From teaching abroad to cultural research

Course: MA Intercultural Communication

16 December 2020

Stephen Trinder

As an English teacher in Korea throughout my early twenties, I became increasingly aware of the strong influence of culture on social and institutional practices. The differences between methods of communication and workplace etiquette in Korea in comparison with the UK were very stark, and these encouraged me to look at my own values and behavioural norms.

As I did this, my interest in culture grew, I decided to further my education in the field. During my research for potential course, I was drawn to a Masters programme on offer at ARU called Intercultural Communication. Not only was it suited to my own burgeoning interest in human relations, ARU was one of only a handful of universities in the UK that offered this kind of MA.

I found the originality and forward-thinking nature of that attractive and decided to follow up. I got in touch with course leader at the time, Professor Guido Rings, who painted a very interesting picture of the kind of things the course would offer. I quickly decided this was for me, so I began saving and worked the rest of my contract in Korea before returning to the UK.

I began my studies in September 2011 and immediately learned a lot of fascinating and relevant things, among them, issues in contemporary migration, core aspects of intercultural theory and the impact of the legacy of colonialism on contemporary global relations.

After completing my MA, I returned to Korea to teach English and intercultural communication at Silla University in the port city of Busan. The critical thinking and research skills I cultivated thanks to my MA at ARU were evident in the material I developed for my Intercultural Business Communication and European Society courses, both of which were very popular with students there.

In 2014, I relocated to Abu Dhabi to take up a lectureship position at the Higher Colleges of Technology. Working in the General Studies department, I became the course leader for the Intercultural Studies module. As the individual in charge of curriculum development and content, again, my experiences at ARU shaped an educational philosophy that sought to promote intercultural solidarity and mutual cross-cultural understanding and I have continued to integrate these elements into my teaching ever since.

In conjunction with my role at The Higher Colleges of Technology, I began studying for my PhD, researching the cultural influence of neoliberalism on popular science fiction cinema. Working closely with my former Professor Rings throughout, who was always on hand to provide constructive critical feedback and point me in the right direction despite the geographical distance, I went on to pass my viva in 2018.

Since completing my doctorate, I have adapted my thesis into a monograph and in February 2020, my book Critical Perspectives on Hollywood Science Fiction: A Neoliberal Crisis? was published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing. I have also regularly published in humanities journals on topics of media, culture and society and attended international conferences in Turkey, Istanbul and the UK to present my research.

In September 2020, I collaborated with Professor Rings, co-editing a special issue of the popular Mexico-themed journal i-Mex on the subject of US-Mexican Encounters in Contemporary North American Cinema.

I believe that the ability to develop independent research and writing skills to a professional standard were a result of the education I received from ARU and the confidence that competent and knowledgeable professors at the University expertly instilled into me.