3 great ways to prepare students for re-entry

An ACLAS student poses with her homestay family before saying goodbye. 

An ACLAS student poses with her homestay family before saying goodbye. 

Sure, we all think about how to prepare students to go abroad. We’ve even written posts about it. But preparing them to return home after this significant experience is often neglected. A full-fledged re-entry support program is ideal … but if you are starting from scratch and don’t have the time, these three easy steps can ensure that at least something is happening.

Have a reflection meeting about returning (before returning!)

Many students aren’t even familiar with the idea that returning from a study abroad experience will be difficult - perhaps even more difficult than the changes related to going abroad.

Simply introducing the idea that returning home will be a challenge can make a big impact. That way, when students start feeling some of the effects of returning home, they will be able to identify them as a normal part of their study abroad experience - and that can save them from a great deal of anguish and confusion.

Here are a few articles about typical reentry issues:

BCA Study Abroad: What to Expect when Returning Home from Study Abroad

Middlebury: Returning home from study abroad

From GoOverseas.com: Dealing with Post Study Abroad Depression

ACLAS students show off their diplomas marking the end of their academic program.

ACLAS students show off their diplomas marking the end of their academic program.

Add a “returning from abroad” assignment to the coursework

If you’re teaching a course while abroad, or even requiring some sort of journaling, then you already have a perfect place to ask students to reflect on their re-entry experience.

We’d recommend asking students to reflect - before they return - on what they think it will be like to come home. You can follow that up by asking them to reflect on what the transition has been like a few weeks after they’ve settled in.

Host a get-together after returning

Part of the difficulty of returning home, after a group faculty-led program in particular, is being away from the group. Sure, everyone might be really ready to get away from each other at first, but connecting with others who have had a similar experience is a wonderful way for students to process their experience. (And, it is probably very good for you, too!)

Steps to a great pre-departure study abroad orientation

We’re sure you know how essential it is to orientate students to the study abroad experience prior to their departure. The following strategies have worked well for our partner schools over the years and seem to best prepare students for the on-site orientations:

Tip #1 - Meet multiple times

We know it is difficult to get a group of busy college students in the same room at the same time - let alone multiple times. But if you schedule more than one orientation, you’ll find that attendance will increase, students will feel that they’re being accommodated, and the information shared will be processed more effectively. This is especially true if the meetings can be less than 2 hours apiece.

Just like classes, students’ ability to take in information deteriorates after a certain point. You probably have a really good idea of how much time you get and how to hold onto attention.

Here are some ways to deal with the scheduling difficulties:

  • Schedule orientations prior to application and put the schedule on the program’s webpage
  • Put orientation meetings in the acceptance letter (or, at least tell students there will be orientation meetings)
  • Use online scheduling assistants like Doodle (LINK)
  • Schedule two meetings for each topic (particularly if your group is larger than 15 and you don’t want to do makeups)
Students present information they've learned in spoken and written form, among others. 

Students present information they've learned in spoken and written form, among others. 

Tip #2 - Repeat information in different formats

Students absorb information in different ways, so providing the pre-departure information in as many formats as possible (oral, written, experiential) is a wonderful way to make sure it sinks in.

Of course you can’t hit every piece of information in every way, but don’t hesitate to send out summaries of what was discussed in-person, cover written material in-person and engage other teaching techniques you use in your classes.

Tip #3 - Allow time for group socializing

Students take lunch during a city tour which is part of our on-site orientation program. 

Students take lunch during a city tour which is part of our on-site orientation program. 

The group dynamic is a critical part of any faculty-led study abroad experience.

The students sitting in a pre-departure orientation session will soon be sharing very intimate and intense experiences with each other. Therefore, it is beneficial if they can get to know each other before that experience begins. This helps create group cohesion and excitement about the program.

We're always excited to share your thoughts and ideas with our other partners. If you're willing to share we're always willing to listen! Don't hesitate to contact us with your comments and ideas. 

How ACLAS is different than large study abroad program providors

When we’re out and about talking to universities and colleges we often are asked how we are different than the larger study abroad program providors. Since we hear this question a lot, we thought we’d write down our response in case other have the same question but haven’t asked.

Flexibility

Because of our size, our structure and a few other factors, we’re able to be very flexible when it comes to program foci, timelines, and all types of other needs. And we like being creative with you to meet what is best for your students and institution.

For example, in some of our programs students continue with the curriculum and the books they use at their home campus in their Spanish classes - this is important to their Spanish department. For others, it is a good fit to adapt the curriculums we’ve developed.

University of Northern Colorado Education students and faculty member pose with their school's pennant. 

University of Northern Colorado Education students and faculty member pose with their school's pennant. 

