Clearly, students expect to have a much different experience during a term of study abroad than they would on their home campus. In addition to the excitement and challenge of encountering a different culture, what should they expect in the academic realm?
In a recent guest post on the WorldWise blog in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Macalester College professor Bill Moseley drew on his own experiences in making the case for holding students to high academic standards when they go on off-campus study programs.
This past spring, Moseley led ACM’s Botswana: University Immersion in Southern Africa program and has served twice as visiting professor on a study abroad program in Cape Town, South Africa. A human-environment and development geographer, he has lived in West and Southern Africa in pursuing his scholarly research interests and working with international development organizations.
In his article, titled “Don’t Go Soft on Study Abroad: a Call for Academic Rigor,” Moseley wrote that
“a successful study-abroad experience often means at least two things: 1) getting outside of your own cultural head space (that is, coming to understand that other cultures may have very different, yet equally valid, approaches to life); and 2) knowing enough background information about a place, its history, and connections to other parts of the world to really understand what you are seeing.”
Gaining that type of understanding takes hard academic work, according to Moseley, which students may view as burdensome. However, he noted, “Over time, my students began to value the rigor with which we explored this new area of the world, and the nuanced insights and deeper personal growth that it eventually yielded.”
Offering what he called “hard advice,” Moseley encouraged students, faculty, and administrators to treat study abroad with the seriousness and resources it deserves, and to maintain academic quality during study abroad just as they do at home.
- “Don’t Go Soft on Study Abroad: a Call for Academic Rigor” by Bill Moseley in The Chronicle of Higher Education
- Bill Moseley’s faculty profile on the Macalester College website
- ACM Botswana: University Immersion in Southern Africa program
- Read about Beloit College student Megan Slavish’s experience on the Botswana Program