Education abroad can be a rewarding and invaluable aspect of a student’s university experience. This belief is strongly supported in a recent book, Education Abroad: Learning in a Global Context, which takes a close look at the many aspects of education abroad as a learning environment. The book is a volume in the series Contemporary Perspectives on Learning Environments, and was co-edited by Dr. Erin Mikulec, professor and associate director in the School of Teaching and Learning (TCH), Samantha Potempa, Senior Assistant Director for Employer Engagement for Career Services at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Dr. Kara Pike Inman, Director of Education Abroad at University of North Carolina-Wilmington.
During the creation of the book, Mikulec, Potempa, and Pike Inman coordinated the collection of chapters to explore a variety of study abroad topics such as student learning outcomes, faculty development, and program assessment and evaluation. The book also focuses on how study abroad programs and experiences can serve as a model for community engagement and activism. All three of the co-editors have had extensive experience in study abroad programs, including presenting on the subject as well as coordinating or working with faculty to coordinate successful programs.
Collecting and evaluating the content of the book was a daunting process. A call for proposals netted a wide variety of excellent submissions, and the group had to make some very difficult decisions about which submissions to include. Ultimately, the ten selected chapters reflected a diverse range of institutions and perspectives, reflecting the voices of faculty leading these programs, the students from the United States who participate, and international students who are participating on a U.S. campus.
“Education abroad creates such a robust learning environment. It is open to so many different people interested in so many different things, and this book will appeal to a wide variety of practitioners interested in the subject,” said Mikulec.
The book has valuable information for a variety of readers, including faculty who are leading a study abroad program or are considering it, researchers in the area of education abroad, or anyone who works with international students. The goal of the book is to assist in the creation of robust education abroad programs that benefit students and their institutions.
“This book is a great way to pull resources together to acknowledge the great work that is happening in the world of faculty led study abroad programs as well as global learning in general,” said Potempa.
Rachel Smith, a non-tenure track faculty in the School of Kinesiology and Recreation at Illinois State and current doctoral student in TCH, contributed a chapter on one of the more unique study abroad programs that is held on a cruise ship and focuses on students from a variety of different disciplines.
“The experiential learning component is very important,” said Smith. “Students are basically on a floating city and are able to make connections from classroom materials that they wouldn’t normally make otherwise.
When asked about the potential effects that COVID-19 may have on the future of study abroad programs, the entire group echoed that they have seen that interest in these programs is even higher than it was prior to the pandemic. Students, faculty and international partners alike have felt the pain of missing out and can’t wait to get these experiences started again with safety protocols in place.
While there is no perfect program that works for every institution, this book offers a variety of information that could be used to improve study abroad programs. Readers of the book will definitely be able to discover something new that they can apply to their own efforts.
Education abroad experiences are powerful learning environments that can have great effects on personal and professional development long after returning home. This book serves as a fantastic resource for best practices in creating and implementing quality study abroad programs.