I spent a few hours in China last week.
Well, I wasn’t actually in China. I spoke to several Chinese students through the “magic” of Skype. The purpose of my six conversations was to interview applicants to Hofstra’s graduate program in public relations. Interviews are standard practice for applicants, and it’s especially interesting when I can talk face-to-face to a potential student 7,000 miles away.
Each student was asked why they were interested in coming to the United States for an advanced degree, and each gave me similar reasons. Their primary goal was to obtain an education where they can use the communication theories they’ve learned as undergraduates in China for more practical, real-world applications. They want to accomplish this by coming to New York, where they know they’ll have excellent opportunities to intern, network and be exposed to some of the best and most experienced PR professionals in the world.
Another common thread in these conversations was their interest in learning in an American classroom. They’re used to lecture-style lessons in big classes where they don’t interact with the instructor or each other; their role is to listen, take notes and do little questioning. They all told me they’re looking forward to a classroom environment where they can have actual discussions with their professors and fellow students.
One student’s thoughts about America were especially intriguing. Her perceptions came from first-hand experiences while she was an exchange student at California’s Berkeley University. She was impressed with the openness and helpfulness of Americans, and how willing we are to extend a hand to a stranger who simply asks. Behind her on the wall was a huge picture of the Statue of Liberty and Old Glory.
It’s not easy for an international student to be successful in an American PR program. I make sure they understand the language challenges they face given the writing-intensive nature of our profession. I emphasize how the culture of our PR and media will greatly differ from theirs. If they qualify, we, too, will extend our hand. Your thoughts?