IIE Networker - Spring 2006 - (Page 43)

Knowledge Network: International Students Could Anthropology Be an Answer to Exchange Students’ Cocooning? By Fred Dervin The author proposes a teaching experiment that sends international students to “familiar” places in their host country, to observe and analyze people’s activities in these places, in order to dispel stereotypes and to highlight the diversity within the host country’s culture. French student observing locals in a Finnish “non-place.” I think every immigrant becomes a kind of amateur anthropologist. — Eva Hoffman, 2000 I would like to start my article by questioning the notion of internationalizing the campus, especially in connection with the context that I am working in: Finland and the European Union (EU). According to the Oxford English Dictionary, internationalizing is “to render international in character or use.”1 There is a clear distinction to be made between “in character” and “in use,” and it seems that EU and Finnish educational authorities have a tendency to overlook the latter when it comes to internationalizing. Finland is increasingly a favorite destination among exchange and foreign students.2 This northern European country has some vital assets: Finnish education has a very good reputation worldwide and student facilities and accommodation are topquality (internet access, fully furnished, etc.). Additionally, it is an “exotic” European country (“the land of Santa Claus”), where most people have a good command of English. Regardless of these benefits, many exchange students get disappointed or frustrated after a few weeks in Finland. The explanations are many and varied. To begin with, they rarely get to meet “locals,” except perhaps for Finnish tutors who are allocated to each of them and a few Finnish students. As a consequence, they befriend other exchange students and “cocoon” together. Finally, most of them don’t really learn the local languages (Finnish and Swedish), and they are “isolated”3 in buildings entirely reserved for them in student villages. By looking at the figures in Finland, internationalization is in character, but not really in use. Yet, let me reassure my Finnish colleagues who are reading this article: the phenomenon is not just Finnish. Exchange students all over the EU are, in a sense, “new strangers” (MurphyLejeune 2002) because they have a status of temporary nature in host countries—their stays last three, six or nine months— and opportunities and time to mingle, integrate, and adapt to the “other world” (local contexts) are scarce, unlike in the case of most migrants. Exchange students’ involvement in the local cultures (e.g. educational, professional, familial, and religious cultures, among others) is so modest that their experiences abroad tend to blow their representations oF the locals out of proportion. For instance, at the end of a sojourn in Finland, it’s common to hear from exchange students that “Finns are cold,” “they don’t care about us,” and “they don’t want to meet us.” Inspired by Hoffman’s words quoted at the opening of this article, and in reaction to the trends presented supra, I hereby present a small-scale teaching experiment that I propose to extend to other contexts of academic internationalization. The scheme offers: 1. To send exchange students to “familiar” places in Finland (i.e. non-places (Augé 1995), to have them observe, take notes, and analyze people’s activities in these non-places. 2. To allow them to go beyond first impressions and representations on “Finnishness,” “same” and “strangeness.” The main objective is to generate some awareness of diversity within Finnish society—thus to lead the students to avoid excessive stereotyping about Finns and urge them to meet “enigmatic” individuals instead of so-called “representatives of a national culture”—i.e., to internationalize “in use.” From Fixed Culture to Culturality Exchange students grow concerned with cultural differences at a very early stage abroad. Like most people, they understand culture as “shared habits, beliefs, values of a national group.” No need to say that this brings about a rather homogeneous, limited and static picture of national groups—see a “discourse” of oneself and others, or a deus ex machina used to account for observed departures from “normal” behavior. For example, under the influence of the media, the education they received, and what they’ve heard from family and friends and Finns themselves, foreign students may think that Finns are shy, cold and hard to communicate with. From my point of view, and in times

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of IIE Networker - Spring 2006

IIE Networker - Spring 2006
Message from Allan E. Goodman
Up Front: The International Education Diary
The “Global Campus”: Andrew Heiskell Awards for Innovation in International Education
Paths to Global Competence: Preparing American College Students to Meet the World
Globalization and Higher Education: Eight Common Perceptions from University Leaders
The International Branch Campus
Investing in Communities and Capabilities Worldwide
Institutional Leadership Internationalizing the Campus through Institutional Leadership at University of California, Davis
International Students Could Anthropology Be an Answer to Exchange Students’ Cocooning?
Study Abroad The Study Abroad Superhero Search: A Practical Approach to Marketing Study Abroad on Campus
Internationalization in the UK UCL: London’s Global University
Community Colleges The International Negotiation Modules Project: Using Computer-Assisted Simulation to Enhance Teaching and Learning Strategies in the Community College
Country Focus: Brazil Institutionalization of International Education in Brazil
The Browser: Index of Advertisers

IIE Networker - Spring 2006