Photo by mariachisamurai
During JET, my former college-plans of the rest of my life have all but disappeared. Sure, I still like English Literature, but I found out that I like working with “foreigners” a lot more. I like the feeling of making someone feel comfortable in a new place, with a new language. We hear a lot about TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign language) jobs, since, well, that’s what we do as ALTs, but I really didn’t know what else was out there. I had a little experience working in the field of International Education before coming to JET, so I thought I’d share something about this lesser-known field.
International Education isn’t a new field, but it isn’t particularly well-known one, either. There are 2 main ways that people interpret the field “international education”.
Studying Education Around the World
Some people are really interested in forms of education around the world. What is education like internationally? How does a country’s education affect its population, etc. This may be a practical application of how countries can exchange ideas in education and how can they help each other by doing so. It might also be a more theoretical approach to the same question. This may be of interest to you if you have enjoyed observing the differences in education here in Japan versus at home. Maybe you’ve seen something that can be borrowed from one country and applied in another. If that sounds cool, check out this half of the “International Education” field.
Another way of interpreting “international education” is the way that I’m personally more interested in: People go to another country to become educated. I’m from the United States, so I’ll be using the U.S. as an example. There are 3 basic ways to go about helping people who travel to other countries for education.
Help People Who Come to Your Own Country
A lot of people travel to the United States for a variety of reasons. Most obviously, students come to the United States to learn about English and American culture. They also come to study business and pursue degrees. All of these students need help from a variety of people: ESL teachers, program administrators, people familiar with law involving visas, foreign recruiters, etc.
There are also plenty of people who are not students who need international educators. These might be immigrants or temporary workers in your country. They may simply be visitors. These people may need classes, or they might need someone to simply educate them about the local area that they’re moving to.
Help People from your Country go to Other Countries
Of course, if people are coming to your country, there are also people from your country visiting elsewhere. Most commonly people who work in international education work with sending people to study abroad. There is also a variety of programs that encourage volunteering internationally and working abroad.
Help Advance the Field of International Education
The United States produces graduates with an embarassing lack of knowledge about the rest of the world. Although studying abroad is becoming increasingly common, and students are slowly improving their ability to speak a second language, the U.S. still falls behind many other countries when it comes to international education.
The United States needs to make international education a much higher priority. International education produces individuals who are less fearful of the world because they have a greater understanding of it. The U.S. appears less self-centered, and in an age of rapid internationalization, this is really key. Businesses want to work with people who are understanding of other cultures and can relate to a variety of people. If the business doesn’t have an understanding of new markets, it simply won’t grow.
I’ve studied in Ecuador for 5 months, worked with Japanese exchange students in a variety of capacities, and will have taught English in Japan for 3 years before returning home. Life just happened that way. Because of these experiences, I’m personally drawn towards working with foreign students in America.
If you also have an interest in International Education, I recommend checking out the NAFSA website, which has a wealth of information available (and even more available if you decide to become a member — a fee is involved, though).
The Fulbright Scholar Program is also another interesting possibility to look into if you’re interested in international education and conducting research abroad.