Public speaking is a significant skill to master in order to succeed professionally. Remote working and learning have only highlighted its importance.
To continue to hone their public speaking chops during the COVID-19 pandemic, international students in FIU's Global First Year program who are enrolled in Public Speaking (SPC 2608) are meeting from more than 17 countries across the globe — Jamaica, Vietnam, Russia, Brazil, Nicaragua and Guyana, to name a few. The Global First Year program was created for first-year international students studying at FIU, providing essentials for their academic and professional success.
“Public speaking is a skill they will use every single day for the rest of their lives in different forms,” says Nathan Kurland of the Department of Communication.
Under the instruction of Kurland, four classes with 25 students meet virtually three times a week, for 50-minute intervals between 7 and 10 a.m. EST; for some of the students connecting from their homes, it can be up to 12 hours ahead.
Though many countries that these students call home are in states of civil and social unrest, the course provides a sense of community for the students from varying backgrounds.
“Some of these students are giving presentations from their homes with wars going on outside their windows,” Kurland adds. For example, the now-settled Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the Middle Eastern states of Armenia and Azerbaijan has caused massive divides among the people. Yet, in the virtual classroom, students from both Armenia and Azerbaijan are able to learn and grow together.
At the beginning of each class, Kurland takes a few minutes to share some of his life experiences, while giving students the opportunity to express how they’re doing. For Kurland, this course is more than a prerequisite for their degrees, but also access to the development of a lifelong skill —effective communication. At times, there may be language barriers as English is not some of the students’ first language. However, this has enabled students such as Lauren Bonilla, to enjoy the class all the more.
“I didn't know I liked public speaking before this class,” said Bonilla, a student taking the course from Nicaragua. “As an introverted person, I don't enjoy speaking in front of large audiences, but this class has taught me that I’m actually very good at it.”
For some international students, the transition from high schools in their home countries to American colleges can be difficult. FIU's Global First Year program allows students to make FIU a home away from home with resources tailored to their academic, social and cultural needs.
“We are extremely proud to be able to assist students who desire to stay on track and begin their FIU education during the pandemic,” said Barry Vogel, managing director of the Global First Year program. “Having the ability to accommodate their transitions, both on campus and remotely, has been critical to our being able to support them - despite embassy closures and travel restrictions. [Professor Kurland’s] efforts align perfectly with the Global First Year approach to student learning.”