Wednesday, February 16, 2011

is the word 'study' really necessary in study abroad?

Reading in le Jardin de Tuilleries

Recently someone posted  the question "is the word 'study' really necessary in study abroad?" to Twitter.  Based on the person's name and photo on Twitter they are a young female (presumably undergraduate or high school student but who actually knows...).  I don't know if this person has studied abroad or not.  I picked up this tweet via a Twitter search for "study abroad" and this question really got me thinking about "studying" abroad and I wanted to post this question here on IHEC Blog to stimulate others in conversation.  

I know that there are many students who treat the study abroad experience in a serious manner and actually "study" and learn during their time abroad.  I also know that there are many students who treat the study abroad experiences in a less that serious manner and with very little or no "study" and learning taking place during their time abroad.

Is it fun to be 20 years old and be in Germany, Spain or Argentina.  Oh, indeed it is and I had my share!  You?  I've posted to IHEC Blog before about how fun study abroad is.  I'm not saying that study abroad programming in the United States is less than rigorous and that the field is not doing a good job in this area.  I just wonder what this person meant by that statement and how others perceive it.

So, is the word 'study' really necessary in study abroad?

Photo credit:  Penningtontron


  1. I guess the question would be what word would replace "study" in study abroad? "Experience"? "Going"?

  2. @crazyazncoug ~ Great question. I wonder what this person meant. Most likely not how I interpreted but it allowed me to ask the question to generate some discussion.

  3. I think a work abroad experience or a volunteer abroad experience can be as valuable or even more valuable than a straightforward 'study abroad' experience. But, whichever experience someone has, something will be learned in almost any abroad experience. And to my mind, that's a good thing!

  4. Renee Capicchioni VannataFebruary 16, 2011 at 5:12 PM

    The field of study-abroad is actually called "International Education". Is the word 'Education' really necessary in International Education?

    @Jessica - ITA!

  5. As long as the person has some cultural, social, and political context to help interpret the things she sees and experiences while abroad, I think the rigorous studying and coursework is unnecessary. You don't go abroad to learn what how other countries do classroom lectures, you go abroad to learn how they do business, friendship, and life!

  6. I think that students will have the potential to learn a lot, no matter how little they may be "studying", but the study aspect often provides a framework to help more of that extracurricular learning to stick. Taking a class in history will help students to understand the historic sites they're visiting more, or taking an art class will help them understand the art they see outside of the classroom. Learning vocabulary and grammar in the classroom will help them learn/understand a language better as they're exposed to it in the real world.

  7. Thank you everyone for your comments! I like to see discussions in our field!!

    @Jessica ~ I agree that work or volunteering abroad is just as (I think more) valuable as studying abroad.

    @Renee ~ I like your point about International Education.

    All of the students I talk to about studying abroad seem to treat it as a serious experience and will actually study while abroad.

    Maybe someone (me?) should send a tweet back to the person asking what she meant by "is the word 'study' really necessary in study abroad?"

  8. I believe this article brings up a relevant point on the relativity of the term "study" in study abroad. How about changing the title to International Education Studies?

  9. I would really like to hear the answer to that question because I think it is relevant, otherwise you could be confused as simply a tourist

  10. Jacob:

    I like the sound of Interntional Education Studies, sounds very academic. I also liked the reference in the other blogs as students who are studying abroad as being citizen ambassadors. It has a nice ring to it. What do you think?

  11. @Jacob and Jeff ~ Thanks for taking the time to comment on this question. I like the sound of International Education Studies.

    Following are some more recent tweets by another student "studying" abroad (based off Twitter profile a young, white, female who is studying fashion in Milan):

    "Boring class with a teacher I can't understand. Best combo"

    "I love study abroad!! #notreallife"

    "Slept thru my 1st day of fashion class at 4 pm this will be a good semester"

    "Blacked out the first night in Milan and rode the struggle bus thru a 5 hour Italian class and totally acceptable!!" (I'm assuming this has to do with consuming a tad bit of vino or related substance)

    Do I think this student is learning and getting something out of her experience? Yes, a little probably. Do I think she is studying? No. Your thoughts?

  12. @N. Monteiro Actually I learned a lot about Italy and the Italian Education system by taking classes at the University of Florence. It was unlike anything I had experienced in the States and very much a reflection on Italian culture.

    I think that as a study abroad student taking courses that are directly related to the country you are studying in, you come away from the experience with a much fuller and well rounded view and understanding of the country that you called home for a semester or two. Without the background given by course work students are something like long-term tourists.

  13. I think that this is a very "deep" question because it is talking about the informal learning that a person who travels abroad is exposed to.I believe that this is equally as important if not more so than the formal studying that a student does in a university or college abroad.