Yet another incredible blog from the RIT traveler to Dubai.
Please enjoy Nick’s blog and consider seeing Middle East with your own eyes!
Teachers can learn as much or even more than students do in the classroom. That’s why I end many of my classes at RIT by saying to the students, “If you’ve learned half as much as I have, the class has been a success.”
For me, the potential for this great personal learning experience exists everywhere – in an RIT classroom, in an online class, in a non-credit training class. And it is pretty much guaranteed when I visit one of our international campuses.
Going to a campus in another country is challenging and exhilarating. Fortunately, our international schools understand the challenging part and roll out the welcome mat. They understand that visiting professors need some help with currency, transportation, office space, food, and who knows what else, particularly when we are so focused on getting our classes ready.
When I’m scrambling around working out the details for my stay in Kosovo or Dubai, two issues are always on my mind: what will the students be like and how should I adapt my teaching for them?
I know that the students come from very different cultures from my own and have had very different life experiences. And the courses I have taught overseas, business communication and a graduate course that examines issues from a critical thinking perspective, are sensitive to culture. Both require students – and me – to examine issues from others’ points of view. Needless to say, I can’t come in and tell students what to think. I can present research, theories, case studies and processes but, aside from processes, I have no intention of telling them what to conclude about many of our topics.
So each class is ripe for light bulb moments – or conflict and frustration.
The result is usually, thankfully, a thoughtful examination of information, an engaging conversation and, I hope, a good learning experience for the students. I have to admit that I sometimes get so interested in where they are personally coming from that I have to make sure to keep things moving along. Their personal stories are so compelling.
In my experience, our international students are overwhelmingly eager to learn, grateful for the opportunity to be in school and respectful of my role. They are fun to be around, knowledgeable about the United States and glad that our professors don’t have the dictatorial classroom style that many experienced earlier in their lives. What’s not to like about that?
I’m no expert on cross-cultural teaching but having taught internationally several times now, I have to say that our international students have more in common with our students at our Rochester campus than they have differences. Part of this is because RIT is such as an international institution but part is, in my opinion, because of the commonality of humankind no matter where we come from. Each person is unique: some are loud, others are quiet. Some are sure of themselves, others are not. And if you challenge them to think, they will give it the ol’ college try. Sounds pretty much like any classroom.
I am always trying to see how culture impacts the courses I teach. I probably did this too much when I first taught overseas. But it is what makes it fun and stimulating and why I learn so much, maybe even more than the students do.
Back in 2011 a group of Engineering students from RIT decided to explore the opportunities that were offered to them by RIT Dubai. They embarked on an incredible journey to the Middle East while taking RIT courses. They all participated in RIT Dubai activities, made friends with students at RIT Dubai from all over the world, and went on many trips that they organized in the form of a diary. Thanks to Maddie Burke we have a chance to read about their impressions and adventures in the United Arab Emirates.
Dubai has burst on the global scene in the past three decades as a bustling metropolis in the Persian Gulf.
And first impressions count: “The people are very polite and hospitable to their guests.” “The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the eighth largest mosque in the world, is nothing short of magnificent.” “Dubai is a marketer’s dream: There is advertising everywhere.”
It was a mixture of business and pleasure as 14 honors students from the E. Philip Saunders College of Business at Rochester Institute of Technology went to Dubai during spring break. And daily reports by Geoffrey Blosat, a second-year student majoring in international business, and Kristen Erickson, a senior in new media marketing, were featured the week of March 5 in an online blog at Rochester’s DemocratandChronicle.com.
Blosat, a native of Buffalo, says the experience, especially touring the trading floor of the Dubai Financial Market, was enlightening. “Their market is young and growing and it makes progress by the day,” he says.
“We also saw that the RIT Dubai campus is a great option for Rochester students to get an international education. I would love to study there.”
Tom Traub, international adjunct professor in the Saunders College, says it was a great experience to accompany the students as a chaperone during this educational and cultural trip to the United Arab Emirates. “The business presentations and tours of the companies were priceless! In addition, the cultural excursions and talks by the guides were so interesting and filled with facts, the students had sensory overload at times.”
Graham Forsey, a Saunders College accounting major who receives access services from RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, was accompanied by two RIT sign-language interpreters who traveled with him from Rochester. Dubai, he says, is a long stretch from his home in Newfoundland, Canada. “It is sunny all the time; there’s no need to check the weather every morning when deciding what to wear,” Forsey says. “I am also very impressed with how Dubai managed itself to be a huge city in so short a period of time. I loved how we visited a wide range of companies, public utilities like Dubai Aluminum and Dubai Energy and Water Authority, to services like KPMG, to tangible products like Hircon, an apartment corporation, to meeting people like Dr. Mohammed Nurul Alam, an expert on Islamic finance.”
From a female perspective, Erickson said she learned a great deal from Josephine Ford, managing director for business development for General Electric’s global growth and operations team. “She provided insights on women in business and helped us understand that attitudes toward women in the Middle East are changing,” said Erickson in her blog. “While women in business here is not as common as in the U.S., it’s becoming more accepted and expected.”
But it was all business for Erickson when she spent one afternoon shopping at Dubai’s famous “Souks,” the outdoor street markets where local merchants sell their wares. “I found some beautiful Middle Eastern scarves and came home with too many of them,” she laughs, “but I did learn how to barter to get the best price.”