Be Better Abroad

Better Abroad.  We can always be better at anything, so why not be better

at how we send students abroad?

Interested in learning more about Better Abroad?  We invite you to participate in an easy, four step process:

STEP 1:  WHY DO WE NEED BETTER ABROAD?

Better Abroad evolved out of our serious concerns about the focus on sending more students abroad without the same unwavering commitment to outstanding and thoughtful program design and supporting resources (e.g. staffing, training, funding etc.) These are both undoubtedly needed to develop the type of programs that intentionally place students on a path of responsible global citizenship, regardless of their academic disciplines.

We observe too much focus on tourism, revenue, and a “checklist” mentality about education abroad orientation that inevitably results in young people traveling abroad and stereotyping others, potentially damaging host communities, and stunting the growth of young people who are spending thousands of dollars for what may be their only experience abroad. The metrics game has become a priority for many (we are “number x” in sending students abroad or we have grown by x%) while quality program design leading to better global citizens has been relegated to the back seat by many schools/organizations.

Students from Amizade illustrate what happens in these cases:

This video caught Melibee Global’s attention and a conversation about partnering together to provide a free resource for ALL of us to be Better Abroad ensued.

We know that these issues of quantity vs. quality are being discussed around water coolers all over the world. We are not alone in our frustration. Because we have a responsibility to act, we originally thought  to “Occupy Study Abroad”, but decided instead to focus our efforts on explaining our serious concerns, moving the dialogue into the Senior Administrators’ Offices, and putting this concern (with resources to address it) onto the internet.

We see Better Abroad as a revolution and evolution in our field. Better Abroad is about creating much needed change in our field. It is about taking the conversation that happens at the water coolers around the world into the offices of those who have the power to change things. Better Abroad is about thoughtful program design that leads students toward a path of responsible global citizenship. After all, isn’t that why colleges/universities and education abroad were developed in the first place?  (I’m sure we didn’t do it for the money!)

BETTER ABROAD IS…

  • Programs that are designed in partnership with the host community/culture.
  • Programs that are sustainable.
  • Programs that challenge the ‘postcard’ image of a country.
  • Structured interactions with locals of a host culture that extend beyond “How much does this cost?”
  • Teaching that incorporates cultural aspects of the host country instead of just the ‘do’s and the don’ts of safety and logistics.
  • Students empowered with knowledge about how to embrace individual travel and the role of a cultural ambassador throughout the education abroad experience.
  • Programs that inspire participants to take risks, explore and communicate with the host culture in a respectful manner.
  • Students engaged in much more than snapping photos of tourist hubs.
  • Students challenged to grow, think, and develop skills while considering their role in the world.
  • Students venture beyond guide book suggestions.
  • Students who recognize their impact on the host community.
  • Program design that yields conversation on reflection and varied definitions of global citizenship.

BAD ABROAD IS…

  • Students that make general assumptions and stereotypical statements about a culture and who are not challenged to examine deeper through regular, structured, thoughtful in-country reflection activities.
  • Programs that profit at the expense of the community.
  • Talking to students about safety abroad as a priority and then assuming they are truly prepared for other aspects of their experience.
  • Sending faculty abroad who are trained solely in teaching their academic discipline.
  • Ensuring students have 24/7 internet access.
  • Students traveling in packs.
  • Students who behave like tourists.
  • Students who exhibit a party mindset.
  • Students who explore very little of the local language.

Now that we have defined Better Abroad, we ask that you reflect for a few moments.  Do you agree that Better Abroad is needed?  Have you struggled with Bad Abroad in your programs?  Do you see examples of Better Abroad in your programs too?

Let’s move on to STEP 2:  click HERE TO CONSIDER 10 QUESTIONS (the Better Abroad “Check In”)