This Week's Message
Two Cheers for Short-Term Study Abroad Programs
I am professionally hard-wired to view short-term study abroad programs skeptically. If one defines them as four weeks in-country or less, it is pretty clear that they intuitively fall short in the areas of language acquisition and cultural immersion. While there are in fact many variables that go into making a solid study abroad program (e.g. orientation, academic components, risk management, logistics, residentiality, etc....), program duration has always figured prominently. Generally speaking, the longer the program, the more likely it is to be a successful educational enterprise.
But reality is intruding. According to the Institute for International Education's Report on International Educational Exchange, the number of undergraduate students participating on long-term programs (defined as an academic year or more) has pretty much flat-lined in the last fifteen years at less than 20,000 per year. Numbers in mid-length programs (one quarter or one semester) have grown substantially. But the real growth has been in short-term programs (eight weeks or less). Today, IIE reports:
"[t]he 'semester abroad' model now attracts 36% of those students studying abroad, while more than half (55%) of U.S. students elect short-term programs."
In an effort to address this new reality, The Forum on Education Abroad (of which Augustana College is now a member) has developed Standards of Good Practice for Short-Term Education Abroad Programs. They are in broad terms:
A. The program has well-defined academic and/or experiential objectives.
B. The program is reviewed in the light of its stated educational purpose for fostering student learning and development.
C. The institution maintains clearly stated and publicly available policies on academic matters related to education abroad.
D. The institution maintains clearly stated policies on non-academic matters related to the educational experience abroad.
E. The institution or program sponsor provides advising and orientation support that is consistent with the institution's mission and student needs.
F. The program maintains and makes publically accessible, its commitment to fair and appropriate policies regarding student selection and content.
G. The program has adequate financial and personnel resources.
H. The program has established and continuously maintains effective health, safety, security and risk management policies, procedures and faculty/staff training.
I. The program is organized in conformity with ethical principles with respect to student codes of conduct, cultural sensitivity and respect for differences between local cultural norms and those of the home culture.
It should strike the reader that the above guidelines are appropriate for all Augustana study abroad programs. Do we meet these standards as thoroughly as we need to? Frankly, not to the extent we need to. Not yet.
Augustana's need calendar affords many opportunities to think about developing short-term programs abroad. The Office of International Programs invites faculty members interested in developing Augustana study programs to work with us in order to expand the menu of choice for our students. As faculty work with the Office of International Programs developing these opportunities, it is useful to have this set of standards to embrace.
Kim Tunnicliff, Director