By Laura Aviles, Staff Writer
When I received my admissions letter to begin classes in the fall, it came with an invitation to take the Business English Communication Program (BEC), starting in May. I experienced a mix of feelings about that letter: the joy of having accomplished one of my biggest dreams, and the fact that I needed to be there almost three months before the beginning of my classes. “Gosh, this is too early,” was my first thought. The fact is that I didn’t have a clue about what I would soon experience.
The BEC program is aimed at improving the English communication skills of international students. It is formed by a set of courses such as Critical Thinking Case Studies, Business Presentation Skills, Business and Academic Writing, and American Business and Cross Cultural Communication. One can believe that this list may provide the tools to learn and practice the English language, while at the same time developing cross-cultural skills. And yes it did. But beyond this, I learned much from the experience about what T-birds call the “Thunderbird Mystique”.
From the first day of classes I had the opportunity to interact with people from different parts of the world, including students from Vietnam, Japan, China, Taiwan and Saudi Arabia. Coming from a Latina perspective – I was born and raised in Peru – my way of saying “hi” when I meet someone is usually combined with a hug. Suddenly I understood that my Asian friends were not used to what they call “too much contact”. However, despite the differences between our cultures and background experiences, we all had the same global perspective and were eager to learn more about Western culture.
In the second part of the program, more students came from other countries like Bolivia, Iran and Colombia, and we formed a group of 20 people from different countries. Our different background experiences taught me to see each case from different angles and that there are not right or wrong answers; only different perspectives enhanced by each culture. Furthermore, the fact that almost everybody was living on campus made us feel more connected and createda familiar environment in which to help one another.
Moreover, we also connected with current students, which helped make the transition easier. I started to feel the Thunderbird Mystique that every T-bird talks about. It is the curiosity that every student has to share the same air with people from different cultures and increase their global mindset. With every case study and class, we were exposed to different perspectives, allowing us to work in different environment.
Although this experience was designed to simply help me to develop my oral communication skills, I truly believe that the best part was having the opportunity to become a T-bird and experience what this global family is about. As my first week of classes neared, I realized that the BEC program helped us to adapt at both the professional and personal levels. At the end of the program, my Asian friends stared to hug me as I was saying, “too much contact”. I don’t know if I “Peruvianed” them or they “Asianed” me. Either way, our friendship and learning experiences became something unforgettable.