Although language, culture barriers with international faculty at GVSU can be a challenge, overcoming that challenge stands to reward students with greater benefit
Here at Grand Valley State University, we aim to celebrate diversity. Through the administrative Office of Multicultural Affairs, to an array of on-campus clubs, events and courses designed at promoting intercultural understanding.
On the front page of today’s Lanthorn, reporter Sarah Hillenbrand explores the role of international faculty from their perspective, and the kind of cultural differences they must overcome when becoming an educator in the U.S.
If you have ever been a student of an international faculty member, especially one with an accent still thick with their native tongue, you have most likely had a classmate complain about cultural or language barriers that they perceive as making learning in the classroom more difficult.
Though there is some underlying validity in that complaint (it’s important to successful content comprehension to understand the content in the first place) it should not rest at the core of their experience. International faculty have so much to offer students who can look past troubles with listening to academic positives as a whole. Many of these faculty members come from countries where education is not nearly as accessible or valued in the same way U.S. cultures, and have been through much more than student loans and cramped dorm rooms to get where they are today. The kind of adversity they have faced in the name of knowledge for knowledge’s sake stretches beyond tough exams or tired mornings, and as students, we should be able to use this kind of world experience to create a much richer understanding of the world we live in and to cultivate a much deeper appreciation of the educational opportunities we have been afforded.
In the article “On foreign soil,” associate professor Anne Caillaud, who teaches in the modern language and literatures department on campus, said the biggest difference she notices between education in the U.S. and her native country France, was the relationship between students and faculty.
“The professors here are much closer to the students,” she said. “In France, there’s pretty much no relationship at all. You go to class, but you never see or talk to your professor outside of class.”
That open, informal relationship students have come to rely on with faculty affairs is not afforded in all walks of education. So take advantage of the opportunity – especially when it comes to international faculty – to use that openness not as a linguistic or cultural barrier, but rather, as a way to connect our domestic understanding of this world into a broader, more global scope.