I got back last week from Penn State University where I delivered a talk to dozens of undergraduate advisors from northeastern and mid-Atlantic colleges about the value and virtues of study abroad education.
My audience was eager to hear about the amazing semester and summer programs that SFS has to offer especially since more and more students are requesting learning adventures in non-traditional places. It seems that England, France, Italy (etc.) may be great places to visit and learn – but it’s the programs off the beaten path that are attracting increasing interest from students. It was extremely rewarding for me to talk about the locations of SFS programs (East Africa, Bhutan, Australia, Costa Rica, Turks and Caicos Islands) and to explain our mission of developing enriched global learners by delivering rigorous academic courses in places that also allow students to engage in meaningful relationships with local communities and help provide solutions to environmental problems.
My message to the advisors is the similar message I deliver to prospective study abroad students when I meet them on college visits: first, choose a program that will inspire deep learning and challenges conventional classroom dynamics by allowing the student to actively participate in their education through hands-on learning.
Second, choose a program that asks the students to positively influence the people and places they visit – through things like community service, environmental direct action, and researching for solutions that can affect local change in meaningful ways.
And third, choose a program that encourages the learner to tell varied audiences of the great things that they were involved in while in the field – by engaging in local presentations to community members on-site and by delivering talks or posters to academic audiences back in the States, maybe even publishing with SFS faculty!