They were separated by 12 hours and 8,500 miles, but Keuka College students on two continents shared a single class last week.
Dr. Malia Spofford Xavier’s INS 301R: Intercultural Studies class and Assistant Provost Dr. Laurel Hester’s KC101 class joined with students in Associate Professor Gary Giss’s Leadership class in Duy Tan, Vietnam, in a first-of-its-kind connection of the College’s International programs.
Connected via a Zoom video link, the students swapped information about themselves and their cultures, asked questions of one another, and gained insight into the lives of their overseas classmates. The class was a perfect lead-in to International Education Week, which runs through Friday.
“This collaboration grew out of our work on the new International Education Committee and the objective to make better connections between our International programs and Keuka Park campus,” said Dr. Spofford Xavier, assistant professor of Spanish and Intercultural Studies. “It was a chance for our students to get to know each other.”
Home-campus students held up favorite objects to the camera – family photos, inspirational signs, even a Keuka College ID card – allowing their Vietnamese counterparts a glimpse into their lives.
The Duy Tan students, meanwhile, displayed photos of picturesque locations near their campus, which they then described. The Keuka Park class was also treated to a view of the Duy Tan region outside the classroom windows, as Associate Professor Giss, Dean of International Programs, panned the camera.
“We engaged in a dialog about a wide range of topics,” said Dr. Spofford Xavier. “They touched on values, cultural diversity in Vietnam, holidays, religion, history, perceptions of the United States, the use of English, generational differences, and much more.”
The late hour of the class – it started at 8 p.m. locally – didn’t drain students’ enthusiasm. In Duy Tan, it was 8 a.m. the following day – “Some of them are eating breakfast right now,” said Associate Professor Giss as one student showed off a sandwich known as bahn mi.
While there was lots of laughter, the back-and-forth questions among the students ran the gamut, from home-campus students being asked if they have classes at night, to Duy Tan students fielding questions about the perception of Americans in Vietnam within the context of the 1960s-’70s Vietnam War, or what word comes to mind when they think of the United States. (Good words came to mind, including “independence,” “creativity,” “diversity,” and “freedom.”)
“This video-conference experience related to our course learning goal to ‘develop intercultural competence that recognizes the contribution and value of diversity in academic environments and in the world beyond the classroom,’” said Dr. Hester. “It was a wonderful way to bring together our on-campus and international Keuka College students.”