By: Lucy Morrissey
Algonquin’s partnership business program with the Jiangsu Maritime Institute, a college in China, is flourishing despite cross-cultural challenges.
Four Algonquin teachers taught four courses in its first year. Today, in its second year, those numbers doubled.
This past summer, eight Algonquin business instructors made the trip for the last two weeks of May and first week of June, shortly after three ESL teachers.
Algonquin and JMI, in Nanjing, together developed the coursework for the three-year business administration materials and operations management program.
“JMI has a very successful enrolment this year, thanks to the efforts from many departments of both institutions, including the faculty who taught in China,” said James Wang, manager of international partnerships and programs.
As this fall semester progresses, Algonquin-JMI teachers and students are well into their coursework.
They’re able to reflect on the cross-culture experience that, although challenging, provides recognizable benefits for both faculty and students.
“It was a good opportunity for me to have good, international experience,” said Patrick Huang, one of two JMI-transfer students, on why he decided on the collaborative program.
Huang, in his third year, said he felt prepared to make the move to Algonquin after attending JMI.
Re-adjusting his schedule and dealing with the language barrier have been Huang’s biggest challenges upon arriving in Canada, he said.
“[There are] students from all over the world with different opinions in class group work,” said Huang, adding this has contributed to culture shock.
“The way that North American classrooms work, you expect students to throw their opinions around, agree to disagree,” said Jennifer Lloyd, an Algonquin English teacher, who taught at JMI. “That conflicts a bit with Chinese culture.
They think that sometimes that can be disrespectful to other students.”
“A Canadian teacher might interpret that as they’re not engaging but that’s not true. They’re having a hard time crossing that cultural barrier,” said Lloyd, adding these cultural barriers are often difficult to distinguish from language barriers.
Making the students feel comfortable in the span of a couple of weeks is also difficult but would help in having them discuss and interact more, said Lloyd.
What was most challenging for Bruce Milne, an Algonquin business instructor, was “the amount of content you could give them on any given day based on their grasp of English-business terminology [and there was] very little access to Internet sites for teaching purposes,” he said, due to government restriction and an education system that’s not quite the same.
Blackboard, for instance, is a studying tool Huang said he was not familiar with prior to studying at Algonquin.
Regardless of the challenges, faculty shed light on the pros of the program.
Students from all over the world study at Algonquin. Teaching staff should acquire an understanding of these cultures, Milne said, in an effort to understand where the students come from.
Lloyd agreed that it’s valuable not solely for the teacher to better understand his or her students and their cultures, but how this experience benefits the students. It allows the teacher to efficiently exchange information with students who have various backgrounds and ways of learning, she said, which in turns alleviates the difficulty in crossing cultural barriers.
“Business is turning global,” Milne said, adding the experience abroad will help students comprehend what constitutes global.