JJC, Dutch Professor Paired for Faculty Exchange Program

A Dutch counseling instructor has a new vision of the profession after spending two weeks shadowing her American counterpart at Joliet Junior College.

Noël Abkadri, of Enschede, Netherlands, with a population of about 185,000 people, was paired with JJC Associate Professor of Counseling Heidi Munsey. The connection came through the Illinois Consortium for International Studies and Programs (ICISP).

Noël Abkadri and Heidi Munsey
From left: Noël Abkadri and Heidi Munsey

“I didn’t know if it was likely that there would be somebody who does counseling and does teaching. I didn’t even know that I’d get matched,” said Munsey. “But I was excited when I found out.”

From Oct. 13 through Oct. 27, Abkadri stayed at Munsey’s home in Morris. The two split time between Munsey’s career and lifestyle planning class and counseling sessions at JJC’s Romeoville and Main campuses, respectively. Outside the classroom, they explored the surrounding sights and culture.

“I was excited. But a bit nervous – you don’t know how the person is in real life. But I think it went well,” said Abkadri. “We had a good first connection.”

Abkadri said the content taught in Munsey’s career and lifestyle planning course is similar to hers back home. The Dutch professor teaches students how to research labor market data as well as employability skills, as does Munsey.

“I think the biggest similarities that the students have is a hard time making a [career] choice. That’s universal at this age,” said Abkadri.

The main difference in the Netherlands, she noted, is the overall education system. Abkadri said in her country it’s structured like a vocational cohort program and tiered based on knowledge and career choice.  There, students can select one of four education tracks, ranging from GED to bachelor’s level equivalents, with varying commitment lengths.   

Abkadri was complementary of various teaching strategies at JJC, including Munsey’s hands-on exercises in the classroom. For Munsey, she’s pleased to learn certain techniques here are also being implemented globally.

“Sometimes I think we look at what we’re doing here and ask if we can do it differently – and maybe some things we should. But it’s also encouraging to know that we’re doing things that make sense, and have value and are needed,” said Munsey.

Abkadri with students
Abkadri visiting with students in Munsey's career
and lifestyle planning course

She was also happy her students had a chance to engage with Abkadri, which aligns with JJC’s core values of cultural enrichment and inclusion.

“I think it was a great opportunity for students to meet someone from a different background, and also see how much is so similar still. I think that creates a lot of mutual respect.”

While Abkadri had previously visited the U.S., this was her first trip to Illinois. Outside the classroom, the two explored popular tourist spots like Chicago’s Cloud Gate, otherwise known as The Bean, and Starved Rock State Park. They also took time to visit Munsey’s family in Michigan, and attend a service at her church. 

Munsey looks forward to visiting Abkadri in Enschede, Netherlands next year to see what lessons she can bring back to JJC.

View photos from Abkadri's two-week stay in the Joliet area

For media inquiries, contact Communications and Media Coordinator Scott Harvey at 815-351-0846 or sharvey@jjc.edu.