by jamesc 12/6/2013 9:12:52 AM --
NORFOLK – There are hundreds of thousands of words in the English language and their definitions many not be the same to everyone. Six students, an administrator and an instructor from Northeast Community College found that out this fall during a visit to England.
“One thing I noticed was all of the different words that mean different things. Something like ‘chips’ means ‘fries’ to us” said Cara Hoehne, Northeast business instructor. “It was good to pick up on those types of things. When our students get into the real world and work with people in an international setting, they may want to look up the correct words or learn dialects so they are not offending someone when they are trying to make a business deal or trying to forge a relationship.”
Hoehne and Pam Saalfeld, associate dean of humanities, arts and social sciences, led the students on a ten-day exchange to North Lindsey College in Scunthorpe, England. Earlier this year, North Lindsey sent six students and two administrators to Northeast. The two colleges signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in 2012 creating a program of international study between the two institutions.
“This was a chance for our students to experience an educational system other than our own, Saalfeld said. “This was a unique opportunity for them to be in a classroom taught by instructors in a totally international setting. It was also good they could take part in this exchange with other students, rather than going it alone which is how many international exchanges operate. Whether or not they travel again, they can look back on a very eventful experience in their lives.”
Saalfeld said they had a wonderful group of Northeast Community College students that were part of the exchange. “They were engaging. They were mature, polite and eager to experience anything and everything. There was never a moment where they didn’t want to do or see something. Our students were exceptional.”
Hoehne agreed. “I can’t say enough of how proud I was of our students. They got along so well and really represented Northeast Community College nicely. I am so proud of them.”
All the Northeast students on the exchange are second year business students. They are Alex Barth, Kingsley, IA; Michael Dekker, Norfolk; Beth Ebmeier, Laurel, Edgar Mateo, Riverside, CA; April Osborn, Meadow Grove; and Mikayla Snow, Litchfield.
Hoehne said they began the exchange in North Lindsey marketing classes. She said it was interesting for the Northeast students because the North Lindsey classrooms are set up differently from they are used to.
“It was more like a computer lab for us compared to what we consider to be a classroom. Where we bring in technology like laptops or iPads at Northeast, they have desktop computers in a u-shape configuration. Our students had a little trouble knowing if they should be looking at the computer or at the instructor, so that was a big difference that we noticed right away.”
Hoehne said there was one class that stood out for her and the students. “One class that all of us really enjoyed was a higher level Excel class, a class our students had not been exposed to previously. Our students just grabbed on to that information. It exposed them to different formulas and different spread sheets. It made such an impression of some of our students that they said they would like to come back here and take an Excel class to capitalize on the knowledge they learned at North Lindsey.”
The Northeast students attended a number of other classes, such as business communications, computer classes, and hospitality and tourism, which was among the group’s favorites.
The hospitality and tourism classes feature the interior of a simulated commercial airplane, which has much more room than the real thing. The simulator is used to teach students how to be flight attendants and stewards.
Transforming teaching and learning is among the institutional priorities at Northeast Community College. The distribution of Apple iPad tablets to several hundred Northeast students over the past year falls in line with the initiative, which is designed to foster a culture of innovation to improve student learning and allow Northeast to become a global leader of transforming teaching and learning.
Hoehne said she heard a few comments from the North Lindsey students who said they were surprised Northeast students received the iPads to use in their classes. Northeast students may also use their cell phones in the classroom at certain times for coursework. “The North Lindsey students thought it was cool our students could do their course work using mobile devices in the classroom,” Hoehne said.
Both Hoehne and Saalfeld said the age difference between the students was evident. “Our students walked in and shined. They knew the material even before they entered the classroom, “Hoehne said. “ As an instructor, it was amazing to see them pull out the knowledge that we have been trying to instill in them through different business classes and general education courses.”
