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Culture Shock Hits Mandy…When He Arrives Back In United States

Published: November 14, 2011

Africana Studies’ Lionel Mandy spent the 2010-11 academic year visiting Sri Lanka, India and South Korea, yet his only twinge of culture shock came when he returned to the United States.

“There is warmth among the Sri Lankans I found noticeably lacking here in the United States,” said Mandy, who returned in June from a nine-month Senior Visiting Fulbright Fellowship in Sri Lanka. “From the minute I arrived at the University of Colombo to join the faculty of Graduate Studies, I was lecturing all day on Mondays and Tuesdays. Everything was well organized. But coming back to the U.S. was a matter of metal detectors. I sensed a coldness and fear in the U.S. I never felt in Sri Lanka.”

The Fulbright program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, is the largest U.S. international exchange program, offering opportunities for students, scholars and professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching and/or teaching in elementary and secondary schools worldwide.

Established by Congress in 1946, the program enables the U.S. government to increase mutual understanding between its citizens and those of other countries.

The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, known as Ceylon before 1972, is an island country located off the southern coast of India. It has been a center of Buddhism from ancient times and is famous for the production and export of tea, coconuts, rubber and cinnamon, which is native to the country.

Mandy brought a special gift to his Sri Lankan sojourn. “Their national sport is cricket which I actually understand and enjoy,” he laughed. “Sri Lankans have one of the best cricket teams on Earth.”

Mandy believes a visitor can experience how culturally connected the Sri Lankans are to Africa by their cricket matches. “There is constant drumming. There is music and exchanges with the players,” he said. “I was in the capital and it seemed to shut down every time there was a cricket match. The local stadium holds 35,000 but, as I walked to the stadium, I saw as many as 1,000 people standing on a corner watching the match on one television. Their fervor and excitement and passion are symbolic of the country. They may have lost to India in the finals but it seemed to be OK. The Sri Lankans played well. They didn’t lose by much.”

In April 2009, he sojourned with an organization of traditional healers in the West African nation of Senegal, where he lived and taught in the 1980s. He toured South Africa that December to continue his training. He was eager to study the field in Sri Lanka and went out of his way during the last six weeks of his visit to meet Buddhist and Hindu traditional healers. “I’m a shaman myself,” he said. “I learned from healers and showed them what I knew. That was great.”

Mandy earned a BMSc, an MMSc and a Ph.D. in metaphysical science from the University of Metaphysics. He returns to Sri Lanka in December for a spiritual psychology conference where he will address the connection between traditional healing and spiritual psychology.

His passport picked up a new stamp from a Fulbright conference in the Indian city of Goa on the subcontinent’s southwestern coast. “Goa is an Indian oddity in that it is one of the few places in India where the local population of Catholics can eat beef,” he said. “In Colombo, cattle walk the streets. Hindus will not do anything harmful to cows. I got the Indian experience a lot in Sri Lanka.”

Culture Shock Hits Mandy…When He Arrives Back In U.S.
Africana Studies’ Lionel Mandy (third from right) with group on his most recent trip to Sri Lanka.

He returned to the U.S. in June before departing again to South Korea for his second short-term Study Abroad program at Dankook University offered as part of a memorandum of understanding between CSULB’s Department of Asian and Asian American Studies and Dankook. The program’s goals for 40 participating CSULB students were to provide them with affordable opportunities for international education and to help them improve their understanding of the Korean language and culture.

“There are many opportunities for a curious person to satisfy that curiosity,” Mandy said of his globetrotting summer. “The opportunity to leave behind all your in-country obligations and explore life on your own is great. It is a chance to see who you are as much as seeing who others are. I enjoy the chance to engage with people from a different cultures. You get to see where you fit with where they are coming from and they get to see where they fit in your culture and worldview.”

Mandy is a faculty advisor to CSULB’s African Student Union and the Black Scholars Student Association. He earned a B.A. in English literature, an M.A. in African-American Studies, and a masters in social work from Boston University. He also earned a MBA and a J.D. from UCLA. He earned his Psy.D. in clinical psychology from Pepperdine in 2006.

Despite touching two continents in one summer, Mandy will remember best what he saw of everyday life. “The best thing about going anywhere is walking around to see how life is lived,” he recalled. “I loved just walking on the street.”

He lectured in line with the British system, teaching from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday in the master’s program in clinical psychology.

“I covered a wide range of things while in Sri Lanka,” he said. “I taught in two graduate and three undergraduate programs on subjects varying from African-American literature to clinical psychology and organizational behavior. I dealt with such issues as how to create programs to reduce harassment of women and children on public transportation to trauma recovery.”

Mandy is glad he made the overseas commitment. “My Fulbright experience was outstanding,” he said. “There was an in-country Fulbright commission who helped me to find a place to stay. They made sure there was someone to meet me at their airport, complete with a sign with my name on it. The Fulbright program is outstanding. If you can get a Fulbright, get it.”