Academic considerations

Because we a an independent language school and study abroad program providor, we are able to adapt our programming to fit the credit considerations of your institution. For example, some schools are able to count in-country excursions or even homestay family time towards credit. Others must only count the hours students are physically in class. We can adjust to these needs because we are not bound by any other institution’s structure or regulations.

A fun group marks ACLAS's 25th anniversary in Seattle, Washington.

A fun group marks ACLAS's 25th anniversary in Seattle, Washington.

Limited fixed costs

Because we are now part of our founder’s sons’ business (Grupo Macro) we are able to keep our fixed costs down because we share so many administrative needs with many other projects. For example, the accounting department for Grupo Macro takes care of ACLAS’s accounts. This saves us time and resources and allows us to have specialized professionals taking care of important aspects of our organization.

Relationships

There are really only a few of us who work at ACLAS, so, you’ll get to know us well and we will have a chance to get to know you and your students. To us, this is the most rewarding part of our work.

We hope that gives you a good idea of the differences. Have more questions? Never hesitate to contact us.

The truth about the weather in Quito, Ecuador

Today I woke up to 5 inches of snow. It was 65 degrees three days ago. Where I live, unpredictable weather is normal - and it means I rely on the forecast a lot.

But in Quito, Ecuador the weather is surprisingly reliable: Sun in the morning, a few clouds in the afternoon and a rain shower to keep everything green! The temperature varies between 50 and 75 degrees fahrenheit each day and rarely is colder or warmer than that.

The strange part? The Quito weather forecasts you might see on your phone are often inaccurate.

If you’re like many, you’ve probably added Quito to your favorite cities, like this:

And that is what has me worried!

Most days if you look at the weather for Quito it will say something like “mostly cloudy” or “thunderstorms” - all doom and gloom. And yet, those of us who have been to Quito know that it is almost always beautiful with the sun shining. (At least part of the day, right?)

So, on a recent visit to Quito I set out to prove that the weather forecasts in Quito are not very accurate and any student planning to come to Quito shouldn’t put too much faith in these reports.

Here is the proof:

The weather forecast captured at 9:26am. Currently “mostly cloudy.”

And here is a photo taken at exactly 9:26am. Maybe you call that mostly cloudy? There are clouds coming down off the mountain. But to meet it looks pretty sunny! When I took this picture students had just finished up some last-minute homework in the garden and headed into class.

You may also note on the weather forecast that there is a 100% chance of thunderstorms by the afternoon. Let’s check in:

This was the weather forecast at 12:35pm. It is a nice, warm 73 degrees (as it is most days) but it still says mostly cloudy with 100% chance of rain any moment!

Here is what was happening at ACLAS in our garden. Looks pretty sunny to me! And it felt pretty sunny. I had to sit in the shade because the sun was too intense to stay in for long.

(An interesting side note: you will notice in this photo that the shadows of the chairs are directly under the chairs. This is because Quito is on the equator and this photo is taken at noon, so the sun is directly overhead.)

This is a photo taken in one of our hallways that has a “sunroof” of sorts. A nice place to relax or read when the sun outside is intense.

Here is a photo of another part of Quito about that same time. Maybe this fits your definition of “mostly cloudy”?

Finally, around 4:00pm, a few more serious clouds rolled in and it started to sprinkle. But, if you were looking at the weather forecast you would think that it was dark and gloomy with lots of thunder!

Here is a photo taken out of a window at ACLAS. By that point a few drops had reached the neighboring roofs.

It is true that it does rain in the afternoons in Quito often. But it usually lasts about 36 minutes and then the sun and cloud combination is right back until the sun sets around 6:30pm.

To conclude - the weather in Quito is pretty great most of the time. Bring a rain jacket or an umbrella and you’ll survive the worst of it.

And don’t put too much stock in what your phone says!

Talking to underrepresented students about your study abroad program: career focus

Diversityabroad.com social media

photo contest winner Desiree and friends.

For many years now the education abroad field has worried about the disproportionate rate of participation in study abroad programs by students of color, male students and first generation students.

This chart by the Institute on International Education will give you a glimpse of the numbers

and

this article by USA Today

and

this article in the Atlantic

give a good overview.

The 'whys’ and ‘what do we do about it’ have been topics of many a conference presentation and, although there are a variety of solutions as complex as the questions, one answer has the benefit of both better speaking to underrepresented students and focusing on an important outcome of all education: career readiness.

The idea is that focusing on a concrete and outcome-oriented reason to study abroad better encourages students to work through the common ‘barriers’ they face that are outlined in the USA Today article cited above. Namely, the cost (and the opportunity cost of not working), family pressures (positive and negative) and the question of “is study abroad really for me? Do people like me study abroad?”

So what to do?

