleitner and

Mag. Jennifer Schumm-Fauster





KF-Uni Graz, Department of English and

BG GIBS, Georgigasse 85



"Crossing Borders" is a joint reading project of Elisabeth Pölzleitner's  GIBS students and Mag. Jennifer Schumm’s class “Socio-cultural Competence“ at the university. The purpose of the project is to raise students’ intercultural awareness and understanding. By reading and analyzing young adult novels from different cultural backgrounds the students learn to “walk in someone else’s shoes” for a little while and see the world from a different perspective. This experience will hopefully lead to a better understanding of people from different cultures and their hopes, wishes and dreams.

The project has already been carried out several times and is always adapted to the needs of a specific class. This year 3b took part in the project and read the following young adult novels:


  • Ann Jaramillo, La Linea,  Roaring Brook Press, Milfort,  CT,  2006
  • Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Little, Brown and Company, N.Y.,  2007
  • Marina Budhos, Ask Me No Questions, Atheneum Books For Young Readers, N.Y., 2006
  • Sharon Creech, Walk Two Moons, Joanna  Cotler Books, Harper Collins, N.Y., 1994
  • Jacqueline Woodson, If You Come Softly, Puffin Books, Penguin Group, N.Y., 1998

In each of the books the main characters are “crossing borders” of some sort. Some of them have moved into a new country or culture, others have moved to a new school or neighborhood and find themselves in a different ethnic, social or religious group. In this project we have explored how the characters deal with these difficult situations.


Joint Presentation Day:

On December 16th 2010, the students of Jennifer Schumm’s class met the pupils of 3b to give joint presentations. This day was the culmination of our reading project. The pupils and students took different approaches to their respective books in their presentations. In this way different viewpoints and interpretations were presented that not only complemented each other but also gave everyone a deeper insight into the novels. The pupils of 3b presented the plot, characters and settings of a given book, and then the students of the English Department addressed the cultural aspects of the same novel.


Thanks to the very creative and interactive presentations prepared by Ms. Schumm's group, 3b students were still active and wide awake after 5 hours!!! of hard work in this project.


My Culture -- Your Culture:

In the last part of our project day we shared personal cultural experiences and habits. Many students of both groups presented typical holiday foods or traditional clothes or items from their cultural backgrounds. In this way we could all expand our knowledge of different cultures and enjoy the cultural variety in Graz.


Elisabeth  Pölzleitner and Jennifer Schumm are already working on the next round of the project with new students from GIBS and the University of Graz.

The project will be evaluated by the two teachers. The main question will be: To what extent can young adult literature contribute to cultural awareness and understanding?

ELT Research and Methodology

Univ.-Prof. Sarah Mercer BA MA MSc PhD

Liebiggasse 9/HP
8010 Graz

Phone:+43 316 380 - 8190

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