Study Abroad: Moving Beyond Tourism
COMMENTARY

March 24, 2023by Barry Pearson, Senior Vice President, Purchase College, State University of New York
Study Abroad: Moving Beyond Tourism
Air France aircraft on stands at Terminal 2F at Charles de Gaulle Airport. (Photo by Greenboost via wikipedia commons)

Higher education’s efforts to act globally are often judged by the successes of their study abroad programs. The number of students they accept from, or send to, other countries is often over-relied upon as the quality measure of institutions’ efforts as global citizens. Just as important in the consideration of a college’s global citizenship are its efforts to contribute to the communities to which they send students. Mindful of that priority, helping to shape an interdependent and equitable global community should also be central to higher education’s international efforts. 

Exchange and study abroad programs should offer the possibility of reorienting students’ responsibilities to the world. Simultaneously, these experiences should engender greater humility — in students, faculties and especially in institutions. We also know that global efforts — like those of the United States — to “underdeveloped” countries often exacerbate the very problems they seek to remedy. Taking this lesson to heart, there are very important things to be mindful of in any consideration of institutional competencies as global citizens.

First and foremost, any engagement abroad should teach participants how to care — how to care deeply — about the world, for the people they meet and with whom they collaborate, and for the inequities that are at the root of chronically uneven development. Empathy for any citizen, global or domestic, should be the foremost goal.

To this end, partnerships are the cornerstones that will sustain institutional efforts across the globe. Matching missions and priorities to partners who can improve access, equity and justice through education is key. And partners cannot be faceless entities to their respective U.S. partners; rather, they must be people with whom faculty and staff work and come to trust.

Partners must also share values that mutually evolve educational practices, guide program direction and deepen commitments. It is with in-country partners, and because of them, that institutions can learn how to move towards mutually supportive and equitable global communities.  

As institutions of higher education continue to mature as global citizens, they will discover the resourcefulness and stamina to sustain their commitments to key partnerships — a quality sometimes in short supply for educational institutions. Too often colleges and universities look to grow their enrollments to feed revenue-starved programs by appealing to new international markets. Rather than this approach, future efforts should build capacity for shared values-driven decisions. This approach can generatively expand institutional stamina and sustain long-term engagements. 

The “one-and-done” chase for a cash crop of students can wear away at the most distinctive mission until it fades from view. Any institutional identity is strong because it encourages assertive individuality while also demanding inclusivity. This characteristic is too important to risk on partners or efforts that might atrophy a college’s collective strength and break down the resolve of faculty committed to global education. 

And let’s not forget the students. They are always learning from institutions. Students today can be keenly skeptical of an institution’s intentions. Global competency should require that they think critically about systemic inequities so they can begin to dismantle them as global citizens.


Barry Pearson is a senior vice president for intergenerational learning at Purchase College, State University of New York. He has been a senior vice president and provost for over 15 years. Much of his work as an executive in higher education has focused on expanding global education and international partnerships. You can reach him by email here.

A+
a-

In The News

Health

Voting

Opinions

It’s the Policies, Stupid!

In 1992, James Carville, the strategist behind Bill Clinton’s campaign, famously declared, “It’s the economy, stupid!” This mantra, fueled by the... Read More

In 1992, James Carville, the strategist behind Bill Clinton’s campaign, famously declared, “It’s the economy, stupid!” This mantra, fueled by the memory of the 1990-1991 recession, proved instrumental in Clinton’s victory.  Yet, with the 2024 election season in full swing, the media's attention remains fixated on personalities rather... Read More

Asian American Older Adults Face Unique Health Concerns With Hepatitis B

Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders account for over half of all hepatitis B patients in the United States. The harmful... Read More

Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders account for over half of all hepatitis B patients in the United States. The harmful infection causes liver inflammation and, in severe cases, organ failure and death. Asian Americans also account for over a third of tuberculosis cases in the country. Untreated, the... Read More

Strengthening Kratom Regulation: A Model for Consumer Safety and Industry Integrity

Kratom, a botanical substance from Southeast Asia with centuries of traditional use, has gained popularity in recent years for its... Read More

Kratom, a botanical substance from Southeast Asia with centuries of traditional use, has gained popularity in recent years for its potential benefits, including relaxation and mood enhancement. However, alongside this surge in interest comes the need for robust regulation to ensure consumer safety and industry integrity. ... Read More

Navigating the Road Ahead: Supporting Safer Micromobility in Our Communities

Electric bike and scooter adoption is taking off — literally.  According to market research firm Circana, U.S. e-bike sales in 2022... Read More

Electric bike and scooter adoption is taking off — literally.  According to market research firm Circana, U.S. e-bike sales in 2022 approached nearly $1 billion. And despite being more expensive than traditional bicycles, e-bikes saw 14% sales growth whereas total bike sales declined by 12%. More people... Read More

FDA and Congress Must Protect Printed Patient Medication Information 

Some of the most hotly debated policy conversations happen around health care because it hits so close to home. Almost... Read More

Some of the most hotly debated policy conversations happen around health care because it hits so close to home. Almost everyone has either experienced a serious health challenge or has seen someone close to them go through traumatic health issues. It’s why many Americans feel so... Read More

The Older Americans Act Is Not Keeping Pace With Today’s Older Adults

In 1965, the Older Americans Act was a beacon of successful bipartisan legislation to address the social, economic and health needs... Read More

In 1965, the Older Americans Act was a beacon of successful bipartisan legislation to address the social, economic and health needs of older Americans on a national level. Nearly 60 years later, the act has changed little, yet life for older adults and what it takes for them... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top