As an International Scholar, How Can I Develop My Communication Skills?

January 12, 2023
As an International Scholar, How Can I Develop My Communication Skills?

We have been working with international PhD students and scholars this year through a variety of seminars, workshops, and other learning opportunities offered by our Professional Communication Program for International Teachers and Scholars. Read on to learn more about how you can engage with the Bok Center throughout the year and learn more about our offerings this spring!

The Bok Center offers programs and resources on teaching and communication for all instructors in the FAS. As part of this portfolio, we have offerings designed specifically for international PhD students who speak English as an additional language, including interactive seminars, asynchronous self-study programs and online resources, discussion groups, and individual consultations. If you are an international PhD student, we hope you will adapt these resources to your schedule and individual goals, whether you would like to develop your English-language proficiency, intercultural communication, or teaching skills. 

Venn diagram with 3 overlapping circles representing the skill areas for Classroom Communication Skills: Language, Teaching, and Culture.

More specifically, these lenses of language, teaching, and culture encompass specific skill areas which we use to guide students in understanding key components of communication, setting goals, and determining which resources to prioritize.

Language: listening comprehension, fluency, vocabulary, stress and intonation, pronunciation, grammatical accuracy, structure and coherence

Teaching: organization, presentation skills, active learning, building rapport, handling questions, leading discussions, managing office hours

Culture: sociolinguistic competence, nonverbal communication, academic and professional communication norms, small talk, giving and receiving feedback, participating in classes

Our team of undergraduate Culture and Communication Consultants (CCCs) are integral to our programming. CCCs build community between graduate and undergraduate students through their work as course assistants in Bok Seminars, language partners with individual graduate students, and facilitators of the Discussion Group for International PhD Students and Coffee Chats. Learn more about our CCCs through other news stories about their work: Learning Together: Spotlight on Culture and Communication Consultants; Moving Online, Not Apart: Culture and Communication Consultants Engage with International TFs.

Many PhD students first connect with us in the summer before they start their graduate programs. They may access our Professional Communication for International Scholars Canvas Resource site, attend the  GSAS Welcomes: International Summer Institute, or schedule interviews for the GSAS Oral English Proficiency Requirement. These summer resources are designed to flow into our term-time programming.

This fall, we offered two seminars, Enhancing Fluency: Speaking and Listening for International TFs and Intercultural Communication Skills for International PhD Students; a Discussion Group for International PhD Students; drop-in conversation practice with the CCCs at our Coffee Chats; weekly Bok Office Hours at the Science and Engineering Complex (SEC) in Allston; online resources including subscriptions to Blue Canoe Learning, a pronunciation practice software; and three self-study programs that include practice and periodic instructor feedback.

Students in our programming consistently appreciate working with the undergraduate CCCs, as well as having the opportunity to practice and get feedback on their communication skills. Highlights from our seminar feedback this fall include:

“The Bok Seminar I took taught me various strategies of English speaking in different situations. It included almost every possible circumstance of English speaking, and the impressive topics for me were descriptive speaking, three mini-talks, and summarizing. I think I have improved my impromptu speaking skills. I was able to expand my frequently used vocabulary, as well as topics for small talk.”
“The most impressive part that I learned is the small talk. This is because before I came here, I never made small talk in English. However, small talk is an important aspect of American life. It can easily connect two people together, and also is a way to show respect to other people. It helps me a lot everyday.”

This spring, we will be offering our flagship, 12-week seminar, Classroom Communication Skills for International Teaching Fellows as well as Public Speaking for International Teachers and Scholars. Learn more and register for Bok Seminars here. If you are looking for a less formal option, our Discussion Group for International PhD Students will be kicking off in early February! You can register here to get more information when the schedule has been finalized. We will continue to offer our online resources as well as Coffee Chats and drop-in hours at the SEC. As the semester progresses, check our Events Calendar for opportunities to connect with us.

With so many resources available, it can be challenging to know where to start. Don’t hesitate to schedule a communication consultation to consider your strengths and areas to improve as a communicator, connect with resources, or make a professional development plan. Schedule a Consultation.