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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Educational Tourism

What do you, folks, think about tourist trips for college credit? 

For instance, students want to see Spain. A professor takes them on a “visit 11 Spanish cities in 10 days!” tour. Students pay $4,000 to a travel company for the trip + tuition. College pays professor’s salary and trip cost out of tuition. Students get credit for the trip as if it were an actual course. 

I find the whole thing strange because I don’t see why the college needs to get involved at all. This can all be resolved between a student and a tourist agency. But it seems to be an existing practice.

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25 thoughts on “Educational Tourism

  1. Since study abroad is my research specialization, I have quite a bit to say on this topic :-). However for now, I’ll limit it it a) I hate this practice b) doing it through the university or a volunteerism agency is necessary for students to distinguish themselves from “regular” tourists as they seek to use their capital to purchase membership in the new liquid global elite (even if there are no differences in the actual practices abroad between the educational and regular trip)

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    • Right? I’m glad we agree (finally on something). I think study abroad is fantastic and students desperately need it. But the emphasis should be on study not just on abroad.

      For almost the same money students could go take an actual course with a real college abroad we have an agreement with.

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      • For some students it’s hard at least initially to think of going abroad for the length of a full course (and there are different problems with these too people like to ignore, like it’s not magic immersion). However, even short trips can focus on study, not tourism (I’ve done it!). But, interestingly/appallingly when I was setting up that two week program it was shockingly difficult to find a partner abroad that could look beyond the how many excursions /how many hours of class model (I said I wanted no trips and the students to spend most of their time hanging out with local peers implementing what they did in a two hour daily class, and told the students that if they wanted to travel I’d put them in contact with a tourist agency that would arrange whatever trips they wanted after the official university program ended).

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        • What you describe – 2 hours in class and the rest socializing with peers – sounds perfect. They’d really learn, even in just 2 weeks.

          Liked by 1 person

          • That’s what the students said afterwards too 🙂 Crazy things happen when you apply research on study abroad to actually designing it . . . but anyways like I said I could go on forever since I literally write articles on this topic, so I’ll stop for now 🙂

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            • That’s a great area of research. Unfortunately, not all study abroad experiences are great. I’ve had students who came back from study abroad speaking almost less Spanish than before the trip because the only people they got to speak to on the trip were their English speaking classmates. And that’s a total waste of time.

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              • Yes, this is exactly what the research says–we/students imagine study abroad in ways that are not productive for language and intercultural learning (tourism, monolingual immersion, personal transformation, etc) so the results are often not that great in terms of language and intercultural learning, and certainly not as great as they could be. The challenge is being aware of our ideologies and how they impact what we do abroad and then how we can intentionally change both our ideologies and practices (and this is really hard, but at least in my opinion worth it if you care about this type of learning).

                Sorry, I probably can’t actually stop myself from commenting on this thread since I spend most of my work life thinking about this topic 🙂

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              • You don’t have to apologise. This is very valuable, especially since you are the only actual specialist in this field here.

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  2. TomW on said:

    I think the best versions of these short courses are the ones that are put together by departments other than the foreign language programs. I heard about a contemporary theater course held in London for two weeks, they had class every day, went to a play every night, and did tons of back stage visits and had guest lectures from all sorts of theater professionals. That seems like a valuable experience that you couldn’t recreate on most campuses. I’ve also heard of some Art History courses that go to various parts of the world and focus on visiting temples/churches/shrines etc. to learn about art that is very highly contextualized and hard to appreciate from just a photo. I’ve also heard of some interesting things done related to dance and engineering, but none of them were focused on travel or language learning, they were mostly about visiting sites and experience relevant to a topic in that field.

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    • The courses you describe sound fantastic. But they are real courses, with classes, learning goals,etc. It’s not just touristy rushing from one city to another to tick off the standard tourist boxes.

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  3. I am against this and used to be yet more against it, although I will say that before I ever went on study abroad of any kind, I had traveled with my parents. People are really afraid to travel. So there’s a place for this kind of trip but in my day they were done through university extension and were not for credit, or were only for credit in the 1-2 unit way a recreational sports class might be.

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    • It’s great that students travel. Our students especially need it since most of them haven’t even been to New York. But we can do it in an educational way, I’m sure of that. Besides, the “6 cities in 5 days* model is about the worst there is.

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      • Oh, I think it’s awful & am shocked that it is what so many choose, insist upon, etc. There’s an interesting program at my place that apparently involves a road trip within US, where they visit famous places. The kind of trip that used to be standard for families to go on, but that has never been accessible to the actually poor and now isn’t necessarily for middle classes, not with both parents working one or more jobs, as they do now, etc.

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        • So my summary of the research is that the following three components are what you cannot give up if you want language and intercultural learning to be an outcome:

          1) Connect the program abroad to students’ lives before and after the program
          2) Promote language and intercultural contact (with people!)
          3) Guide students to reflect upon this contact

          Everything else (length, destination, classes, etc.) is something that has to be negotiated with institutional, student constraints and contexts etc. If you are creative and willing to put in a lot of effort, you can do these things in a short-term program, but that’s not usually what happens.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. But Emmagale, study abroad used to be better — for-credit guided group tourism is something they’ve only had in the past couple of decades, to my knowledge. I think there’s a place for university extension-led tourism, since those who design the trips are probably better at it than a commercial travel company, but that’s university extension recreational travel, not study abroad.

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    • It used to be better, but it wasn’t accessible to all students (and some of the students going abroad now wouldn’t have even been in college in the last century). If you want to see really interesting data on how study abroad has changed, look at the Open Doors data produced by the state department (I’ll link below). Basically, the total number of students going abroad has doubled in the 21st century, but over 60% of students go on programs of 8 weeks or less, 3% for an academic year or more. The “Junior Year Abroad” is no longer a thing, except potentially at very elite schools. The type of students is also different–only 7-8% are languages majors now, they are going to more non-traditional destinations (e.g. not Europe or Australia), and they are a little more racially diverse. Personally, I think the possibility of getting more students abroad is great, and something to continue to strive for, but the problem is in how we are doing it, especially with these awful 5 cities in 6 days tours. And it doesn’t have to be this way, that’s just the model people assume because study abroad and even foreign language learning still to a large degree draws on a completely irrelevant Grand Tour of Europe model.

      https://www.iie.org/en/Research-and-Insights/Open-Doors/Data/US-Study-Abroad

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      • Yes. What I find hardest is selling non-grand tour to students and parents. If they are elite types, they understand, but non-elites want this. I hadn’t looked this IIE page for a while, thanks for bringing it up!!!

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        • Sure (I mean who doesn’t want to travel!), and the problem with this is then there’s a new standard for being elite, which allows the elites to maintain their status. This is why a lot of my current research is focusing on ideologies of study abroad. It’s not a problem I’ve solved, but I think awareness of potential ideologies (including our own) and how they impact our expectations and practices abroad is an important step. Of course, if I could figure out how to teach that, I’d solve a lot more problems than study abroad . . . 🙂

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  5. “Mixed” is a pretty good summary of all the outcomes”

    You may not be aware of my razor sharp and sublimely employed diplomacy and impeccable understatement.

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