From differences in language, customs, political beliefs, educational backgrounds and so much more, international educators bring a wealth of knowledge to students in the classroom. Here at MSU, our professors aren’t lacking in experience abroad either. We at ing Magazine sat down with Eunah Snyder to learn more about how her international background shaped her students’ experience.
Originally from South Korea, Eunah Snyder taught English 130: Film and Society, From Narrative and Affect in Contemporary Global Cinema. While earning her Ph.D. in English at MSU, Snyder saw the large school as an opportunity to grow her understanding and appreciation of distinct cultures.
“Seeing me, who sometimes doesn’t speak perfect English and has an accent, and not having perfect uses for articles or prepositions — I can still publish and teach and work with students,” Snyder said. “I can encourage students; I can encourage the minority students in my classes.”
“For my teaching style, I tried to make it as interactive and inclusive as much as I could since we often dealt with controversial and sensitive topics in class,” Snyder said. “I tried to be friendly: walked around and spoke to students, often to the students who sat in the very back of the classroom. I always brought in-class writings and I would ask questions about texts, either literature or films. They would also give me questions, which I would answer in the next lecture.”
“I sometimes would talk about myself in order to give a perspective about how America can be seen from outside,” Snyder said. “I would make comparisons about a lot of social issues in America in comparison to Asian cultures, especially South Korea.”
With specific examples of those comparisons including differences in media reporting, gender or racial issues, the educational system and the drinking culture, to name a few.
Snyder always made a point to highlight the real differences U.S. citizens experience compared to others who were born or raised elsewhere. For example, Americans have the ability for both men and women to study at colleges, start their own businesses, practice different religions and vote for public officials.
“Often times students don’t realize how much the structure of America is different to other countries,” Snyder said. “The level of privilege is different. What we can do, they don’t always realize it. I tried to show the differences in cultures from different countries for them to compare their lives here, in relation.”
One of the biggest differences between South Korea and America, according to Snyder, is the educational system.
“It is true that a lot of Korean colleges adopt American school systems,” Snyder said. “In South Korea, it’s a very small country, and it’s centered around Seoul. All the universities are in Seoul and everyone just wants to go to Seoul for college or their job. We don’t have this concept of ‘state’ or ‘small towns’ in states. We just want to go to Seoul.
She also reflected on learning about the U.S. from watching shows such as “Sex and the City”, and believing that the scope of America was the city life, not rural towns.
“In Seoul, during college, everything is for students to get a job,” Snyder said. “It’s the same way here, in different ways, however the pressure is different from America. The pressure is on getting the grade here, but there are a lot of discussion classes and critical thinking and creative writing courses at MSU. It’s more limited in Seoul, it’s more about getting better grades and getting better scores on exams.”
But while Snyder saw differences, she also saw similarities in how international students are welcomed into MSU as they are in colleges in Seoul.
“It creates a kind of positive energy to have different cultures at MSU.”