Fostering Intercultural Relationships

The Cornwall campus of St. Lawrence College currently has six visiting scholars from China. Here to shadow and engage with our Supply Change Management team, the scholars – who teach in various capacities at Qingdao Harber Vocational and Technology College in Qingdao, Shandong (link to wikipedia as the english translation of their web page is out of date) – have been fascinated by our teaching methods and styles, and we have had some wonderful discussions about pedagogy and curriculum.

I say wonderful, but there have been challenges. I have been so impressed with how well we have all communicated despite a language barrier. The kudos is all on their side as their English skills are much better than our Mandarin, and so we go on in a broken dance that though imperfect, works.

For my part, I have enjoyed having them in my classes. I don’t teach in the Supply Chain Management program, but I do teach on their afternoons off, so Friday often finds them in my Communications and/or Ethics class. I strive for an active classroom, so they join right in, participating in whatever the activity is, and asking me questions about our process and practices when there are lulls.

chinesescholars comm class

They are here for 12 weeks, and much of the responsibility for what they do outside of college lies with our remarkable Supply Chain faculty and our administrative staff who have arranged a number of events (Pumpkinferno at Upper Canada Village; a boat cruise in Brockville, hikes with some other faculty members, trips to Ottawa and Montreal). I live in town and have a minivan, so I offered to drive them to the Dean’s house for Thanksgiving, but felt I ought to make more of an effort, so last weekend I invited them to my house.

I wasn’t sure how it would work out. My husband – though a great conversationalist – is a bit of an introvert (as are we all), and I wasn’t certain what we would talk about. So I invited my kids and all the kids who hang out at my house already to come for the evening to help entertain.

And we carved pumpkins.

It was a huge success. The kids – young adults, some of whom are at the college – interacted with the scholars*, and we discussed traditions, and Chinese poetry. And in a touching gesture, Ping Wang carved this for me: it is the Chinese symbol representing a warm, comfortable, happy home.

pumpkin happy

What I learned: That fostering intercultural relationships is as easy as sharing a meal, sharing ideas, allowing people to feel – in some small way -like they belong.

*Scholars – I’m not quite sure why this is the term we use. It’s how we were introduced to them – the visiting scholars from China – and the term stuck.

This is Post #5 in the #9x9x25 Ontario Extend Challenge. Follow along!

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