How does curriculum development and location relate to making study abroad more inclusive? Does diversifying study abroad—who gets to have this transformative experience and to where—happen at the program development stage? A recent Insight Into Diversity article by Andrew Gordon addresses curriculum and location and raises further questions. Namely, if the mission is to make this transformative, experiential learning tool available to students of all gender, race, and class backgrounds, should we be putting more emphasis on the development phase
It strikes me—especially considering a recent article “Sounds familiar? Roma & Memory” by Dr. Michael Woolf—that while the field of study abroad rushes to include IDI-inspired courses that measure and document cross-cultural navigational capacities, equal amounts of energy could be dedicated to program development centered on the poetics of diaspora.
In August, 1999 I landed in Spain and my life forever changed. With Flamenco as my guide, I immersed myself deeply into the cultures of Andalusia and the only way for me to follow the trajectory across the Atlantic was to continue to enroll in study abroad programs. After a year with CIEE in Spain, I was part of the first U.S.-based group to study in classrooms with Cuban nationals (COPA-IFSA-Butler University's program) for a full semester in 2001. I then completed my undergraduate studies with semester in São Paulo and Salvador, Brazil with CIEE (2002). Everyone talks about the importance of receiving their diploma but for me, one of the great moments was when I returned to the study abroad office at UMass-Amherst and the program director gave me a plaque: "King of Study Abroad." Nobody, to her knowledge, had studied abroad for as long as I had.
Study Abroad is a transformative experience that forever changes students' lives. I build programs with this perspective in mind and with this hope. In doing so, I create an architecture that facilitates and supports students in their intercultural, language, and professional development--excellent courses, bilingual counselors, robust health & safety protocol, excursions with solid learning goals, and much more--and frees up local resident staff with a clean and efficient management system so they can dedicate their time to supporting the students.
Study Abroad changes students' lives on the most personal level and forever marks their intellectual development. This form of experiential learning is transformational: that is, in essence, the "poetic" of global education and structured programing serves that end goal. When I build new study centers or turn-around pre-existing study abroad programs, I architect with that core poetic centered on the transformative in mind. That means creating a structure to facilitate student learning and enhance the experience -- excellent courses that are built around the host cultures and languages, excursions with solid learning goals, access to bilingual mental health counselors, robust safety protocol, and much more.