So, lately I’ve been thinking about study abroad, and about how the ways in which higher ed institutions approach it is kind of profoundly broken.
At most universities, once a student applies to and is accepted to their program, their university piles them into a room with all of the other study abroad students and everyone has a nice chat about how to not get murdered. Culture shock is discussed. Personal boundaries are tested. Slideshows are played.
Sometimes discussed in the meeting is the graph charting students’ study abroad experiences. At the beginning, the student is in a honeymoon period. Life is great! Locals are just like me! Then, reality sets in and the student is bummed out for a while about cultural differences or loneliness or whatever. Then, there’s a spiky bit on the line that trends generally upward, and by the time the student finishes their time abroad they don’t want to go home, they feel like they are one with their new countrymen, etc. etc.
Both of these are really stupid ways to prepare folks for the study abroad experience.
Because here’s the thing–both the meetings and the graph treat study abroad students as one group. And, for university insurance purposes, they are. But I think there are actually at least three distinct subgroups within study abroad students that need different information, have different goals, and will have profoundly different experiences during their time abroad.