'A very valuable exchange'
The title of Thomas Wolfe’s novel You Can’t Go Home Again has become something of a cliché. But for two professors who left their native lands to pursue academic careers at Concordia, this common phrase couldn’t be less applicable.
Each summer, Miriam Díaz and Lian Duan — faculty members in the Department of Classics, Modern Languages and Linguistics — lead groups of approximately 20 students to their respective homelands of Spain and China for eight weeks of educational and cultural immersion.
Offered through Concordia International, the Field Schools program allows Concordians to learn a new language and gain an awareness of another culture. For Díaz, Duan and their colleagues, the journey comes with many professional advantages.
Díaz, who’s from the Basque region of Spain, first organized the “Concordia in Spain” program three years ago. Her own undergraduate experience abroad inspired her to shepherd students to the Pontifical University of Salamanca.
“I was an English major when I was in university in Spain,” she says. “I was lucky enough to do a year of my studies in the United Kingdom, and the experience was life-changing.”
When she’s in Salamanca with the field school, Díaz doesn’t teach classes: she acts as a facilitator for Concordia students, in collaboration with faculty and staff at the sister university. It’s a job with more than a few benefits.
“I get to learn a lot about the European teaching model and cross-cultural pedagogy,” says Díaz. “I have brought numerous ideas back to my classrooms at Concordia. It’s a very valuable exchange between me, the faculty and students at Pontificia. ”Plus spending two months in the city that gave birth to one of the first universities in Europe is priceless when it comes to accessing rare research materials.”
“Beijing is very different from Montreal”
Duan, meanwhile, is in his 9th year of leading the “Concordia in China” program. In his department, he is affectionately known as “the Nanny.”
“Beijing is different place from Montreal, and for many of the students, there is a huge adjustment,” says Duan. “Some of them get sick at some point or run into challenges due to cultural and language barriers. My job is to help them through these difficulties and ensure they have a great experience while in China.”
The gig definitely has its rewards. “I connect with students on levels I simply do not while teaching in Canada,” he says.
Leading a field school enhances Duan’s ability to teach about a culture in rapid flux. “The China I left 25 years ago is completely different on just about every level. Every time I go back, I am able to see how the country continues to transform. This is vital if my classes at Concordia are to remain relevant.”
The support that “Concordia in China” and “Concordia in Spain” receive from departments and Concordia International is key to their success. Both take a lot of work to organize. But for Díaz and Duan, the effort is well worth it.
“The exchange of ideas that comes with working abroad and the connections I make with students are invaluable to my career,” says Díaz. “I would highly recommend that other faculty members take on this challenge.”
Interested in leading a field school? Contact Concordia International’s director Andrew Lang.
Learn more about “Concordia in China” and “Concordia in Spain.”