I wanted to use this open blog post to thank the international students who shared, not only the stories of higher education in the countries, but their own personal stories as well. It has been extremely interesting hearing and understanding the differences in, not only higher education, but all education in countries such as China, Syria, Jordan, and Greece. The emphasis put on education at such a young age is mind-blowing to someone who has grown up under the American way of education. To see how much family and culture play a role in the education of children in some of these countries is fascinating. The idea that a child’s whole life can be, and is, mapped out in some of these countries according to one test that is taken when the student is a teenager is daunting to say the least. The cultural and family influences and pressure that is put on these students is something that most people in the U.S. will never know about and certainly can not understand.
The international students who shared their stories actually gave me inspiration and pointed me in a direction to my own education. I am an unconventional student, who until recently, (I am 45 years old), never knew what kind of career or job I wanted in my future. For me to know what I wanted to do for the rest of my life when I was 17 or 18 years old sounds insane to me. I have traveled to both Europe and Asia and never thought to try to understand the differences in education. After hearing these stories, from the international students, I have found a new respect for students who can uproot their lives and come to a new country to grasp toward a better future in their own country. It is astonishing to see international students succeed and thrive under these circumstances. Leaving your family, your friends, your country, your way of life and striving to succeed away from everything one knows is something that, for me, would be very difficult.
I just want to say thank you, again, for sharing your stories and helping me see that things are not always what they seem and that the human will can achieve so much in this world. Your stories have not only educated me but inspired me to be the best person I can be, not only in the sense of gaining a higher education but in life, as well. Thank you!!
As Virginia Tech moves into the future, I would like to see a focus on the student. What I mean by this is a focus on the higher education that a student receives and the way they are prepared for their future careers. I do not think it is enough for students to be taught facts and figures. A full higher education should consist of the development of interpersonal skills, interview skills, workplace skills, and other skills that would ensure the success of students in their chosen careers. After attending a year of graduate school, I have felt that I have learned much more when it comes to time management, work-life balance, and interviewing skills than I did in my four years of undergraduate education. These are skills that are easily learned and easily taught. Professors should be able to instill these skills in their instruction throughout the undergraduate curriculum.
The teaching of these skills is necessary for students to understand the career market and how to succeed in life after higher education. Not enough of these skills are taught and ‘shown’ to students in the course of the status quo curriculum that is being taught. Due to the nature of the changing society and job market in most, if not all career paths, the learning of such things as the proper way to write a report, the importance of being on time and professional, and workplace demeanor, are of great importance. I feel there is a lack of preparation throughout higher education in these specific areas. Although some students may learn this in the course of an undergraduate internship with a company, others, who may not be able to partake in such an internship may not learn these same skills. I feel that it is the responsibility of a higher education institution to teach these skills to its student body in order to be looked upon as a desirable place to receive a higher education.
The repercussions of teaching these workplace skills can then be beneficial to the higher education institution, the students, and the community in which the institution serves. Considering that service to the community is on many of these institutions mission statements it is imperative to ensure that the students who earn a degree are not only taught in the facts and figures of their chosen major but also receive an education in their future careers.
Micro-aggressions are words, expressions, behaviors, and cultural day to day activities that a person may use or be part of that either intentionally or unintentionally belittle or are derogatory to another human being or group of human beings. An example of this may be for someone to say that ‘she is a great black head coach’ or asking someone where they are from and not accepting the answer. These micro-aggressions can be harmful and hurtful to the people around you and can take away form your credibility and likability. I have talked about knowledge in past blog posts and will talk about it again here. I think that knowledge is a crucial obstacle in the fight against the use of micro-aggression for me, as an individual, and for society as a whole. Knowing how something you say or do may be perceived by others is key in understanding their effects. Micro-aggressions are often unintentional and the intent behind them may or may not be derogatory, however a certain knowledge about how your actions and words can effect others, will cut down on the amount of times that ‘you’ may degrade others and make them uncomfortable in a social setting with you.
Learning how micro-aggressions can make others feel and seeing how others react to these certain micro-aggressions can change one’s thinking and therefore allow for smoother and richer social interaction. Since many of the micro-aggression are unintentional, I wonder if there is an underlying thought process to using them in all of us. Knowledge is one way to cut down on the use of these micro-aggressions but a change in the way one thinks and perceives situations and people is another way. There is a need in today’s society to change the way we were brought up to think about certain individuals. A shift in societal thinking would help to ensure the lessening of the use of micro-aggressions. Many people use these micro-aggressions everyday and do not even know that they are using them. Step in and say something to someone. Let them know how their words or behaviors are being interpreted. Add some knowledge and experience to the situation and allow that person who is using these micro-aggressions a chance to explain their intent and a chance to change their view. Chances are the person or ‘you’ did not mean to be degrading or make anyone feel uncomfortable but because of their upbringing or culture they came from used a micro-aggression out of habit or a cultural vernacular that is part of that person. As a human being it is something that we all should be aware of and try to change in our own lives as well as the lives of people around us.
Those steps can help to shape society and the world in a way that can benefit all people. A person can not now how an unintentional micro-aggression makes another person feel without the knowledge and experience it takes to recognize. A third party can look in and cringe when someone does or says something but until that third party enlightens the doer it goes without change. Do not be afraid to step in and teach people what they may not see. Listen, understand the intent, and then deliver the knowledge to someone to allow that person to change the way they think in order to better the society as a whole.
The Covid-19, coronavirus has flipped higher education upside down. Most, if not all higher education has moved to online instruction amid this nationwide pandemic. This could be a good thing for higher education, at least in some ways. It is obvious that technology is the way of the future and this switch to remote learning and teaching can be the push that some ‘old school’ professors need in order to embrace technology. By no means am I saying that online instruction should take over for the traditional face-to-face teaching that occurs in colleges and universities but there are advantages to adding it to certain curriculums. It can teach students how to use certain technologies to their advantage in the job market. Which can then be used once a student enters in the their career to help to achieve a work-life balance when it comes to families, kids and overall well-being. I am among the educators that believe that face-to-face time with students is invaluable and can not be replicated. However, I can also see the advantages to online instruction in higher education.
I believe that a smart mix of both can strengthen the educational system as a whole. It has been said that we must teach students to be capable in jobs that do not exist yet. The addition of a remote instructional part of many college classes may assist in this goal. The future of the job world is global. Globalization is a huge part of the job market and needs to be, not only taught in higher education institutions, but needs to be embraced by students and professors alike. The learning of new technologies that allow for easy access to other countries is crucial to the future of students looking to enter a job market that is globalized. Resumes can be built and connections can be made, simply by adding remote instruction as part of the curriculum in higher education. The reason I believe a mix between both face-to-face instruction and remote instruction is necessary is because I believe that the skills one learns from the in-class instruction is just as important. Skills like professionalism, being on time, interacting with both the professor and other classmates are skills that can not be learned on line. These skills are also crucial in the job market and if one does not have or learn these skills it can be detrimental to their future success. Professors, now, have to be skilled in both face-to-face interactions as well as remote instruction to give the best rounded education to today’s students in higher education. What good is being able to understand and use the technology for a globalized job market if one is unable to understand the intricacies of the cultures that one is cooperating with. A mix of the two types of instruction can add to the student’s knowledge of the globalized job market, add to their resumes, and make for a more hirable graduate.
This may be a case of looking for a silver lining amid the pandemic that is happening but I believe that it really could be the start to a new look to higher education. I think that this new look could and will be beneficial to higher education as a whole and to the students who can now experience another avenue in their path to entering a globalized job market.