Many of us are used to seeing the study abroad t-shirts saying “Just Go Away” or “Ask me where I’ve been.” Clearly encouraging students to travel and explore is sound advice and part of the study abroad process but I wonder if we shouldn’t put more emphasis on just staying in the location their program is situated. Shouldn’t the question be “Ask me where I studied?” Should our goal be study abroad that’s focused on staying in the location where you are studying more than it is on travel? What’s our responsibility as international educators to encourage this and is it even possible?
A couple of recent events and student blog posts have led me to think about this a bit more. A Beloit College student, Sydney Parks, who is spending the semester in Athens, questions in her blog post whether she can really say she lived in Athens for four months if every weekend she is off to another city.
The counterpoint to this is a recent student panel at the Boston Area Study Abroad Advisors meeting at which an alumni of the Arcadia in London program from Emerson College participated (see the full story below). The students discussed just how many of their travel and activity decisions were influenced by seeing Instagram posts and the desire to recreate those experience themselves.
How can we as educators encourage Sydney’s approach to learning the city in which she’s studying while acknowledging the fear of missing out that is so prevalent in our culture today? I do believe it is incumbent on us to provide a framework and encouragement for our students to explore more locally. Of course, as Sydney mentions in her post, courses that use the city as their classroom can be key in accomplishing this and our cornerstone courses available in most Arcadia Centers are excellent examples of this. Activities like London’s Talk of the Town Series, also provide an interesting local connection that helps students explore the local culture more deeply.
In the end, students can learn a lot from their exploration while studying abroad and we can’t stop the allure that visiting multiple countries and destinations holds, but at the same time, I think as educators it’s our responsibility for encouraging and creating a framework for exploring the local. When designing programs and looking at programs to approve, we should keep this in mind.
Interested in learning more about this topic? Visit this student blog that also talks about exploring the country that you are studying abroad in.