As faculty you have a really important and effective role in recruiting students for study abroad programs. They trust you, they want to learn from you! Here is an article from the Diversity Network on the importance of your role:

Faculty: The Link Between Underrepresented Students and Study Abroad

Step away from "It will change your life!"

Almost anyone who has had a significant international experience wants to encourage others to do so because we know, it WILL change your life! But for many students this idea may seem frivolous or selfish. “Why would I spent all that money to go change my life when I could change lives by working here?” Or, for some, simply going to college has already been an overwhelming and life-changing experience and the idea of another may be too much.

Share the statistics

The idea that study abroad contributes to career readiness is not invented! Here are a couple of articles that talk more in depth about studies that link success in finding jobs to their study abroad experience:

Why studying abroad can help get you hired

Link between study abroad and employability

Generation Study Abroad: Why Study Abroad?

Focus on the academics

What will your students be learning on the study abroad program? How will the program be different than what they could learn if they stayed on campus? Why is this an extraordinary learning opportunity? How will the academic content help prepare the students for their future?

Highlight career-enhancing skills

And the

Office of International Education at Willamette University’s website

talks about marketing the skills acquired while studying abroad to potential employers. Examples like 'taking initiative and risks,' 'utilizing time management skills', 'self-reliance' and 'flexibility' can be used to explain to students about the variety of 'soft-skills' they can practice, intensely, while abroad.

Share your own story

Your own story is often the most meaningful and motivating. How did an international experience impact your career trajectory?

In a future blog post we hope to elaborate on how to support underrepresented students while they are studying abroad but for now here are a few resources:

NAFSA: Association for International Education: Resources for Supporting Diversity in Education Abroad

.

Diversity Abroad Network

: Advancing Diversity & Inclusive Excellence in International Education

Inexpensive excursions and activities for faculty-led study abroad programs

Although the trips to the beach or famous monuments may seem the most sexy to students, keeping costs low is also very attractive. But just because the big excursions aren’t in the budget doesn’t mean fun experiences (with a little built-in education) are out of the question. Here are a few inexpensive and simple excursion or field trip ideas for faculty-led study abroad programs:


Pick a seemingly superficial theme and explore
¡Futból! Ask students to study something
 they love while abroad.
Before departure ask the students to share ideas for a theme they’d like to explore while on site.
Something simple like fountains, recycling/trash centers, traffic signals, stadiums, McDonald’s, whatever. It really doesn’t matter at all. Then ask them to interact with their theme once a day or week, whatever fits best for your program. And, perhaps you can even give them a small budget of money for travel, admission fees, snacks along the way or to explore their theme further.


Ask them to really look at their theme. What are the similarities and differences between fountains in Quito and in their home city? How do people interact with the fountains differently? What is the history of fountains in the city. What stories does the host mother have of fountains? Ask them to try to go deeper and deeper with their theme. How can they see the culture of the country or city through these theme? The point is to help students to really dive deeper into something that seems common on the surface and find the value in exploring.


FOOD!
Common fruits in Ecuador
It might seem a little cliche, but exploring new foods is often a big winner with students. Plus, there is a richness to stories and connections between food and culture. Pick your favorite food from the site or ask a local for a recommendation. Then grab some students and go! Small family-run restaurants are often a great stop but we always recommend trying to meet the restaurant owners or staff prior to bringing in a large group of students to feel out their interest level in hosting and speaking to groups.


Historical marker scavenger hunt
Students in a short rainstorm at a soccer game.
Pick a few historical markers around the city and write clues to see if students can figure out the site by doing research and asking questions of locals. Dividing the group up in teams is great way to inject a bit of competition and fun into the mix. Surprise them with snacks or treats along the way and prizes at the end.


You.
As we’ve mentioned before, students gain a lot from seeing your energy and interest in the study abroad site and culture. So what is your favorite thing to do in-country? Take the students. Share your passion!








4 tips for personal and professional development while leading a study abroad program

As educators, we are always telling the students to take advantage of their time in a new country or environment and expose themselves to as many opportunities as possible. But what about faculty members guiding those students? What opportunities can we as educators and academics take advantage of during our time abroad?


Such enriching experiences should offer reflection and growth opportunities for all parties involved - including group leaders. Here are four ways we’ve seen faculty capitalize on the experience.


1 - Present at conferences
Teachers receive flowers from their students at the end of a
a study abroad program at ACLAS. 
Teaching abroad is a busy time - but also a great opportunity to network and gain exposure in your field. Conference presentations are distinctive additions to your portfolio and tend to create unforeseen alliances and opportunities.

