Students virtually communicate with peers abroad to prepare for an international job market

January 9, 2024 (Volume 47, Number 10)
Article by Thomas Garrett

For the past 10 years, Zsuzsanna Palmer has been preparing students for a world of international communication using a unique approach. 

Palmer, associate professor of writing, incorporates virtual exchange projects into her writing classes, giving Grand Valley students opportunities to collaborate with students from across the globe to gain first-hand information about their cultures and their traditions of communication.

During the fall semester, students in Palmer's Writing in the Global Context class worked with students from the Cracow University of Economics in Poland, Budapest Business University in Budapest, Hungary, and Saxion University in the Netherlands.

GVSU and international students were placed into Zoom groups and met four times, exchanging information about the job application process, interview process and elevator pitches from their various cultures. 

0layda Can, a student from the Cracow University of Economics, was fascinated by all the similarities between the cultures of the United States and Turkey.

“I always knew that Turkey was like a mini-U.S., but after seeing the identical resumes and styles of elevator pitches, it confirms how alike communication is in our cultures,” said Can.

Suryo Hartanto, a native of Indonesia attending Saxion University, pointed out differences between American and Indonesian cultures.

“When critiquing in Indonesia, people usually use backhanded compliments or sarcasm to drive home what is wrong with a piece; to hear a kind and honest conversation during a critique is super refreshing,” said Hartanto.

Palmer said these projects come from her experiences as an international student. After growing up in Hungary and living and studying in Germany for a year, Palmer said she found a passion for widening students' cultural horizons.

“The virtual exchange project offers a chance for students to make their worldview more complex as well as develop a cultural understanding and tolerance, to truly appreciate different cultures while simultaneously realizing how similar we all are across the globe,” said Palmer.

GVSU student Sam VanSlooten participated in the project. He said, “The ability to speak with someone living and working in a different culture while still being in the U.S. was a completely different learning experience, like studying abroad from my home office.”

Palmer works in partnership with Ellen Shupe to grow International Virtual Exchange through the Padnos International Center and the Pew Faculty Teaching and Learning Center. 

“We’d like to spread this kind of teaching across campus and increase the number of instructors doing similar work. It is flexible to almost any subject, and provides a high-impact learning experience to students,” Palmer said.

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This article was last edited on January 9, 2024 at 1:49 p.m.

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