As the Associate Dean – Student Success at Sheridan, I am always on the lookout for ways to enhance my ability to reach and empower students. This summer, I was very lucky to be invited to travel to China to participate in pre-arrival orientation sessions for students who were about to travel from the other side of world to attend Sheridan. It is a trip that I will never forget!
Under the intrepid and focused leadership of Yan Wu from our International Centre, our Sheridan team – consisting of myself and my colleagues Ian Marley (V.P. Student Affairs and Enrolment Management), John Ivison (Professor and Program Coordinator of the ESL Program) and Antony Vadakkanchery (International Centre) – held sessions for incoming Sheridan students in Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen. We also met with leaders at three educational institutions. After five flights in eight days and a substantial change in time zones and climates, I gained a new appreciation for the grueling work and toll this type of travel takes on the staff of our International Centre. I also learned how well-respected Sheridan is in China.
“…we each need to think about what it means to support students from other countries and how we can do our part – large or small – to internationalize our campuses” – Joe Henry
Now that I have turned my sights to the beginning of another exciting academic year, I have a few reflections on my travels to share. As we begin to globalize the experience of our students as part of our Creative Campus initiative, we each need to think about what it means to support students from other countries and how we can do our part – large or small – to internationalize our campuses.
1. Forget about “other”. We need to stop thinking about the international student as being “other” or a lesser part of Sheridan’s future. We have to adjust our thinking away from a mentality that forces the international student to conform to how we do things. My discussions with students I met in China made me realize that while we as Canadians think we have the market cornered on “what works”, there are billions of people who may have differing views. We need to be more adaptable. What we learn from international students might equally benefit our entire student population.
2. Language is powerful. Do you ever stop to think about how your words are perceived or interpreted by others? Our documents and communications are full of terms that seem straightforward, but that can cause confusion and frustration. As I sat and talked with students and parents in China, I realized how often my vocabulary is filled with common terms that are often hard to translate or understand even with a strong command of English. Thankfully Yan was available to translate for me!
3. Take some risks. One of my goals for the trip was to learn three words/terms that I didn’t know previously. With the help of Yan and some of our new students I learned Ni Hao (Hello), Xiè Xie Nǐ (Thank You), and Bú Kè Qi (You are welcome). By using these phrases at the sessions with our students, I wanted to lessen their anxiety and signal my willingness to meet students on their terms and work with them in the transition process. I may have sounded a bit silly in my pronunciation, but the laughs of encouragement I received more than made up for any embarrassment.
As a boy growing up in a small town in midwestern Ontario, I always knew that there was a bigger world out there for me to explore. With each step I take and travel, the more I learn about how the world operates and what we, as educators, need to impart to our students. Through visits such as the one I took to China and through my daily opportunities to engage with diverse cultures on campus, I firmly believe that we must educate students to not only become leaders in their respective disciplines, but more importantly, citizens of the world. I consider it a privilege to be a part of this process.
Pictured at top of page: Joe Henry standing by the Great Wall of China
Written by: Joe Henry, Associate Dean of Student Success at Sheridan.