Global students share cultural, educational differences

Nov. 26, 2012

Samantha Morley
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Most UCCS students have gone through the American school system from elementary through high school. After graduation, they are free to choose where to go for college. But other countries approach education differently.

The International Professor Brown Bag meeting on Nov. 14, part of International Education Week at UCCS, involved several students from around the world.

Attendees sat around a large conference table and provided insight into their personal experiences of learning in their respective countries.

“We wanted to celebrate and learn from our international students that are on campus and learn about their educational systems and how they are similar or differ from the U.S.,” said Mary Hanson,assistant director of the Office of International Affairs at UCCS, who coordinated the activity.

Six students and two staff members attended the Brown Bag event. Despite their language barriers, attendees helped each other to best communicate their messages in English.

Wangyun Chao, originally from Taiwan, is an international student specialist at the Office of International Affairs. She explained how she interprets the school system in Taiwan to be much more difficult compared to American ways.

Describing the educational system in Taiwan, Chao said that “students never leave their classroom. Teachers come and do the math, science. This is your classroom for the six years for elementary, three years for junior and senior high.”

Students also commented about the manner in which teachers are treated, with China, Japan and Taiwan having similar systems.

“You never interrupt the teacher,” said Vivi Chen, a student from China. Both Chinese students also shared struggles of motivating themselves to ask to go to the bathroom. The teacher would often deny their requests.

Another noticeable difference between the U.S. educational system as compared to the majority of the world is that people have the option of going to college when they get older.

“It is really rare,” said Erika Nakagama,a student originally from Japan. She said that it is not expected for students to go back to school. “We usually have to work at the age of 30.”

The average age for someone to be out of school is 22 or 23 in Japan. From there, people are expected to get jobs soon and begin their career.

Suzanne Cook, senior instructor in French, agreed. “In France, it has traditionally been that it is expected that you don’t go back to school,” she said. “But now they’re trying to continue education programs for adults.”

Each meeting attendee was able to experience another culture’s educational methods.

Currently there are just fewer than 140 international students at UCCS on different types of visa, Hanson said. She hopes to grow the international student community on campus. “In the strategic plan for the university, we want to get about 700 students by 2020,” she said.

To accomplish this goal, Hanson, along with Anthony Shull, the executive director of the Office of International Affairs, and others will make occasional trips overseas to recruit new students. So far, faculty has contacted students in Vietnam, India andseveral other countries.