Undertaking Education in the Global Context

By Catherine Fisher.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

My work has allowed me to travel extensively with students as they undertake international, often interdisciplinary, educational programs. Together we have experienced such diverse locations as Saharan and sub Saharan Africa, major European cities, northern Andean highlands, other Latin American destinations as well locales in Asia. In each environment, students have articulated both the personal and external challenges they face when undertaking experiential education in the field. Reviewing and reliving their experiences, both through evaluations and interviews, during and post travel, I suggest that despite any problems they encounter, they primarily highly value the unique perspectives afforded them through field learning.

Universities also recognize the importance of and increasingly are engaged in offering credit travel through various options including exchanges, practicums and organized group options. Under the leadership of academics from both home and host institutions, international programs are periodically risky, normally complex and can be expensive for both participants and employers. Despite tensions that may develop at all levels, institutions understand the critical role of these experiences to students. At minimum participants may see their world more critically and might even consider their role as global citizens. Periodically it may lead to a complete reevaluation of career goals and expectations.

This presentation will examine these various processes and often-conflicting elements that are involved in offering international credit programming. It will also consider the benefits of our centralized administrative structure, especially when approaching interdisciplinary field options to the more decentralized administrative structures found in other models. Finally, it will reflect on the contradictions between the importance of this type of educational opportunity while seemingly in conflict with, and even at the expense of, the other demands made on our academics to undertake other institutional goals such as research, publishing and fundraising.

Keywords: International Education, Experiential Learning, Administrative Responsibilities, Tensions in Developing and Undertaking

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp.381-388. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 554.900KB).

Catherine Fisher

Manager, Group Study Programs, Centre for International Students and Study Abroad, Student and Academic Services, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

In 1999 I commenced work on my Master’s degree, which focused on contemporary coping conditions for Cubans in the post Russian period. Through my travels in Cuba in the decade prior I understood that the American dominated discourse had missed the point on why Cubans continue to resist external influence for change and I wanted to explore this topic. During the months I lived in Cuba conducting my ethnographic survey, I further appreciated the importance of experiential learning in developing better understandings of the ‘reality’ of situations beyond our own spheres. Physical space and conditions affect understanding. Reading and learning through lecture is only the first stage of becoming integrated in the global context. Upon completion of my degree, using my own field advancement as the initial framework, my career has been to develop and manage administratively, international credit programs at the University of Calgary. I have also had the opportunity to travel, as well as to teach, within this context. Whether in the field or in the office, this work remains challenging every day and through it, I have developed a deep respect for the academics that are committed to taking education outside of the institutional box.

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