Students going on ACM off-campus study programs this fall are getting a head start on cross-cultural learning even before they set foot at their program site by taking a new online pre-departure course developed by ACM consortial staff.
“Our goal with this course is to provide more consistent and comprehensive pre-departure information for all ACM programs, and to do that in a format that’s convenient for students to access on their own,” said Emily Gaul, ACM Assistant Director of Off-Campus Study Programs.
The course, which students can take any time in the next several weeks, includes material that typically has been covered during the on-site program orientations, according to Marlee Stein, ACM Off-Campus Study Program Coordinator.
“With this course, students will think about their goals for off-campus study and begin to understand the process of adjusting to a different culture before they land in another country,” Stein said. “The more they know about what to expect and about the emotions they might be feeling during study abroad, the more they will be equipped to learn from their cross-cultural encounters.”
The course is organized in three modules and includes short videos with audio and slides, questions to check the students’ understanding of the material, and links to a variety of other resources, such as articles, videos, and information on the ACM website.
- Module 1: General ACM Information: Policies and procedures that apply to all ACM off-campus study programs.
- Module 2: Getting Ready to Go: Pre-departure information and logistics, and setting personal goals for off-campus study.
- Module 3: Intercultural Toolkit: Defining culture, the process of adjusting to another culture, cultural stereotypes and generalizations, social responsibility, and building intercultural awareness.
The idea for the third module came from an article written by Beloit College Director of Off-Campus Study Elizabeth Brewer and Kiran Cunningham, in which the authors discuss an intercultural toolkit of knowledge, skills, and attitude that students should have when going abroad to study.
“The third module also includes a section of responsibility of the student abroad, which is really important,” Gaul noted. “Most of our students are US citizens, so we are trying to encourage students to think about what it means to be an American abroad, what their presence means in a country such as India or Costa Rica, and how that relates to their interactions with local residents they work with during an internship or community practicum.”
Gaul estimates that the self-paced course will take students about an hour-and-a-half to two-and-a-half hours to complete. They can work through the material in more than one sitting, if they choose, and can go back and review sections.
As a follow-up to the online course, Stein and Gaul will host Skype Q&A sessions, so students can talk with the director of their ACM program before departing for the program site.
“We see this pre-departure course as an ongoing project,” said Stein. “Over time, we will continually gather feedback from staff at the program sites, visiting faculty, and students to use in refining and updating it.”