Promoting intercultural understanding

September 21, 2012
Raina Delisle
Julie Nolin

When the lights went out at World Media Academy in Delhi, Canadian instructor Julie Nolin figured she’d have to cancel class. The only light came from the glow of the students’ laptops. The temperature in the classroom hovered around 40 C. But the students didn’t want to go home.

“No Julie ma’am, we will stay,” the students said. “We want to learn.”

“That hunger to learn was so awesome,” recalls Nolin, a graduate of the MA in Intercultural and International Communication (MAIIC). “They’re so used to adversity. I’m in awe of them as a teacher.”

Nolin was working in India from February to May 2012 as part of a professional development placement through the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), where she’s a tenured faculty member teaching broadcasting, writing and intercultural and business communication. At the World Media Academy, the only international TV and digital media journalism school in India, Nolin assisted in the development of journalism and media curriculum and acted as a TV trainer/executive producer for weekly productions. Nolin, an award-winning journalist and former TV news anchor, says she went to India as a teacher and a student.

“My students taught me so much about teaching people from high-context cultures and how different their learning is compared to what we do in the West,” says Nolin, adding that students in India are not used to having a teacher sit down with them one on one.

Nolin notes that she also learned about a different way of doing journalism in India. For example, in Canada, the media is careful not to convict people who are facing criminal charges and newsrooms will debate showing images of crime scenes. In India, critical thinking around these judgments does not always happen. Nolin says understanding intercultural differences is essential for today’s journalists working in multicultural Canada; they need to understand how different cultures respond to interviews and news coverage, and how they view the role of the media.

Soon after returning home to Vancouver, Nolin was off on another international teaching and learning adventure, this time to Europe. She was one of five BCIT faculty members leading 27 students from BCIT, Royal Roads, Capilano College and Northern Alberta Institute of Technology to Germany, Poland, Ukraine and the Czech Republic. On the month-long journey, Nolin taught the students intercultural communication, an area of specialization she has carved out for herself at BCIT since joining the institution in 2010, the same year she graduated from RRU. Nolin says her experience at Royal Roads opened her eyes to the importance of intercultural and international communication and she is now sharing much of what she learned as a student with her students.

“I thought my world was open, but when I went to Royal Roads, I realized just how much more there is out there to learn, especially about international and intercultural communications,” says Nolin, who had the opportunity to guest lecture on western journalism at Shandong Normal University in Jinan, China, as part of her RRU residency. “This has changed my life having done this degree. I’m incredibly fortunate and thankful that I did this program at Royal Roads.”

“Julie is really engaged in learning, research and transferring what she obtained in the program to her work,” says School of Communication and Culture Prof. Zhenyi Li. “She achieved a lot during her study with us at Royal Roads and continues to contribute to the field of intercultural and international communication. Her work is not only benefitting the students at BCIT or in India, but the whole campus, her colleagues and the local community.”