Myles addresses issues of cultural competency

On Monday, Mount Allison University hosted Wayne Myles, director of Queen’s University’s International Centre, who gave a talk focused on how to broaden the internationalism of Canadian university campuses. 

Having been in the field for over forty years, and having spent eight years studying abroad, Myles has had the chance to witness the evolution of studying internationally, be it through the increasing numbers of international students that now attend Canadian universities or Canadian students leaving to study abroad. 

Myles said that a campus’ level of internationalism is currently measured in terms of “output”: that is, the number of international students the campus is hosting and the number of bilateral agreements existing with other universities for exchanges. He argued that this narrow understanding of cross-cultural exchange tends to distort our conception of true internationalism. 

He stressed that simply “encouraging cross-cultural contact is not very valuable in itself,” as the process needs to be “guided” to ensure that domestic and international students are “appropriately prepared” for intercultural interaction.  

Without a coherent strategy for internationalization, cross-cultural contact on campus may have the unintended effect of “reinforcing stereotypes,” Myles said. He noted that international students often end up socially segregated, and that many domestic students are reluctant to engage with their fellow students from abroad.

Myles argued that the primary reason for increasing recruitment of international students is the high fees those students pay. 

He said that universities need to “bring in more money that will be put towards academics in order to compensate for reductions in government funding.” While he noted that government and universities are never so frank about the motivation behind international recruitment, it has led to a neglect of important services to facilitate intercultural understanding on Canadian campuses. 

“I think we see internationalization as icing on the cake,” he said.

He suggested that “at least some of this money should be put towards international education” in order to build “intercultural sensitivity.” Myles argued this is important not only to help international students navigate the dominant culture, but to help domestic students engage with their international peers.

Mt. A’s Manager of International Affairs, Adam Christie, was enthusiastic about the presentation.

“The thing that really resonated with me was his view that there’s a difference between international education and intercultural education,” Christie said, noting that while participation in international education, such as exchanges, may be limited, intercultural education is available to everyone.

Christie agreed with Myles that there is a gap to be bridged between domestic and international student populations, and said that while diversity is a “point of pride” for the university, the ongoing challenge for Mt. A’s international centre is “How do we connect our diverse student body with those students who haven’t had an opportunity to experience that diversity firsthand?”

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