Using student study abroad experiences in the on-campus classroom

Lawrence aims to provide services and resources to those students who study off-campus upon their return to help them process these high-impact experiences.  While the Off-Campus Programs office offers programming and workshop related to making meaning of the study abroad experience, it is very powerful when these messages are received in multiple forms.

Students want to know how to connect what they learned abroad with their major and career aspirations.  Faculty teaching classes on-campus can play a role in supporting study abroad students' transition back to campus.  Are you interested in how you might assist study abroad returnees to process and integrate their experiences into their academic interests after return?  Might you consider how off-campus study returnees can help diversify and meaningfully contribute to the discussions in your classes?  How might all students in your classes benefit from unique perspectives of study abroad returnees?

How Faculty Might Use Experiences of Study Abroad Returnees in the Classroom
Many faculty are interested in drawing upon the unique perspectives of students who have returned from studying abroad to contribute to their on-campus teaching.  These opportunities may be more or less obvious in different disciplines.  Following are ways faculty might work with their students who have returned from studying abroad:
  • Start talking about study abroad with students before participation so they know that studying abroad is an academically valuable endeavor and that you are interested in what they will be studying
  • Consider with students ways off-campus study can contribute to or start research for independent study, honors project, or Senior Experience
  • Ask your students who have returned from studying abroad about their experiences and go beyond surface level questions like ‘how was it?’ or ‘did you enjoy your semester?’
  • Ask your classes early in the term who has studied abroad. This will tell you what perspectives you may be able to draw upon during the term
  • Strategically include options to reflect upon international learning in your coursework by encouraging students to utilize their perspective from studying abroad in class discussions, assignments, or projects
  • In small group work, consider having study abroad returnees work together periodically to allow them to focus on commonalities of off-campus study perspectives
  • Invite students to contribute and utilize their study abroad experiences as examples or in discussion
  • Allowing space for study abroad returnees to use their experiences in their academics after their return might be especially helpful for some returnees in winter term

Initiating a meaningful conversation about study abroad with a returnee

How might you start a meaningful conversation with a student about their experiences abroad?  Your conversations will be most fruitful if you engage the student about their academic or personal experiences going deeper than 'So, how was it?'  Following a couple of ways faculty might start a conversation with a student who has returned from studying abroad to lead to a more meaningful interaction. 

  • 'What was the highlight of your term/semester/year?'
  • 'Did you do an independent study in any of your classes?  If so, how did this help you connect locally?'
  • Ask questions specific to your discipline related to their experiences or studies abroad
  • 'What is one thing you learned about yourself from studying abroad?'
  • 'What was your most significant accomplishment while abroad?'
  • 'How might you continue to work with these themes now that you have returned?'
  • 'Did you have any unanticipated challenges?'