Training Students' English Language Proficiency
Training students’ English language proficiency to meet different professional needs is a mission of the Department of English. To reinforce student’s English competence through Work-integrated Education (WIE) programmes, the close links the Department built with reputable overseas institutions have come in very handy.
In the summer of 2009, 70 students from the Department of English were granted the chance to travel abroad to experience their inspiring internships. With its strong academic networks, the Department has partnered with the University of Warwick in England to arrange overseas internship for students since 2002. The British institution offers students an eight –week internship on the campus and helps liaise with different international companies and non-profit groups for internship opportunities.
Other than the immersion programme run by the University of Warwick, students could also choose to take part in similar programmes hosted by South Cross University in Australia and Tsinghua University in Beijing, which last for a month and two weeks respectively. Under the internship programme of the Australian institution, some participants were offered a position on the editorial team of a local newspaper.
During the on-the-job training, students had the chance to rotate in different departments within the campus, gaining a better understanding and obtaining first-hand experience in a different education system. For instance, some were sent to public school working as teaching assistant or helped out in departments with administrative work. They even had a chance to prepare food at the public school’s student canteen.
Part of the students were sent to various companies and non-profit organizations to assist in putting together a range of activities and campaigns. For them, the internships are opportunities to acquire practical knowledge and have a closer look of the daily operation of the organizations they work for.
Dr. David Qian, Associate Professor and Coordinator for Work-Integrated Education at the Department of English and Deputy Director of Research Centre for Professional Communication in English, says, “Every year, we arrange overseas internships for our students to fulfill their WIE requirements and widen their horizons on the other hand. The interactions with native English-speakers will definitely boost students’ confidence to communicate in English in their daily life and the workplace.”
Many people may have the impression that the career options of language studies are limited to the field of education. As a matter of fact, students from the Department, who are equipped with competent English communication skills through academic training and work-integrated education, are capable of exciting in different professions from administrative, to management, customer services and public relations-related work.
Collaborations boost international image
Previous to understanding the internships, students went through various training courses provided by the Department, learning how to put their knowledge into practice. Orientation courses held by the hosting universities were also given to the students to help them have a better understanding of the local culture. Students also had to return to the hosting universities to report and share their experiences throughout the internships. Dr Qian says, following the completion of the internships, the Department of English received from the employers great compliments on students’ initiative and competence.
To the universities, while the collaborations are a sharing and exchange platform and a means to establish closer relationships, they also strengthen their international images.
“We’ve been collaborating with the University of Warwick and the Southern Cross University for years,” says Dr. Qian. “The collaborations which have benefited our students substantially will continue. We will also look for opportunities to work with other institutions worldwide.”