Professor Wickelgren back in class after China sabbatical

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Professor Wickelgren back in class after China sabbatical

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When Suffolk University communications Professor Bruce Wicklegren learned that  his application to teach in China was approved, he packed his bags and set off for Wenzhou Kean University, where he spent the 2018-2019 academic year teaching Public Speaking classes.

“I thought let’s just apply, but I honestly didn’t think I would get the position,” said Wickelgren in an interview with The Suffolk Journal.

Wickelgren has been immersed in the world of teaching since his twenties, always maintaining an enthusiastic passion for the world of communications.

“There are many countries I’d like to live in. China was one of them, and the job there made it possible, so I took it,” said Wickelgren. He explained that his experience in China was extraordinary for him, both personally and in his professional career.

Wickelgren had the opportunity to experience intercultural interactions as an American in China. His previous experience teaching international students studying in the U.S. made his experience abroad even  more interesting.

Although he does not speak Mandarin, the national language of China, also known as Putonghua, he never felt discouraged from accepting the position.

“I wish I had learned more [Chinese]. I learned the basics, but I was working so hard, and I got sick a couple of times,” said Wickelgren. “They gave Chinese classes to us but they were two-hour blocks, and I just could not concentrate for that long.”

While abroad, Wickelgren also worked on collecting  research with a team of 18 people from the university.

Before he accepted the position, he had been working on research of the same topic with a student in Boston. Once he arrived in China, the university decided to conduct the same study there.

“In Boston, one of my students did a project about online dating, and she talked about something called modality switching, moving from online romance or sex, to face to face. She was looking at this modality switching and how we changed from online to offline, and she conducted research by interviewing people” said Wickelgren.

His research led him and three students to the Czech Republic at the International Association of Intercultural Communication Association conference, where the team presented  their research and received important feedback.

Wickelgren returned to the U.S. in July and has been focused on writing and giving structure to his research, which he will be submitting for review on Monday. Although the process has been tedious, he is hopeful that his research will be  approved for publication.

While reflecting on his experience in China, Wickelgren expressed that he had several memorable experiences. One of his favorite memories was from an excursion with friends and colleagues to the mountain resort area Yangdonshan.

“A group of professors, a Scot and his Chinese girlfriend, a Ukrainian and his wife and a Japanese professor from another university went.” said Wickelgren. “It was beautiful. We stayed in a tourist hotel and explored the area. It was a real learning experience. The mix of cultures was very enlightening.”

His experience provided him with a deeper insight into the challenges international students face when they study abroad.

“[This experience] helped me to understand any international students who are coming in, not just Chinese, but it helped a lot to understand their perspective and struggles,” said Wickelgren.

He explained that traveling and interacting with different cultures can also encourage  people to step outside of their comfort zones and urged more people to travel outside their home countries .

“I think getting out of their comfort zones is important. See how other people live, it teaches you more about your own culture when you see it from other people’s eyes. Sometimes you can think my system is better, as well as this system is better” said Wickelgren.

He will be saying goodbye to his teaching years at Suffolk University next December 2020, since he is currently on his phased-retirement, meaning he will take spring 2019 off and will teach his last semester in fall 2020.

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