2 - Connect with other institutions
The possibilities for your own personal and professional growth - and benefits for your institution - are immense. International collaborations are responsible for countless research programs, faculty exchanges, student exchanges, and more. Here are some examples of places to get started:
  • Engage the department of your discipline at the local universities.
  • Reach out to the international affairs office (or international education office) at the local universities - this group is often very motivated to meet foreign academics and will have many ideas and suggestions for connections.
  • Even if you are not language faculty, get in touch with the foreign language department. These departments often have a lot of international connections and are eager to make more.

3 - Explore professional associations
Beyond academics, are there many professional associations that can be fruitful to you as you make your mark in your field. For example: teaching associations, business associations, bioengineering associations - it just depends on your field and interest.

4 - Document your skill development
We often tell the students to reflect on and keep track of the “soft skills” that they are learning while abroad - beyond the academics. You’ll have a good handle on many of these skills, but it doesn’t hurt to take a minute to think about how you are putting them to work while organizing and leading a group of students in a new environment. How might you apply new insights to your teaching? What are the unexpected benefits of the experience? These lessons can touch on many aspects of your work:
  • adapting to new environments
  • leadership
  • taking initiative and risks
  • responsibility and follow through
  • stress management
  • perseverance
  • flexibility

Although there is rightfully much focus on academic achievement in our field, the “soft skills” will serve you well in future leadership positions and other roles.

Keys to Promoting Your Faculty-Led Program: Part 2


In Part I of this post we shared some strategies for getting attention for your program and buy-in from students. Part 2 continues with more details on how to create interest and encouraging students to take the next step of signing up!

Be transparent with price
There are very few students and families out there who are not concerned about the price of a study abroad experience. Answer this question for your students when promoting your program: “What am I paying for?”


Additionally, be sure to communicate what is not included in the price. It is also nice to point out potential costs that may be required for them to participate in the program, like purchasing a passport, optional immunizations or supplies for class. Listing what is included in the program price and what is not will reduce the apparent risk around money for both the students and, in many cases, the parents.
The program page on the University of Washington, Tacoma's site.
Make sure your program is on your institution’s website
Sounds easy, but doesn’t always happen! This not only will act as a recruiting tool (attracting students already looking for programs) but will help students, parents, faculty, academic advisors and others find important information about your program easily.
Start early
As soon as you have all the basic information about your program (dates, price, what is included, basic itinerary) start promoting! This allows students and their families the time they need to process the opportunity and plan for it. If students are aware of the program soon enough, they can apply for scholarships, talk to employers, and plan the rest of their life around your program - instead of the other way around.


Talk openly about credit
In our experience, programs popular with students often have one thing in common: students can earn credit towards their major or some other institutional requirement. If this is true for your program, be sure to promote it in your written materials and when speaking with students. If this is not the case, talk about the credit that will be earned and emphasize the other educational benefits, like career development and personal growth.
Talk about graduation and career development
Whether we like it or not, students and parents want to know what’s in it for them. It is simply not enough, in many cases, to remind them how formative and challenging the study abroad experience can be. They want a different kind of value.


With that in mind, connecting the study abroad experience to student’ future plans is beneficial in many ways. Most of all, it increases the value of the program in their eyes. Remind them, for example, that today’s business leaders must have intercultural competency.


It also helps students frame their experience as part of their overall education, and not just a nice “trip” that their parents (or whoever) have to pay for. And finally, when students return from studying abroad, they will be better able to articulate the meaning of their experience.

We would love to hear what has worked for you! Please use the comments section below or email Stacy at swest@aclas.org.

ACLAS Committed to IIE's Generation Study Abroad

We are proud to announce we have committed to the Institute on International Education's Generation Study Abroad Initiative. In particular, we have pledged scholarship dollars to contribute to increasing the number of students from community colleges and the healthcare professions who study abroad. Additionally, we pledge to engage our alumni to share their stories of how education abroad has enhanced their lives and careers. Please contact Stacy for specific details about our scholarship pledge and alumni stories at swest@aclas.org.
#Generation Study Abroad



Key to Promoting Your Faculty-Led Program: Part 1

Here are some concrete ideas for how to promote a study abroad program, specifically a faculty-led study abroad program on your campus. This is Part 1 of a two part series. So stay tuned!


Market the program effectively - and often
Even if your program is a free, month-long trip to the Caribbean where students earn credit for sitting on the beach, they still won’t sign up unless they hear about it.


So, that is step one: getting the message out there.


Here are some great ways our partner institutions reach out to their students:
  • Email to majors,
  • email to all students,
  • email to a class,
  • email to all freshman,
  • student newspaper advertisement,
  • story with student newspaper,
  • table in high traffic area,
  • information sessions,
  • information table at lunch in high traffic area,
  • advertisements/posters throughout the university,
  • short presentation to your classes and other program-related classes,
  • advertisements in bathrooms,
  • hosting a table with dessert at lunch.


