Faculty-Led 360: Guide to Successful Study Abroad by Melanie McCallon and Bill Holmes is the complete guide to developing, marketing, and leading study abroad programs. If you are a faculty member interested in education abroad programming, or starting a study abroad office at your college or university, this is the one book that will help you get there.
Chapter One: Why Should I Do This?
Why do we take students abroad? Why should we take students abroad? Really, why should we? Why should universities support study abroad staff, insert international education into mission statements and strategic goals, and promote the idea of global citizenship? Why should faculty consider getting on a plane with 10 (or 50) students to teach a course abroad? What can students learn abroad that they can’t learn at home? It’s not hard to find a faculty leader who has been dealt a challenging program abroad—one fraught with lost luggage, delayed flights, and ill students. So, then, why keep going? Many of us have pondered these very questions and come back with the same answer: the reward is far greater than the sacrifice.
Assuming you have picked up this book, you probably don’t need to be convinced of why you should lead a study abroad program, but instead need some guidance on how. Spending time, then, convincing you to lead a study abroad program is beside the point. You have likely gone through the preliminary questions of why study abroad is important, why you should take students abroad, how to work it around your personal and family life, and how to take on the added professional responsibilities of leading a faculty-led program with or without support from your institution. However, it may not have occurred to you how leading study abroad programs can advance your career, profession, department, university, and individual students—hence, the reason for this chapter.
1.1 Study Abroad Challenges you as a Teacher
Teaching on a study abroad program develops your ability to be innovative and creative. Striking a balance between the academics of the structured classroom and the academics of experiential learning can be challenging, but worthwhile. On the home campus, you have your classroom. When you are abroad, you have the entire city, culture, people, and more. Whether or not you have actual meeting space, you are forced to think outside the box when formulating the next ‘lecture.’ The city becomes the classroom and you recognize teachable moments throughout the program. The experiential component of learning allows your students to have their hands on the culture and learn from a fresh perspective. Sitting in a US classroom looking at slides of Monet’s work is hardly the same as strolling through the Musee D’Orsay to see the real thing.
For the professor who is accustomed to classroom lecture, however, the study abroad format can be difficult to manage. How do you teach your students everything they need to know when so much time is spent on activities and excursions? Do you need to lecture for three hours each day beforehand? Well, do you? Think about it. How can you reconfigure your course, your syllabus, and even your teaching style to match what can be learned on-site without an accompanying lecture? What alternative learning can take place to augment your syllabus and traditional text?
Faculty-led study abroad is about challenging yourself to explore new teaching methods and learning styles. Not to worry, students participating in your program will find plenty of ways to discover and learn, and you will find yourself growing, too. You are with your students daily; you have greater flexibility to teach throughout the experience, and the group will read what you have assigned before they even get on the plane. In short, your students will step up to the plate to learn the material and will get more than a textbook out of your class.
|There is nothing like being there…light bulbs turning on in students’ heads, and fireworks going off, when their academics and experience converge.|
Continual inner-processing is vital to the study abroad experience. When teaching abroad, it becomes your responsibility to coach students through the ‘weird’ and into the ‘a-ha.’ You are challenged as the faculty leader to help students reflect on and compare the many differences they experience, but not necessarily to be a know-it-all. Admit what you do not know and commit to discovering together with your students. They will enjoy seeing your a-ha moments as much as you will enjoy seeing theirs…