personal development

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.

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.

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.