Whether you pick all or just a few of these strategies, it is a good idea to do them more than once. Students are receiving thousands of messages a day from different sources, so we can’t assume they will see or hear just one message.
Know what works at your institution
When considering the list above, think about what you have seen work at your institution. What do students talk about? Where do they go to find information? A quick way to find out the answers to these questions is to ask the students themselves. You can also stop by the Student Life office – it’s their job to know these answers, and they’ll probably have some new creative ideas.
At Willamette University in Salem, Oregon they have a Summer Opportunities Fair each fall that promotes study abroad, service and other programs that will take place the following summer. 

Promote yourself!
In all likelihood, you are going to be the face of the program. Don’t shy away from that – promote it! In our experience, students really respond well to a professor’s energy and interest in the programs. (Remember: they often trust people more than organizations.)


Don’t hesitate to share your own experiences in Ecuador or on a study abroad program in order to generate interest and excitement in this program. Our faculty directors tell us that one-on-one conversations tend to be the best ways to connect with students. They’re worth the time.


Engage former students
Students LOVE hearing from other students. They trust them. Even if you do not have students from your program, bring students who have already studied abroad elsewhere to talk about the benefits of their experiences. We find that you must make these students sit down together, preferably in an information session or other formal event. Just sharing contact information hasn’t worked well.

More ideas coming in Part 2!


We would love to hear what has worked for you! Please use the comments section below or email Stacy at swest@aclas.org.

A Plan for Emergencies

This post was originally published on facultyabroad.com - a great resource for faculty involved in international education. http://www.facultyabroad.com/a-plan-for-emergencies/

Emergencies are a possibility on any study abroad program, and planning and preparing for an emergency can seem like an overwhelming task — so much so that faculty sometimes decide not to embark on an education abroad program because of it.
Thankfully, with a few purposeful steps, you can take comfort knowing that you’ve made the necessary steps to plan for the worst — even if the reality is that the plan will most likely never be used.

1. Make a plan

Your university or college is likely to have existing example emergency plans or protocol(s) that you can access for reference, so make sure to ask around for these materials to ensure you aren’t starting from scratch when you don’t have to. If you are using a third party study abroad program provider, ask them whether they have an emergency plan, and whether this could be integrated into your institution’s overall plan for emergencies.

If you work with a provider that does not have an emergency plan, it may be a good idea to review your provider’s overall quality and consider alternative providers who do incorporate an emergency plan.
photo 1 Car
While on an excursion outside Quito, Ecuador; ACLAS students help a family get their car started.
Another group that will have some good resources is your institution’s insurance company. If you are asking your students to purchase specific study abroad insurance (recommended, usually inexpensive) then that company will likely have many useful resources like crime and safety statistics, emergency protocols, emergency phone numbers and recommendations for hospitals, doctors and/or clinics. Many of these items will be found on your insurance company’s website but contacting your university’s insurance representative is likely to be a good path to more details.
Consider different types of emergencies, and ensure that your plan addresses what to do in each case:
  • National emergencies — weather, disasters, political unrest
  • Student emergencies — illness, assault (on the student or towards others), mental illness
  • Faculty emergencies — something happens to you
  • Group emergencies — group illness, accident

2. Get support

Photo 2 rafting
ACLAS students enjoy a rafting trip as part of an excursion to the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador.
As a faculty member, it should not be your sole responsibility to take care of emergencies abroad. You will likely be involved, but one way to make sure that all of the burden does not fall on you is to make sure that your plan is supported and approved by the “powers that be” at your institution and those onsite. This may seem like a bureaucratic step, but if there is a true emergency, these people will be involved. More importantly, if the plan is previewed and supported ahead of time, then the execution of the plan will be smoother and less restricted.
A good way to know who should see the plan before it is finalized is to consider all who would be involved if there were an emergency. Examples of potential stakeholders at your institution: the president, deans, international education staff, lawyers, media or PR people, parent relations, etc. And, don’t forget to include your onsite program provider and any relevant contacts in your destination country.

3. Share your plan

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 3.34.54 PM
photo credit: Professor Julie Veltman, Willamette University; ACLAS students interact with artwork while exploring Quito, Ecuador.
Beyond sharing your plan with those mentioned above, be sure to include your students and encourage them to share this information with their families. Not only will this step help the students be better prepared in an emergency, it also helps them remember that emergencies can happen and that they should be vigilant to avoid emergency situations.

