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Jun 13

Chris Smeaton

From the Desk of the Superintendent- International Students

I wrote this blog post on my return flight from Bogota, Colombia. The purpose of the trip was to build relationships in the hope of bringing in international students to our division. Based on the agreement made, I would suggest that the trip yielded positive results. When school divisions try to entice international students to their areas, I would think that a primary reason is as an additional revenue resource. School systems have rarely (if ever) been in a position where they can say they have enough money. However, if that is the only reason that school divisions are entering the international student market, then I believe that their mission is flawed.

One of the greatest advantages of being a connected educator is the elimination of borders. As I look at my PLN, I note people that either I follow or follow me from all around the world. It provides me a far better perspective of the global world. Yet, as I experienced again during this trip, there is still no better way (when possible) to make connections than face to face. It is for this reason that I believe school divisions should promote international student programs.

International students provide a perspective that is neither right nor wrong, simply different. Our understanding of differing cultures and our exposures to foreign languages only connect us more with the world. Even with an already open mind, the trip to Bogota convinced me of the wealth of wisdom that other cultures and languages possess. Often, in North America we tend to believe that we are the only people that have it right! Well, I must confess that not only do we not have it right all the time; other cultures have it right just as often or sometimes more often. We do not possess this “right” monopoly.

So, what are some of the goals of our international student endeavor and how might we measure success? Well, I need it to be cost neutral at the very least and given our agreement that is easily achievable. In fact, it may even become a slight source of revenue in time.  Part of this condition being attainable is that this trip was in partnership with one of our neighboring school divisions. Instead of competing for students we pooled our resources to be able to offer a larger and I believe more a sustainable program.  One of the benefits of working in the area that I do is the cooperative nature of our neighboring school divisions and this endeavor is an excellent example.

But the real goal of our international program is to simply bring the world to our own backyard. Southern Alberta has much to offer and there are many things that we should be very proud to showcase to the world. However, more importantly than us showcasing our world, I want our students to experience a more global perspective. I want our students to not only be connected to the world via technology, but face to face too! I want our students to be culturally aware and globally knowledgeable. I want our students to recognize our similarities, gain understanding of our differences and choose to build a more inclusive world. Interestingly, it is the same goal that I hold for our First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities- understanding and acceptance.

My trip was a great success for not only the school division but for me personally as well. I am grateful for our hosts in Bogota, for their patience with this unilingual person, for their commitment and desire to bring Colombia to our division and most of all for their friendship. I look forward to the continued partnerships with our local school divisions, our foray into the international school market and further trips to Latin America! Ciao!

3 comments

  1. Sandra Dufresne

    It’s exciting to be moving into this arena for all the reasons you mentioned, Chris. International students will be a great addition to our division!

  2. Jordan Groves

    My family has had the opportunity to invite a few exchange students form Brazil over for Christmas Eve dinner on a couple of occasions. The stories and cultural awareness that is shared -even over a single Christmas dinner- are both educational and interesting. I can only imagine how our student’s local perspectives may shift upon developing friendships with visiting learners.

  3. Aurora Bello

    So glad to hear this initiative is moving forward. One of the best gifts that I received while growing up was the opportunity to attend school in a different country! It not only helped me improve my language skills but it made me more understanding towards different cultures and more appreciative of my own. I hope this is only the beginning of a potential exchange program for students from around the globe!

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