It is the end of the semester, though finals still need to be completed.

It might seem logical that I would have some profound cross-cultural insights after a semester teaching here, but I think it is more interesting that the experience has highlighted how universal higher education is at a basic level, at least in an English-speaking, American history, university course setting. Teaching here has been different in many ways, of course, but not jarringly so. It has been quite a good experience, that much is certain.

My classes were not profoundly different from my classes back home in feel, though the approach and topics were certainly different. The students share much with American students, including a belief that I assign too much reading! Actually, here I plead guilty to that, and midway through the semester I did scale things back a bit. Fluency in English is one thing, the ability to aborb many pages of dense theoretical stuff is another.

Certainly, as I had been told before coming here, the students are slightly less likely to speak in class. Perhaps it was a function of teaching to a self-selective group of bright students, and that my classes were very small, but in my classes this was not the case all the time. I felt like we had some good discussions.

The big difference (as I have discussed here before and so won't detail again) is the contextual one. Despite their very impressive command of English, the students here do not have a well developed (or any) American cultural literacy. This means they have little sense of American regional differences, cultural norms, varieties of religious expression, politics, prejudices, lifestyles, or the basic tenor of American life. It made teaching a challenge for the obvious reason that it was necessary to draw comprehensive pictures at unexpected moments. But that has been the fun part so far, hopefully it was successful.

In the spring, I am teaching two different classes focused on the multiple international involvement of the US (one history class on "the US and the world" and one graduate class in International Studies on American foreign relations), so that should be interesting to see how those classes unfold.


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