4. Test your plan

Finally, test your plan with those involved. You can run through a test scenario making sure that all the systems work and all parties are informed. Let everyone involved in the plan know that you will run a drill. It is okay to plan an exact time for the drill – it does not need to be a surprise. The important aspect is to use the same means of communication that you would use in a real emergency (calling cell phones, mass emails, etc.) to make sure that everything is in place. Also, this exercise will help make people engage with the process and truly consider what would happen in an emergency.
Then, follow the plan.
Throughout the process take notes. At the end ask for feedback on the process and share your notes, relevant feedback and the most up to date emergency plan in a summary.
NOTE: This post is not intended to be an exhaustive resource 
for making an emergency plan. Good places to seek out 
additional resources are:

- Your International Education Office
- NAFSA: Association for International Educators 
(www.nafsa.org)
- The Forum on Education Abroad 
(forumea.org)
- U.S. State Department 
(www.state.gov)
- The U.S. Embassy in your country of travel 
(www.usembassy.gov)

Shooting ourselves in the foot: managing expectations for study abroad

Students gaze at the eiffle tower,
is this what study abroad means to them?
Stacy West, Director of Partnerships at ACLAS, recently attended a fascinating session called “Perceptions and discourses of study abroad: What do promotional websites say?” at the Association for International Educators (NAFSA) Region 2 conference. This session inspired this post’s theme.


Many international educators, whether administrators, faculty directors or teachers, are often frustrated by our students’ apparent focus on visiting travel destinations rather than taking part in meaningful and challenging intercultural learning. We’ve all had chats with students who want to go to Barcelona for the beaches, or Costa Rica for the zip-lines.


These motivations are earnest enough, but they leave out what ends up being the real fun - the late nights with new friends and new food, the accomplishment of communicating effectively, the thrill of realizing something about yourself you’d never considered.


Learning about gravity on the Equator.
Photo credit: Julie Veltman. 
I recently attended a presentation at the NAFSA Region II Conference focused on just this issue - and more specifically, the imagery on study abroad websites. The presenters, Kristen Michelson and Jose A. Alvarez Valencia, both of the University of Arizona, have completed research on the “perceptions and discourses of study abroad” in the case of promotional websites. Their research showed us that there was a strong discourse of tourism and leisure a in the websites. Study abroad is portrayed as a”dream-like activity” and as a means to “explore.” The prospective study abroad students, naturally, fully engaged in this type of discourse in their own photos and blogging.


(I should say that this few-line summary of the presentation is almost offensive - the research was much more thorough and provides many other important findings. But, I will engage with this one element because I think this lesson can be applied to all forms of student engagement prior to experiences abroad.)


Celebrating a student's birthday.
I believe everyone in the room at that conference wants, as most of us in international education would, to better depict the true nature of the study abroad experience: the challenges, thrills, and profound learning that happens. But who can explain that in a brochure or on a website? Or in the 15 minutes that we have to promote our programs in a class? The problem grows when we are trying to reach students who may not immediately consider studying abroad as an option, or who see the immediate challenges of program cost or academic fit as too daunting.


Bottom line: The “sexyiness” of study abroad sells, and, as Michelson and Alvarez Valencia state, it’s reinforced by our students.


But there are things we can to do help the situation. Here are so

me tips I think could be starting points for more realistic expectations and better learning:
Serving others during a summer
study abroad program.


  • Find photos and videos that are still interesting, but depict learning. For example, on an excursion, ask a tour guide if photos can be taken with him/her talking with the students. Capture laughter in the classroom. Subtly take photos of a typical walk to and from class. Capture the moment students taste something new. I think all the photos in this post begin to capture this idea.
  • Ask students to depict the “other side of study abroad.” I believe they can easily recognize the difference between what is portrayed and their real experience, especially when confronted with the question.
  • Use the images captured above in your presentations and orientations, and explain their background.
  • Ask students who have studied abroad before to tell their stories in person. In my experience, their first words are not “We stood in front of the eiffel tower,” but, rather, something much deeper. It helps to ask good questions of the students.
  • Students help a family get going after
    visiting a historical landmark.
    Require some sort of journaling or blogging during the program and facilitate reflection and discussion.
  • Don’t shy away completely from the “touristy” photos - this is part of the experience and part of the learning and fun - but remember that they’re not fully representative.








FAQ: Faculty-Led Study Abroad Programs

Here are some of the basics about faculty-led study abroad programs. These FAQs can always be found on the FAQ page. Have a question you'd like to see answered? Add it to the comments or email us at aclas@aclas.org.

How are faculty-led programs different than other study abroad programs?
Although almost all study abroad programs involve faculty in some way—in the recruitment of students, development of programs, etc.—the term “faculty-led” has a specific meaning in the field of international education. A faculty-led program is one that is directed by a faculty member(s) from the home campus who travels with and accompanies the students abroad. These programs are usually, but not always, short-term (2 months or fewer.)


