In spite of extensive promotion and repeated inclusion of Study Abroad as a priority in university goals, there seems to be a certain level of contradiction at work. We want students to study abroad, because of the great value it provides academically, personally, professionally, but we don’t think it’s important enough to be included in undergraduate degree requirements.
When messages are mixed, they don’t work well. What we need are clear and unified values. When we don’t have this on campus, our study abroad culture may look something like this…
Low Enrollment > Intense Competition among Faculty > Focus primarily on Marketing & Recruitment
Many study abroad programs, particularly faculty-led programs, do not receive an adequate number of students and are cancelled. This is unfortunate because adequate enrollment levels help study abroad to be viewed as a desirable academic and personal pursuit. Generally, the more students participating in a given program, the more cost effective and affordable the program becomes.
Intense Competition among Faculty
It’s understandable that many faculty, slotted to lead study abroad programs, want to do everything they can to get their minimum number of students because they want to see their program go. In doing so, they feel obligated to advocate for students who are on academic and/or disciplinary probation. These efforts diminish the quality of programming.
Time and Resources spent on Marketing & Recruitment
When the struggle is to make Study Abroad a viable and affordable academic alternative (an hors d’oeuvre instead of the main course), administration and faculty are unable to give full focus to the central mission of study abroad to foster affordable, high quality international academic opportunities that enable students to develop the knowledge and skills necessary for global leadership.
So what’s the solution?
The solution to ultimately increase the number of students who study abroad is to move study-abroad culture to the broad-based “learning objectives and outcomes” which will set students apart from other college graduates and give them a cutting-edge in today’s competitive job market.
On my campus, I’m proposing we do this by changing the undergraduate degree requirements from A to B. Essentially, I’m advocating that we take Study Abroad out of the hors d’oeuvres section and put it under the main course menu. Doing this will send a powerful and unified message to our current and prospective students.
A. Successfully complete the General Education Requirements detailed in the “General Education” section, including the senior seminar.
B. Successfully complete the General Education Requirements detailed in the “General Education” section, including the Integrative Experience requirement [senior seminar OR study abroad plus STA 4000 (1-0-1)].
If this proposal passes, there is no doubt it will dramatically change our university culture. Every one of our students will have to make a conscious decision about whether to pursue Study Abroad or not. The result may look something like this…
High Enrollment > Increases competition among students (not faculty) > Focus naturally shifts from Quantity to Quality Learning Outcomes
STA 4000, Study Abroad Experience and Project
In conjunction with an approved study abroad program, students will exercise their abilities to think critically about their global education experiences. They will develop, summarize, and synthesize their individualized experience through readings, assignments, a reflective piece for the Electronic Writing Portfolio, an individualized project, and a presentation.
1. Demonstrate functional knowledge of the cultures that surround their study abroad experience, and have a better understanding of their own cultures in the context of the world.
2. Analyze, synthesize, and reflect on the impact of study abroad on their curricular and co-curricular experiences.
Texts & Resources
Study Abroad 101, Study Abroad: How to Get the Most Out of Your Experience, Online Learning GlobalScholar.us (module courses for study abroad) funded by FIPSE
Class 1 Go over Syllabus and Reading Schedule. How to maximize your Study Abroad Experience.
Class 2 How to Design a Study Abroad Project (weekly blog, creative portfolio, research paper, documentary, website, etc.) for your Personal and Career Goals. Group Activity and Discussion.
Class 3 How to write a Reflective Piece for the Electronic Writing Portfolio.
Class 4 Pre-departure Orientation. Project Proposal Due.
Class 5 One-on-One Review/Modification of Project Proposal and Final Approval.
Class 6 Readings from course text. Reflective Assignment.
Class 7 Readings from course text. Reflective Assignment.
Class 8 Readings from course text. Reflective Assignment.
Class 9 Reflective piece for the Electronic Writing Portfolio Due.
Class 10 Progress Report for Study Abroad Project is Due.
Class 11 Review of the study abroad experience. How has it changed me? What goals did I accomplish?
Class 12 Unpacking your Study Abroad Experience for your Life, Resume, and Beyond.
Class 13 Completing Assessment: Watson-Glazer Critical Thinking and Global Citizenship Survey
Class 14 Final Project Due. Final Project Presentations (campus community is invited to attend)
Class 15 Final Project Presentations (campus community is invited to attend)
As participation increases organically, the administration and faculty involved in study abroad will be able to focus less on marketing and recruitment, and more strategically on the academic quality and broad-based learning objectives and outcomes that will set our students apart from other college graduates and give them a cutting-edge in today’s competitive job market.
Submitted by Wendy Williamson, Director of Study Abroad, Eastern Illinois University