M1 Reflection (A letter to incoming students of 2017/2018): Lennart Lock

Dear incoming students,

As an M1 candidate in the 2016/2017 cohort, PHIN asked me to share some of my thoughts on student life at EHESP. Let me start by congratulating the new M1 student with being accepted, and welcome you and the new M2 students to Paris.

The admission committee at EHESP spends a lot of time building the M1 class. This is reflected in the warm welcome given in Rennes, and by the diversity among the students. With different nationalities, work experience, cultural-, religious- and academic backgrounds, the students complement each other far beyond what is possible to integrate into a curriculum. In my opinion, this is one of the strongest aspects of this course and the main motivation for me to study at the school. I was looking for new perspectives and a broader world view.

With limited exposure to an international work environment, I anticipated that the other students would be very different from me. To my surprise, I discovered early on how similar we were in many aspects. For example, most of us share a profound calling to improve health and health equity, whether in our home countries or on a global scale. But I also discovered how cultural codes of conduct represented a challenge in the classroom and group work. This manifested itself in geographic lines in the degree students participated and contributed to discussions and critical reflections.

I have given this a lot of thought during my time at EHESP and discussed the topic with peers. In addition to culture and differences in personality, the language barrier came up as the main explanation. Several students with a mother tongue other than English told me they felt self-conscious about their language proficiency, inhibiting participation. They also told me that they felt some native English speakers were impatient when they spoke up, a fact confirmed by an American peer in one conversation.

The reason why I have been preoccupied with this and am addressing it now is that I believe it leads to missed opportunities to learn from each other, to challenge assumptions and in turn be challenged. I believe this affected learning experience negatively in my cohort, leaving us less prepared to work in the diversified and global field of public health.

This is an international course, so English proficiency will naturally vary. There is little to be done with personality and cultural codes of conduct – these are inherent in how we interact in class and in group work. But the way EHESP organizes the course gives you the opportunity to challenge your own inhabitations in the classroom. However, this calls for mutual understanding and respect for diversity.

I encourage you to give this some thought yourself now that you are about to start your studies at EHESP. I wish you the best of luck with your studies, and hope you will have a fun, inclusive and rewarding learning experience.

Lennart Lock from Norway

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