What are the benefits of faculty-led study abroad programs?
  • Customization: Faculty-led programs are often customizable to meet the faculty and institution’s educational goals or to fit specific needs.
  • University of Washington students
    with their faculty director in
    the Amazon rainforest
    Cost savings: Due to their flexibility, these programs are likely to fit various budgets.
  • Credit benefits: Because faculty are on-site with the students, academic credit can often be given as if the students were with a professor on campus. This eliminates many credit-transfer complications.
  • Accessibility: Students often find faculty-led programs more accessible because of the credit and cost benefits mentioned above, as well as the comfort and consistency of traveling with a faculty member from their home institution. Faculty-led programs are also designed specifically for students from one institution and, therefore, often meet student’s academic needs more effectively.
  • Academic interest: Because of the customizable nature of these programs, the academic possibilities are almost limitless. Curricula tend to be rich, varied and very engaging to students.
  • Relationship-building: Students experience the dual benefit of building new international relationships while also strengthening and enriching partnerships with those from their home institution.

I am a faculty member and want to lead a study abroad program. Where do I start?
The answer to this question depends significantly on your university or college. The first step would be to visit your institution’s international education (a.k.a. study abroad, education abroad, global programs, international programs, etc.) office’s website to see if they have guidelines or contact information for faculty who are interested in developing programs. If your institution does not have an office like this, it is best to see if other faculty (perhaps in other departments or areas) have developed programs. After you make a connection with the right individuals at your institution, start by asking these questions:
Colby College students with their
faculty director and ACLAS teachers.

  • What is the timeline for developing a program?
  • What are the expectations of the faculty director?
  • How will my department support me?
  • How will the international education office support me?
  • How do I make the program financially viable?
  • Are there certain program providers I must work with or may I choose my own?
  • What are the next steps?

We’re here to help at any time, of course. Feel free to reach out to us if you hit roadblocks or have further questions.

Do you need to be a tenured faculty member to lead a study abroad program?
This, again, depends on the college or university, but often the answer is no. In fact, leading a study abroad program can be a good way to promote your status and demonstrate contribution on your campus.

I have a family. Can I bring them with me on the program?
Many universities, colleges and program providers support bringing families along. However, it is important to realistically consider your ability to meet the needs of both groups. If you are working with a program provider that takes care of a lot of the details and planning, you might have time to teach, support your students and be with your family. But, if you are the lone faculty director, be sure to anticipate the possibilities. Would you be able to effectively handle a student emergency at any time, for example?

What resources are available to faculty to start, develop and improve faculty-led programs?

  • The international education or international programs office at your college or university is the best place to start. Staff there will likely have experience with faculty-led programs; if they do not, they’ll probably know where to find the resources.
  • Other faculty who have led programs are great resources, too. It is likely that there are some on your campus (even if they haven’t led programs with your institution) or in your professional networks.
  • Facultyabroad.com has a number of topics and resources to explore, including a book called Faculty-Led 360.
  • The Association for International Educators (NAFSA) has collected a number of resources from seminars and conventions related to the faculty-led topic. Find those resources on their website. http://www.nafsa.org/findresources/default.aspx?catId=518262
  • The Forum on Education Abroad has defined Standards of Good Practice to guide program development. In addition to generic study abroad practices, the Forum has published standards for some discipline-specific programs such as healthcare. (Your institution must be a member of the Forum to access these documents—contact ACLAS or your international education office for more information.)

FAQ

FAQ: Faculty-Led Study Abroad Programs

How are faculty-led programs different than other study abroad programs?
Although almost all study abroad programs involve faculty in some way—in the recruitment of students, development of programs, etc.—the term “faculty-led” has a specific meaning in the field of international education. A faculty-led program is one that is directed by a faculty member(s) from the home campus who travels with and accompanies the students abroad. These programs are usually, but not always, short-term (2 months or fewer.)


What are the benefits of faculty-led study abroad programs?
  • Customization: Faculty-led programs are often customizable to meet the faculty and institution’s educational goals or to fit specific needs.
  • Cost savings: Due to their flexibility, these programs are likely to fit various budgets.
  • Credit benefits: Because faculty are on-site with the students, academic credit can often be given as if the students were with a professor on campus. This eliminates many credit-transfer complications.
  • Accessibility: Students often find faculty-led programs more accessible because of the credit and cost benefits mentioned above, as well as the comfort and consistency of traveling with a faculty member from their home institution. Faculty-led programs are also designed specifically for students from one institution and, therefore, often meet student’s academic needs more effectively.
  • Academic interest: Because of the customizable nature of these programs, the academic possibilities are almost limitless. Curricula tend to be rich, varied and very engaging to students.
  • Relationship-building: Students experience the dual benefit of building new international relationships while also strengthening and enriching partnerships with those from their home institution.

