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International Educator Article


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Description of Study Abroad Experience

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International Educator Article

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  2. 2. Abroad I j By Janet Hulstrand I One Size Does Not Fit All Growing numbers of education abroad offices are helping students create their own unique educational experiences overseas. AS ANDREW MASTERS, A STUDENT AT EASTERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY, boarded a plane bound for Bangkok, he couldnt help but notice that he was practically the only Caucasian on the plane. "That was pretty strange; he remem- bers. "But not quite as strange as the plane ride home, when I was surrounded by a sea of white faces for the first time in ten months: Elizabeth Giles, a student at Marlboro and see what happened to me: He began by study- College in Vermont, had a similar sensation ing the Thai language and international relations for when she first arrived for her internship six months at Mahidol University, about 40 minutes I experience in Ghana. "I was the only white outside of Bangkok. After that, he traveled for a few A child named person, the only American, the only universi- weeks in Burma and Indonesia. "Finally I found an Chomoko runs up ty student; she says.And while at first she found this a NGO that owned an orphanage in Northern Thailand a hill in northern Thailand. He bit "daunting; Gilessaysit turned out to be a blessing in in a small Karen village, where I taught English for six is a student of disguise.Her experience, working in a childrens library weeks: Working abroad, he was able to arrange to i Andrew Masters, earn credit for the teaching. who taught at during the day,livingwith a host family,and participat- an orphanage ing in language and literacy projects in the evenings, What "happened to him" is a familiar story. "It in Thailand helped her develop a strong network of friends, host expanded my mind in terms of the world outside of as part of his self-designed family, and coworkers, and offered her a very differ- America, especially in terms of career opportunities education abroad ent experience than the one she had had in a previous outside of America; Masters says. It also allowed him II program. education abroad program at a university in Ghana. to achieve his goal of speaking another language. "The "Beingat the university was distancing; she says.~of last couple of weeks I was in Thailand, most of the my time was spent in a privileged,intellectual environ- people I interacted with on a daily basis could barely ment surrounded by privileged, intellectual students: speak English; he says. "I completed my goal when I " "- o Being dropped off "solo,into an entirely foreignplace... had the experience of living in Thai: Now a senior >- <f) W f- people were much more open and welcoming. And 1, at EIU, he plans to get additional experience teaching a: OJz English overseas after graduation. o U< in turn, was much more motivated to befriend people f- X W that I would have previously regarded as too differ- Masters and Giles are representatives of a growing Z o ent from myself to ever have close social relationships area in a growing field-students who "create-their- z "< w " with: She was able to achieve a levelofintegration into own" education abroad experiences. [f the community that had not been possible for her as a Is it a trend? "I think so; says Joel Gallegos, as- I <f) f-< " <f) student living at the university. sociate provost of international programs at the I " " While Giles had previous experience in Ghana, University of North Carolina in Charlotte. "My sense "< i2 o Masters chose to go to Thailand specifically because is that it began as a trend over the last few years as " I he wanted to live someplace that he knew very little more and more students are beginning their uni- about. "I wanted to plunge myself into a new situation versity careers with some international experiences .~. .ce ·
  3. 3. already under their belt: Gallegos points EIU. "I believe education should be individ- possess self-motivation and organizationalout that while traditional Western Euro- ualized as much as possible, to maximize skillsand be adventurous, willing,and abletopean education abroad programs continue student learning, potential, and goals; Wil- take some risks. Students who need a greatto capture the interest of many students, "a liamson says. At EIU, students who want to deal of hand-holding or help along the way,growing number are motivated by service create their own education abroad experi- or who dont appear to be organized or havelearning and undergraduate research-based ence are guided through an advising process a grasp of their degree requirements andprograms that often require a more cus- that helps them match their unique goals to goals, should pursue more structured oppor-tomized approach: Gallegos also notes a study abroad program or experience. "We tunities: At EIU, they use a "structure scale"that more and more students are pursuing have a petition process during which we to help in advising students. "In other words,hybrid programs involving nontraditional look for three things: that the host or part- we gauge how much structure is healthy fordisciplines such as engineering or health ner is credible; that the location is safe; and students as we get to know them: Most stu-studies, and are seeking to go to nontradi- that the credits have been approved by our dents who pursue individualized programstional destinations. "This type of initiative academic department chairs. Ifthese things at EIU self-select in the sense that the op-requires universities to support their stu- are present, then we see the study abroad portunity for individualized study abroad isdents in a different way than a traditional experience as appropriate to the students not actively promoted. "We dont advertisegroup or exchange program might: individual educational goals, and we try to the fact that students can create their own Wendy Williamson, director of study help the student achieve those goals: experience, other than allowing them to cus-abroad at EIU says that her own experience While she is a strong advocate of such tomize their experience through our petitionin being allowed to create an individualized programs, Williamson would be the first to process; Williamson says. "It comes aboutcurriculum as an undergraduate influenced admit that its not for everyone. "The ideal through student initiative:her desire to build flexibility for students to student is one who takes charge of his or her At Marlbor(), students in the Worldcustomize their education abroad experi- learning and shows a fair amount of inde- Studies Program (WSP) follow a course ofences into the study abroad program at pendence; she says. "Such a student must study that integrates liberal arts learningChildren at the orphanage in Thailand listen to announcements under the flag before going home for the day. Their Englishteacher was Eastern Illinois University student Andrew Masters for six weeks. 57
