Teresa Barile talks to us about international education, family history, and the Big Apple.
Your family is a classic immigrant success story.
Yes, I’m a second generation Italian-American. Both sets of grandparents immigrated from Italy at the turn of the century and landed at Ellis Island. They managed to raise many children and send them all to school, even in the midst of the Great Depression. As a teenager, my father delivered ice on the Lower East Side of Manhattan to fill ice boxes in tenement buildings. I’m proud to say that my three brothers and I are all well-educated and successful.
You’re an administrator at a language school. What’s that like?
I love my job! I’m the Director of Educational Operations at Rennert International, a language school that helps thousands of international students and professionals achieve their goals by improving their English. I’m responsible for developing Rennert’s academic programs and arts programs and for maintaining our multi-site facilities in midtown Manhattan.
Sounds like your family background influenced your choice of career.
Absolutely! I’ve always been drawn to people from other countries, speaking foreign languages, and learning about other cultures. My grandparents taught themselves English by reading the newspaper. I love to share New York with our international students and see it through their eyes.
Any advice for someone interested in a career in international education?
Travel, travel, travel. My love of travel began some 30 years ago and all that travel really prepared me for this career. When the tables are turned, and you’re the foreigner, that’s when the learning begins and memories are made. I speak a few languages, which is very helpful too.
You interact with international students every day. What’s your most memorable cross-cultural moment?
I am always particularly touched by students’ generosity. When I was a teacher I received many lovely gifts, usually reflections of my students’ cultures such as rice cakes, origami, hand-made trinkets, tea and good luck charms. One of the nicest gifts I received was hand-painted, ancient Chinese calligraphy on rice paper. The student who made it for me signed it with his name and explained the meaning of the words: “The teacher leads the way to your future.”
Any other insights about culture in the workplace?
Keep an open mind and a very open heart. When it comes to culture, there is no “right way” or “wrong way”; it’s just “different”. I feel so blessed to have been touched by so many wonderful people from all over the world.