I am a faculty member and want to lead a study abroad program. Where do I start?
The answer to this question depends significantly on your university or college. The first step would be to visit your institution’s international education (a.k.a. study abroad, education abroad, global programs, international programs, etc.) office’s website to see if they have guidelines or contact information for faculty who are interested in developing programs. If your institution does not have an office like this, it is best to see if other faculty (perhaps in other departments or areas) have developed programs. After you make a connection with the right individuals at your institution, start by asking these questions:

  • What is the timeline for developing a program?
  • What are the expectations of the faculty director?
  • How will my department support me?
  • How will the international education office support me?
  • How do I make the program financially viable?
  • Are there certain program providers I must work with or may I choose my own?
  • What are the next steps?

We’re here to help at any time, of course. Feel free to reach out to us if you hit roadblocks or have further questions.

Do you need to be a tenured faculty member to lead a study abroad program?
This, again, depends on the college or university, but often the answer is no. In fact, leading a study abroad program can be a good way to promote your status and demonstrate contribution on your campus.

I have a family. Can I bring them with me on the program?
Many universities, colleges and program providers support bringing families along. However, it is important to realistically consider your ability to meet the needs of both groups. If you are working with a program provider that takes care of a lot of the details and planning, you might have time to teach, support your students and be with your family. But, if you are the lone faculty director, be sure to anticipate the possibilities. Would you be able to effectively handle a student emergency at any time, for example?

What resources are available to faculty to start, develop and improve faculty-led programs?

  • The international education or international programs office at your college or university is the best place to start. Staff there will likely have experience with faculty-led programs; if they do not, they’ll probably know where to find the resources.
  • Other faculty who have led programs are great resources, too. It is likely that there are some on your campus (even if they haven’t led programs with your institution) or in your professional networks.
  • Facultyabroad.com has a number of topics and resources to explore, including a book called Faculty-Led 360.
  • The Association for International Educators (NAFSA) has collected a number of resources from seminars and conventions related to the faculty-led topic. Find those resources on their website. http://www.nafsa.org/findresources/default.aspx?catId=518262
  • The Forum on Education Abroad has defined Standards of Good Practice to guide program development. In addition to generic study abroad practices, the Forum has published standards for some discipline-specific programs such as healthcare. (Your institution must be a member of the Forum to access these documents—contact ACLAS or your international education office for more information.)

6 Tips to Engage Students on Faculty-Led Programs

Any educator involved in an education-abroad program wants students to get the most from the short time spent in the host culture. But that’s often difficult when there are so many distractions (think new friendships, the search for wifi, partying). And although these “distractions” aren’t always bad, how do we help students find experiences that create those elusive, but almost always unforgettable, learning moments? (And maybe even engage the difficult “everything-is-stupid” eye-rolling student...)

Here are six tried-and-true ways to go a little deeper with students.

1. Bring your classroom strategies with you abroad
What do you do to engage students in your classroom? Group work? Small projects? Consider how your successes in the classroom can be moved into the study abroad setting. This can provide intellectual continuity as well as opportunities for meaningful curricular intervention.



2. Be engaged yourself
Show your students what you are seeing from your academic framework or personal interests. What language structures are unique to the area? What cultural differences do you see compared to other places you’ve traveled? Through your eyes the students can better see the details and subtleties.

3. Be the mini tour guide
Beyond the major excursions to new locations, you can pull the students out of their day-to-day activities and show them that there are joys to be found in the seemingly mundane. For example, try short visits to small museums, art galleries, the supermarket, a bakery or a flower market.

4. Approach students individually and avoid the yes-no questions
Founder and Academic Director of ACLAS, Dr. Fernando Miño Garcés, has interacted with thousands of language learning students during his career. He has seen success when faculty directors engage students individually and ask questions that cause contemplation and reflection. For example:

  • What’s the first cultural difference that comes to your mind?
  • Is there something that bothers you when you walk on the streets of the city?
  • What is the first beautiful thing that comes to your mind about your experience?
  • Is there something that bothers you with your host family?

5. Require participation in service learning
Service learning opportunities are great ways for students to get up close and personal with a culture while studying language or other disciplines. Required participation in service learning is a strategy that comes highly recommended by Dr. Phillip Markley, a professor at the University of Washington, who has brought students to Quito for many years. Dr. Markely (known as Felipe to his students) says that “the students have an obligation to give back to their community where they are studying,” and that a sense of obligation can often translate into a high level of engagement.

6. Use previous students as role models
Find students from previous study abroad experiences who were very engaged (even if they traveled to a different location) and ask them to speak to your current group. Prepare a few questions to start the conversation so that it doesn’t derail into the what-to-pack and where-to-eat/drink questions that often overwhelm students before they depart.


Some example questions:
  • Tell us about the best day you had on your program.
  • Tell us about an unexpected learning experience.
  • How did you engage with the host culture?