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Business Communications Gone International - Welcome to the New Normal

November 20, 2017

Barbara Askinas is an adjunct professor in Drexel's College of Arts and Sciences. When not teaching on campus, she works as Vice President of Magnum Group, Inc., a global, multilingual communications company that helps you engage with your audience in any language - in print, video and on the web. Recently, she connected her two professions by bringing Project Managers from Magnum Group, each with a distinct journey from their homeland to America, into her Business Communication class.

Fouad, a Syrian refugee who fled to Thailand after his house in Syria was bombed, and Inga, who won a Diversity Visa Lottery to come to the United States from Latvia, shared their respective experiences arriving here and adjusting to American culture.

And so began a high energy conversation on communicating across cultures that brought key principles to life. To be a valued partner who helps clients achieve their goals: be curious, act respectfully, observe closely, listen patiently, and ask thoughtful questions.

Beyond learning about the way we do things in this country, Fouad also talked about his transition to life in Thailand. He explained,"People in Thailand want to laugh more than they want to argue or complain. They prefer to distance themselves from anything that brings sadness. Therefore, you should be always smiling even in sad or awkward situations. You instantly feel good around Thai people and drop your guard because you feel their acceptance, warmth and love."

Inga shared her love for the United States, and the additional free time now that her 60 hour work week in Latvia has been replaced by our standard 40 hours. She often fills this with hiking and travel, and after one adventurous weekend returned with a story about a bear on the trail - pictures included. Inga went on to say: "I don't always have the same movie or music references, so it can be frustrating to play Quizzo. When I was growing up, most TV shows and movies were from Russia."

The discussion clearly had a big impact on the students:

  • "The meeting with [Barbara's] colleagues Inga and Fouad was certainly a memorable experience; I learned a lot about Syria in particular and how different our American work culture is than that of their home countries... Not only did they come with a lot to speak about, they came with interesting facts we never would have known had they not come to speak to us. All in all it was a great learning experience and a fun way to compare European, American, and Middle Eastern cultures." (Noah Henderson)
  • "I enjoyed it when Inga and Fouad came; they shared a lot of interesting stories about adapting in this country. One thing that impressed me was that even though they went through tough times, they managed to end up where they are today." (Jonas Newschaffer)
  • "Our informal conversation with Inga and Fouad was lovely, interesting, and insightful. I gained useful knowledge on how to communicate with people from different countries. For example, understanding your client's culture and customs builds a strong bond." (Ousman Joof)

Throughout the Business Communication course, Professor Askinas stresses the importance of focused attention. "While some students have international experience through Drexel, and some are from other countries, we each have a unique story and it informs how we relate to the world around us. With 24/7 global connectivity and change at the speed of thought, unless we take the time to understand and respect the needs and values of others, our chance for success is limited."

Professor Askinas hopes these conversations help her students appreciate the importance of bridging communication across cultures - and inspire them to communicate simply and clearly on co-op and in their future careers.