  4. 4. and international studies with a six-to- eight month internship in a foreign culture. All students in the WSP design their own overseas internships. "They decide what and where they want to study as best fits their academic plans; says Beverly Behrmann, as- sociate director of the program. "They have to find an internship in their country of choice and plan a semesters worth of work through remote tutorials with sponsoring faculty. These students must be highly mo- tivated, well-organized, flexible, and able to enthusiastically embrace the amount of work for predeparture preparations, as well as the in-country internship and academic pursuits. Thats a lot! But these are also great qualities to acquire while completing a bachelors degree: For her WSP internship, Chrissy Raudo- nis spent seven months in Argentina learning from such a program, with an international can get credit: Gore adds that the rules re- about ecology and conservation through her resume already started, offers students a big garding work and volunteer work abroad can work with an Argentine NGO. "I was with a step forward in a difficult job market. be particularly tricky. "Often visa rules are local environmental activist NGO that was very strict, and students heading out on their campaigning against the countrys extractive, How Schools Can Help own confront great difficulty. For students contaminating industries; Raudonis says.She While a great deal <;>f individual initiative is seeking these kinds of opportunities, it is es- also volunteered at a native tree nursery, and required for students on "create-your-own" sential to start at the education abroad office, for the last two months of her stay,she worked programs to be successful, guidance from to be sure they can do what they want to with a professor in the forestry department education abroad and academic advisers, do, and do it safely.Independence is a good at a nearby university on a reforestation/land as well as monitoring of the process from thing to nurture, but it is always important use project in the local UNESCO Biosphere beginning to end, is also very important. Ac- to remember that this independence should Reserve. Now back at Marlboro, Raudonis is cording to Gallegos, "Any solid create your be informed by faculty,education abroad ad- working on her senior thesis, which she says own experience may require additional visers, health advisers, and others who can has been "heavily influenced" by her experi- support and attention from the education provide the kind of information needed to ence abroad. "It gaveme a new perspective on abroad office, along with guidance from the help students have the best possible expe- environmentalism and science in Argentina; academic departments. Its not enough to riences personally and academically. These she says. "It made me want to investigate in inspire your students to create their own folks can help each student choose the right an academic context many of the attitudes I international experiences. If we are to opportunity for him or herself observed. For example, I noticed that many offer such opportunities, it is essential to At Marlboro, in addition to close work environmental activists in Argentina fre- support and guide students in their project with faculty and advisers, students engage quently use anti-imperialist rhetoric and choices and development: He adds, "Given in preparatory coursework. "Before going look at multinational corporations from a the more independent nature of a custom- to Argentina, I took a number of required neo-colonialist perspective. Im interested in designed program, specific attention should courses, including a course on how to find studying the roots of these attitudes: also be given to the goals and learning out- an internship, and how to design fieldwork;a: "The students in this program return comes of such opportunities: Raudonis says, adding that although theo with confidence, maturity, openness, and a Joan Elias Gore, senior academic devel- experience was "largely self-directed; heru!;j:;:) tolerance for ambiguity that they would not opment consultant at the Foundation for in-country adviser acted as a link with Marl-W o have developed from any other kind of expe- International Education agrees. "Students boro and provided her with support for any..J« rience; says Behrman. "It is truly amazing to seeking to engage in direct enrollment at academic problems she encountered.zo see them go through the entire process, from foreign universities need to be sure they un- Another important way schools can help~ the conception of ideas through creating and derstand how the overseas courses operate; z a: students is to provide funding for indepen-wJ-- executing their plans, and then returning. I how they will be assessed; and how credit dent projects abroad. At Colorado College,Z am always impressed: Certainly graduating verification provided, to be sure they a venture grant program broadly availableto58