Hoehne said some North Lindsey instructors noticed that the Northeast student’s goals were clearly defined. “Our students know what they want to do, know what kind of education they want to receive, and know where they want to go. Our students have this part of their lives planned out whereas some of the North Lindsey students didn’t have those same goals mapped out.”
However, Hoehne said it is important to point out that most North Lindsey students are five-to-seven years younger, on average, than the Northeast students. The oldest student the Northeast group encountered at North Lindsey was 19 years old.
Saalfeld said the student was very much on the same level as the Northeast students. “That 19-year-old could converse with our 20 and 22-year-old students. Everything else may be cultural, but age and maturity are not. The North Lindsey folks were not any less polite or respectful; but a difference in age really does matter,” she said.
It wasn’t all classroom work for the students. The Northeast delegation did get the opportunity to take some side trips in England during the ten-day visit.
“On the weekend, we went to Lincoln and York and visited the cathedrals in both cities. We also went to North Sea village of Whitby and visited Whitby Abbey, which inspired author Bram Stoker to write the classic novel, “Dracula,” Saalfeld said. The final portion of the trip was a one-day whirlwind tour of London.
While attending classes, the group stayed in a bed and breakfast inn in the nearby village of Brigg since North Lindsey does not have dormitories. Saalfeld said the students were so comfortable with the establishment they would pop into the kitchen each day and say “Good Morning!” to the proprietor.
Eating was also experience for the students. Hoehne said she thinks the students were shocked to be served a full English breakfast on their first day there. “Mushrooms, tomatoes, eggs, baked beans and what looked like Canadian bacon were the norm. It was incredible.” The group also had fish and chips and steak and ale pie, among other local delicacies.
The exchange is exactly what Northeast wants to achieve through the MOU with North Lindsey and the other international colleges and universities in which it has signed similar agreements. It falls in line with another one of the eight institutional priorities at the College - Global Educational Opportunities.
“When we started this initiative, we knew we had to find a way to let our students experience international travel. The world is getting smaller and smaller and more opportunities are becoming available to those who have had that experience,“ Saalfeld said. “At the very least, we took six students out of Nebraska and brought them to England and showed them another country, another style of driving (on the left side of the road), different foods, different dialects, and immersed them in history. In ten days, we gave them a cultural experience that will last forever.”
Saalfeld said this experience was so different from the days when she was a student traveler. “Instead of taking pieces of paper and writing your address down and say we’ll be pen pals, social media has linked these students together,” she said.
“They literally put their phones in the center of a table and the North Lindsey students grabbed each one and entered their Facebook information, which allowed them to be Facebook friends right away. This really is bridging the cultural gap.”
Hoehne added, “And the great part about it is, they will maintain these relationships.”
Hoehne said it didn’t take long for the Northeast students to decide that they would like a return visit.
“The second we touched down when we returned to the United States, they were excited to do this again. I spoke with one instructor who had one of our students and the student was beaming from ear-to-ear. He wants to tell the world what he knows, what he learned, what he wants to do and where he is going next. That’s what we wanted. We wanted to pop that bubble so these students know that it is possible to go anywhere.”
Both women want the experience with North Lindsey to continue. “From Northeast’s perspective, we hope to find other departments at the College so more students have the same opportunities to experience another culture,” Saalfeld said. “We want to continue the exchange of bringing over some of their students to Northeast while we send our students to North Lindsey.”
Hoehne sees the long range benefits of the journey to England for the students. “Because they have had this experience, it has taught them to be mindful of how they must approach people and projects. I tell the students that no matter who we are in the business world, we have to learn to tailor our business needs to others not only here, but across the globe if we want to be successful.”
Northeast Community College students pose in front of the ruins of Whitby Abbey on the English coast of the North Sea. The students took part in a ten-day exchange at nearby North Lindsey College in Scunthorpe, England. Pictured (from left) are Alex Barth, Edgar Mateo, April Osborn, Beth Ebmeier, Mikayla Snow, and Michael Dekker.