In June, Assistant Professor Neill Fitzpatrick taught a condensed version of BCSC 202: Online Communications and Information Architecture, one of his Bachelor of Communication Studies courses, at a university in Guadalajara, Mexico. The opportunity to teach at ITESO came through MacEwan University’s International office, and allowed Neill a chance to connect with students in a new country and learn about their perception of social media.
In our “Where in the World” series, students and faculty members share highlights from this year’s study tours, exchanges, internships and field schools. Talk to a faculty advisor or visit MacEwan.ca/EducationAbroad for opportunities.
On his return, we asked him about teaching in Mexico and what he learned from the experience.
Q. What was the most impactful moment or a highlight of the trip?
When I “connected” with my students as we first realized that, despite being from different countries and cultures, we shared many similarities. We also shared many concerns about the challenges of interpersonal communication in this social media era as well as concerns about the future of journalism in Mexico, Canada and worldwide. Another highlight: the beauty of the ITESO campus – from the gardens and landscaping to the public art installations.
Q. Have you taught a course in another country before?
No. This was a first for me. While I’ve been to Mexico (and Guadalajara) before, this was the first time I’d really met and spent time with the Mexican people. It was a rewarding experience and one I recommend to others.
Q. What was the biggest challenge for you?
The first two weeks of the course were taught by a partner-teacher from ITESO while I was responsible for the second two-week period. While we did collaborate remotely on the structure of the course, it was still challenging to take over in the classroom and ensure there was continuity.
Q. Before leaving for Mexico, you said you wanted to gain a better understanding of how social media is perceived and used in another country/culture — what did you learn?
Mexicans, especially younger Mexicans, are heavily invested in social media. The vast majority of the population uses WhatsApp as their go-to platform, far more than Canadians do. WhatsApp is used constantly throughout the day to share messages, photos and videos. It’s also a news source, as many news organizations in Mexico recognize the power and reach of the platform.
In Canada, WhatsApp is gaining in popularity but isn’t nearly as common as in Mexico and other nations around the world. Still, traditional media remains a major source of information as well, especially newspapers in print form. Guadalajara alone has several daily newspapers that are widely read.
Q. What opportunities did you have to take in cultural sites or activities?
While there were tours of Guadalajara offered, the most rewarding cultural experience was the opportunity to meet and liaise with visiting faculty from around the world. I met teachers from Holland, Spain, Argentina and the United States in a wide variety of disciplines. It was amazing to learn about them and from them and to share our experiences. Interestingly, I was the only representative from Canada.
Q. Would you teach in another country again?
Yes, in a heartbeat. I believe it’s vital to see first-hand how other cultures and countries learn and to understand how they perceive Canada and its issues, challenges and benefits. I learned that ITESO has had an international teaching program for a number of years that involves both teachers and students from other universities. Overall, it was a positive, well-organized experience.
Q. What was the most important thing you learned?
To always strive to learn more about other countries and the people by immersing yourself whenever possible.
Photo supplied by Neill Fitzpatrick.