[narrator] Dr. Eddie Miene, Associate Professor of Strategic & Security Studies and Executive Director of the Strategic Studies Program, is meeting today via virtual video conference with Maria Bortolucci, Shannon Di Virgillio and Thomas Vella, the three members of our #PSIAfamily who participated in the initial semester of our online exchange program with Massey University of New Zealand. Let’s listen in as they discuss their experiences as they approach the final third of the course.
[Dr. Miene] To begin, why did you choose to participate in this program? In other words, what drove your decision to add a course from New Zealand to your plan of study this semester?
[Maria] The main reason why I wanted to take this course was because it’s just a completely different culture and I really wanted to getting, to get in touch with the students from the course, to get to know the culture from New Zealand and things like that, and just see a new perspective on intelligence and security.
[Thomas] I decided to take this course because I thought it would be very valuable to have a different perspective on intelligence and national security. Most of my courses in Strategic Studies focuses from a US perspective or just a general international perspective. I really want to see the perspective of a very different country. New Zealand is a maritime country. It’s an island. It’s in a different region…Southeast Asia. And I just thought it would be invaluable to see how they view national security and intelligence.
[Dr. Miene] Have the past weeks met your expectations, would you say?
[Shannon] I thought I was going to be doing a lot of reading and not doing, like, the videos, lectures that he has, so, it went past my expectations. I like having a lecture and I thought we’d do more discussion like UNG does. But we really didn’t. So instead we each did a group chat to discuss stuff instead.
[Maria] So I would say that, let me compare to what I was expecting and then what I, what I actually got. I was expecting to have a lot of discussion with the New Zealand students. I did not have that because UNG online courses usually have the discussion piece, and the New Zealand course does not have the discussion piece. And I thought that I wasn’t going to like that, that I was, like, oh, but, where’s the contact with the culture that I was expecting? But it was actually pretty good. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but it was, it was good in a different way. It wasn’t necessarily bad.
[Thomas] I was also expecting a little more contact with the students. There isn’t too much. It’s mostly just between you and the professor. Which is a little disappointing. But it still works out because the professor’s, I think, very good. His lectures are very well done, and they’re very intriguing and they capture your attention.
[Dr. Miene] Would you say that you encountered any surprises — good or bad?
[Shannon] He, he put the podcasts on, like, what we should be, like, reading and listening. ‘Cause, haven’t had a professor put podcasts as, like, required reading or listening. And I find that, because like when I’m driving, I can listen to them in the car so I’m learning more.
[Thomas] One thing I wasn’t expecting is there’s actually a surprisingly large amount of focus on, like, US national security and intelligence alongside the New Zealand. And I thought that was really interesting. I was kind of expecting, like, a pure focus on New Zealand. But it’s really, like, New Zealand and the United States.
[Shannon] Grading policy. You can make a “50” and make a “C” still, which I find really weird. Other than that, just the grading policy is the weirdest thing I think.
[Thomas] One thing that students should definitely look out for is, it’s a very different writing style. And you’re probably going to have to adapt. The way we write security and intelligence papers at UNG doesn’t completely translate over. So you just have to be really careful about looking over some of the examples they provide and how they write.
[Dr. Miene] Would you say that your classmates recognize that you were American students, and would you say that they accepted you readily as American students? Was it, was it something you could determine?
[Shannon] I don’t think they know we’re American. I haven’t had a contact with any other classmates other than these two.
[Thomas] And I haven’t really had any contact with any of the students. I don’t think they know that I’m American or not American.
[Maria] There is an initial forum that you introduce yourself. So I went there and I said, “I’m a student, I’m studying in the US, but I’m Brazilian. So I’m all over the place. And that’s really fun.”
[Thomas] I thought it was most valuable was professor’s feedback and his comments. Not only does he provide a lot of feedback on, like, the essays you have to turn in. When he does his lectures he always has, you know, lots of readings and it pulls from readings and articles. And he has his own feedback on them. And, like, follow-up questions that, you know, prod, like, a lot of complex ideas and thinking. I just think it’s really valuable in how it, like, kinda forces the students to, to think in a complex and critical manner.
[Maria] I think the most valuable thing was the, the fact that the professor posted the lectures for us to watch. And it’s always, like, we can pause and you can listen to it, you can finish it another time. You have the slides there for you to see right in front of you. And along with that he also posts the notes. So there’s like the slide and then some lines for you to write on. So it’s very, very organized. And I love the examples that he gives. Just the fact that he’s posting the lecture…I just loved that. I thought it was really surprising and very valuable.
[Dr. Miene] Do you have anything to pass on to other UNG students contemplating participating in the program in future Spring semesters?
[Maria] I would say that it’s a very, valuable, very great experience to have, even though you’re not going to have the direct contact with the students you still have a lot of examples that compare New Zealand.
[Shannon] I would just tell them to apply and if they get accepted talk to the professor about his writing style, because his writing style compared to every other professor I have is really different.
[Thomas] I would also recommend to UNG students who are applying and who get accepted into the program, that even though it’s online, and even though, you have, you know, thousands of miles in between and different time zones, that you should really reach out to the professor and make sure that even though it is an online course that you stay in contact with him. You know, send him emails, ask him questions, and just remain in contact.
[Maria] Even though the grading is a little different, and the time zone is a little different, it’s, it’s just a learning experience. It’s really good.
[Dr. Miene] The three students you’ve just heard from have described a wonderful opportunity to study and interact with students and faculty much different than the UNG norm.
If you too would like the opportunity to #experiencemore, check out the Political Science & International Affairs homepage for detailed information about the UNG-Massey University exchange program and apply today.