Canada is one of several countries that welcomes international students. However, for the most part these students must take their education in a second language. Northwest has followed a different approach – we offer our Canadian graduate degree programs in the Korean language. Few institutions in Canada do this.
Several reasons have guided this decision. First, we do not want language barriers to restrict deserving, qualified individuals from achieving their personal, educational goals, and thus fulfilling part of God’s plan for them. Second, stewardship of time and other resources are at stake. If individuals have to devote two years to gain proficiency in the English-language before they are eligible to be admitted to graduate programs, then most individuals lack the resources to do it. As a result they are denied the opportunity to enhance their leadership capacities. Thirdly, our focus in our programs is on developing global Christian leaders. We believe it is important for them to live cross-culturally in order to receive more than a theoretical appreciation for the demands of such leadership. However, if language competence prevents them from learning cross-culturally, then the educational objectives of the program cannot be achieved.
Our students face significant challenges when they decide to participate in our Korean language programs. Relocating themselves and their families creates many stresses. Finding affordable housing in Metropolitan Vancouver as you know is never easy. Learning the transportation system and arranging for things such as health insurance become additional hurdles. And then finding a community in which they can make new friends and develop social relationships is an entirely different need. Fortunately there are numerous Korean faith communities that demonstrate generous hospitality. Culture-shock is real and sometimes the student (or at times their spouse) struggles to acclimatize themselves to Canadian realities.
Learning the culture of Canadian higher education and how it differs from Korean educational practices requires considerable energy. Shifting from an educational culture that tends to honour what respected teachers say and write, to one in which honouring such teachers gets expressed through critical questioning and discussion, represents a huge learning curve. This affects, for example, the way assignments are researched and written, particularly how data gets incorporated. In the Doctor of Ministry program candidates have to prepare significant, well-researched writing projects to complete their degree. You can imagine how difficult it is for individuals not only to do their research but then present it in ways that conform to the expectations of a very different educational culture. When these students finish, their degrees are well-earned and well-deserved. Please pray for them, as they prepare themselves to lead congregations and Christian organizations around the world.