One of the most important and potentially challenging aspects of the study abroad experience for students is meaningful engagement with the culture of their host country. Purposefully designed learning experiences that incorporate such engagement can serve as opportunities for high impact learning, arenas for meaningful integration into the host community, training grounds for workforce competency development, and occasions for developing self-efficacy about making societal contributions.
The College of Global Studies champions experiential education as a tool for our students to integrate themselves into the host community; strengthen their preparation for the global workforce and for our increasingly interconnected global society; and apply the theories of their disciplines to practice. To put it simply: we invest in experiential education for our students because applied learning activities are relevant to their futures in tangible ways.
The College of Global Studies defines Experiential Education as purposeful learning opportunities that incorporate substantive engagement in/with the host community, beyond the traditional classroom. We use experiential education to describe both curricular and co-curricular options for students.
Although many wonderful courses offer fun-filled, learning-rich field studies or community service opportunities, to fit into Arcadia’s model of experiential education, credit-bearing courses must meet two criteria:
In experiential education courses, students dedicate significant work for the course to an activity with outputs outside the classroom, and learning objectives include students’ ability to analyze the translation of course material to the out-of-class environment.
The College of Global Studies offers experiential education courses among our center-based options, among courses of our international partners’ design and instruction in an integrated model, and among courses co-designed by Arcadia and a partner institution, with instructional delivery provided by the partner. We offer internship, service-learning, field research, and lab research experiential education courses.
This is familiar terrain for Arcadia. In fact, our London internship program has been running since the 1981-1982 academic year. We have continually renewed our commitment to these programs and our current investment is the most significant it has ever been – with full-time staff dedicated to designing and delivering the experiences, and with curricular experiential education as a hallmark in a number of our locations.
Our co-curricular options don’t need to meet the set criteria we hold for courses. Instead, we encourage co-curricular options across a wide spectrum of experience – from exposure to active application. These opportunities include homestays, excursions to cultural or historic sites, community service projects, and student leadership opportunities. In each of these cases, faculty and staff (often together with students) construct goals for the experience as participants/contributors and learners, and then debrief the experience to develop their understanding of the context. We are continually refining our offerings to strengthen opportunities for encouraging, deepening, assessing, rewarding, and cataloging learning through these experiences.
Students dive into a wide range of learning activities, such as volunteer work, lectures, student clubs, new hobbies, and excursions. They can choose their own direction or follow the options we coordinate with them.
The CLC offers students a formal arena and a reward for critical reflection on out of class learning. Students participate in an activity or series of activities engaged in the host culture, document their learning through a final project, and receive a certificate upon successful completion of the program. A selected number of students also have their CLC submissions published in IMPACT, our study abroad journal.
Each year Arcadia staff and faculty select an overarching prompt for engagement and reflection, a theme to connect all of our programs around the world. These themes are known as The Life of the Mind Series. Through theme-related activities, discussions, lectures, media and celebrations, students gain valuable space for engagement and reflection.