Last spring, Penn State Brandywine Associate Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences Susan Fredricks had a unique opportunity to serve as a visiting professor at the University of Economics in Prague, Czech Republic.
She taught "Western Ethics and Business" and "Business Presentation" to the Honors Academia students of the Management School. The courses were taught in English to students from Czech Republic, Slovakia, France, Netherlands and Russia, to name a few, she said. Each course lasted just one week and had approximately 35 students between the two.
(students from Susan Fredricks' Ethics and Business class)
"The dynamic was different [from teaching at Brandywine] because these were intensive classes held for one week only," Fredricks said. "This meant there was no room for students not to do their work, and they did it."
This was Fredricks' first time teaching to international students, and with the excitement came the nerves.
"Besides being nervous to begin, it was a pleasure, truly a pleasure," she said. "I learned more about my teaching skills and communication skills from this experience. I also learned a tremendous amount of information about cultural differences and similarities--things that will help me teach my 'Intercultural Communication' course this fall" at Brandywine.
She said her biggest challenge was an obvious one--the language barrier. "I tried to speak Czech, but had a difficult time. Also, I learned that I need to slow down when I speak. Although I taught in English, and all the students understood English, there were still moments in which I spoke too fast or used jargon that was unfamiliar to the students, and vice versa."
While the experience itself was worth the journey, Fredricks said she also has a personal connection with the country. "My family has been able to trace its lineage back to the Czech Republic and Slovakia. We even have distant cousins still there that came to visit while I was in Prague," she said. "I spent many hours walking around historic Prague--crossing the bridge, touching the statue of St. John de Nepemoc, seeing the baby infant of Prague and exploring the castles nearby."
She also spent time working with a colleague to complete some of her research. But teaching was the highlight of her journey.
"Teaching in another country is always a valuable experience," Fredricks said. "My students and I were able to compare notes on the differences between our countries--how we see them and they see us. I strongly encourage international travel. This was a tremendous opportunity - I would not have missed this for the world."