  5. 5. all students offers students the chance to "get back at a much higher academic level thanout of the class and do something creative where they were when they left:and original; says Charlotte Blessing, direc- While Yale requires that all studentstor ofinternational programs. Many students planning independent research abroad havechoose to submit proposals for independent a home faculty supervisor and the Centereducation abroad. A panel of college staffers for International Experience advises themand students headed by an associate dean regarding academic, personal, and careerreviews the proposals, and awards nearly goals, students are encouraged to take care Low Cost$200,000 a year to fund a wide variety of stu- of the logistical arrangements for the experi-dent research projects and faculty/student ence-housing, travel, etc.-on their own. Strategiccollaboration. Student projects have includ- "Thats one of the wonderful things about CSA International, Inc,il Partnershiped making a documentary film in Nigeria, these experiences, when they really have to Center for Study Abroadstudying education in Japan, and completing do all that themselves; says Bell. The Cen-an independent dance project in the United ter for International Experience does offer Trip #1: 4 major Asian citiesStates and Ireland, among many others. a pre-departure orientation for all students, $6995 USD At YaleUniversity,a number of fellowships and strongly urges that all students partici- Trip # 2: Chinaffaiwan: 9 citiesare available to fund independent research pate: a majority of them take advantage of $8995 USDabroad. At the Center for International Ex- the opportunity to do so. Creating an orien- Trip # 3: Japan/Korea: 9 cities $7995 USDperience, students can find funding for a wide tation aimed at a large number of studentsvariety of types of independent experiences, who are doing a wide range of projects and • Let CSApromote you in Asia.from conducting lab research to traveling activities all over the world is "challenging" • Savetime, money, and having to travel.through multiple countries engaging in ar- according to Bell. "But its also a really great • Will also linkyour school on our website.cheological exploration, to more traditional opportunity to involve faculty and interna- · Open to all schools worldwide.pursuits in the humanities and socialsciences. tional students and scholars. Its great to • Space limited.Registerearly.While at Yalemany fellowships are adminis- work with them: they are so enthusiastic • See CSAwebsite - About Us(Recruit).tered through a central office, some are also about talking about their home countries: • Registeronline. Credit cards accepted.administered through academic departments There are many benefits of independentand residential colleges."There are little bits education abroad, but perhaps one of theof funding all over the university; Katie Bell, most valuable ones has far-reaching impli-assistant director of the Center explains."Butthey share a common database where they cations no matter what path a student takes after college. When asked about the most Register Directcan list these opportunities. The database is important thing she learned from her time With CSAhelpful, because its available to everyone. It in Argentina, Raudonis says, "Its hard tohelps streamline the process: choose just one thing, but my experience C4~~, Low Cost Every year about 250 Yale students take improved my ability to problem-solve and .~--advantage of the opportunity to do indepen- be flexible. I learned to look at things cre- rA· ~ Open To Alldent projects abroad. Last year YaleCollege atively instead of with frustration, and to CSA International, Inc,illaunched an initiative assessing student make the best of inconveniences and less- Center for Study Abroadexperiences abroad. "The results showed than-ideal situations. This skillwas probably · Directenrollment services.that students who have done independent more easily developed in situations where I · Universities,Colleges,Institutes.projects are overwhelmingly excited about was responsible for the outcome. I was more • in control of their own lives, their own motivated to make the experience positive • Easyto and academic paths they feel; Bell because I had only myself to blame: IE • No GPArequired. Earncollege credit.says. The study confirmed what is intuitive- JANET HULSTRAND is a writer, editor. • Join students there. Paydirectly. Zly obvious: that such study "really fosters a · Credit cards accepted. Convenient. -I and teacher based in Silver Spring, m • Go direct with CSA- Since 1990. ;0sense ofindependence and ownership: Tim Maryland. She teaches literature ZStumph, fellowship adviser, adds, "Alot of programs in Paris and Hawaii for the CONTACT: ~ Education Abroad program at Queens 6 zthe underclassmen came back with a much I (enter For Study Abroad ((SA) College, CUNY,and leads faculty training Program Manager » r 325 Washington Ave. S. # 93 I Kent, WA 98032 USAclearer sense of what they wanted to study. m workshops for programs abroad. Her Tel # 206 583 8191 USA I a cA lot of them changed their majors based on most recent International Educator article License # 602 292 407 ()the experience, or came up with the topic was "Learning from the Past-Abroad" in ~ ofor their senior essay. They tended to come the November/December 2010 issue. ;0 59
  6. 6. ~ Smile! . FEW MINUTES before this picture was taken, gates of the orphanage. Seven or eight of the boys came di- I h~d been looking over bamboo tray designs in the bam- rectly for me and, after giving me the proper Thai greeting, boo pop housed next to the orphanage. As with any other jumped on me, wrestled the work and my digital camera d1y idthe village, I had come down from my cabin on the " ,~,~ from helpless hands. Smile! Smile! The children yelled in hill above the orphanage ready to eat the famous Karen in- Thai, pointing the camera upside down at me. No, No. Like terpretation of the egg omelet. After teaching a few English this, I say, turning it right side up for them. They all piled classes at the local government school, I came home to the on top of me and one took the picture. <Q "-1 bamboo shop to look over new bamboo samples, tryout Work time was over; play time had begun. " + new waxes, or take pictures with my digital camera for a Z ANDREW MASTERS graduated from Eastern Illinois~ catalog I was compiling. University in December 2010. This photo was taken ine:: Suddenly, I heard a host of yelps and screams pass by Thailand during his self-designed education abroado on the dirt road and 50 children flowed in through the experience.~U:JCW...J«zo YOURE INVITED! We invite you to submit your photos along with a brief (approximately 200 words) description of why these images are~z important in your understanding of a person. place, idea, or incident from your experiences in international education. The photos could be of ae:: simple moment on your home campus involving international students, a major event in an exotic location, or anything in between. The editorswI- of International Educator will run selections on this page throughout the year. Please contact us for submission details at