Lille Catholic University, Lille, France

Winter Institute for International Communication
January 2001-present

Situation

After giving its undergraduate students in agricultural and food science the opportunity to live and work abroad for five months, the Institut Supérieur d’Agriculture (ISA) at the prestigious Lille Catholic University offers returning students the opportunity to participate in a five-day reentry course during the Winter Institute for Intercultural Communication. For most students, their time abroad is not only an introduction to a different way of life, it’s often their first real work experience. Says Pascal Codron, Managing Director of ISA, “Nowadays, we cannot imagine graduate studies without an international dimension because our companies are in competition with all the other companies around the world.”

The purpose of the Winter Institute is to help students examine and analyze their experiences to solidify all that they learned in their time away and work to apply it to their next two years of school and, ultimately, their careers. Continues Codron, “The intensive week focused on intercultural communication is important for our students to derive the maximum benefit from their experience.”

The Approach

For the past six years, Ann Marie Lei has been invited by the university to design and facilitate one of the reentry courses, teaching students about U.S. American culture, working effectively with U.S. Americans, and understanding relevant similarities between French and U.S. American cultures. She used tools such as the Cultural Detective, and her course’s topics include core cultural values, communication styles, business relationships, teamwork, decision making, business meetings, and leadership styles—in short, everything students might need to know to work with or successfully integrate into a U.S. American organization. Throughout the week, students listen to lectures, analyze case studies, hold group discussions, watch and study video clips, and prepare written assignments. The week ends with student teams working together to prepare for and simulate a job interview with a relevant U.S. American company.

The Results

Faculty members as well as students appreciate Ann Marie’s professional and educational background and her ability to impart current U.S. perspectives, trends in U.S. corporate thinking, the focus of corporate recruiters, and corporate U.S. newsmakers and the values they embrace.

“Ann Marie’s unique blend of teaching styles incorporates experiential and theoretical elements,” says Nick Rackam, Head of Languages at ISA. “These, coupled with her thorough understanding of U.S. American culture and her international experience, provide the perfect fit for this program.”

Yet students derive far more from their participation in the course than exposure to the United States. “One of the most interesting discoveries students make during the course is that, to understand the behavior and motivations of others, they first need to have a clear understanding of their own cultural values and motivations,” says Grant Douglas, Head of International Relations at HEI, an engineering school within Lille Catholic University.

University students consistently react positively to the Winter Institute course. “It’s not just that they get to eat popcorn and drink Coke in class,” concludes Douglas. “The students benefit from Ann Marie’s stimulating insight into what it is that continues to make the United States and the ‘American Dream’ such an irresistible draw to many French undergraduates.”