Why Do You Want to Go Abroad?

October 21, 2010

The Global Classroom: An Essential Guide to Study Abroad by Jeffrey S. Lantis and Jessica DuPlaga
Reviewed by Virginia (Ginger) Wickline, Miami University
No. 2, October 2010, Global Studies Literature Review

Many times the first question we ask students, or they ask themselves, is, "Where do you want to study abroad?" Lantis and DuPlaga's The Global Classroom: An Essential Guide to Study Abroad is written for a student audience. This useful, handy, quick-read paperback introduces a new learning cycle model that encourages students first to back up and ask WHY they want to study abroad. The authors then encourage students to ask themselves HOW study abroad will help them meet their academic, personal, and professional goals and development currently and long into the future.

Academics who are strong proponents of experiential learning, self-authorship, and personal development models know that experiences add to deep learning. They also know that experiential learning requires self-reflection, abstract conceptualization, and experimentation (trying out new ideas) before the experience begins, as well as after. Applied to study abroad, this ideally means thinking about studying abroad before going, understanding why it is important, getting advice from others about how to prepare, going abroad to try new things, then continuing the cycle by reflecting back on the experience afterward.

Service providers have long known that just going abroad is not enough to impact student development. The book presents a new global classroom learning cycle model (getting started, choosing a program, preparing to study abroad, being abroad, coming home, and thinking about the future) with four dimensions (personal identity, cultural identity, vocational development, and global citizenship). Both academics and practitioners will breathe a sigh of relief for the questions the authors have students ask THEMSELVES about these domains from the instant they begin considering study abroad until long after they return. Moreover, worksheets for each of the six chapters have questions students can ask at different points in time. Sample questions from "Before You Go" include:

  • Personal identity: Why do you want to study abroad? Do you adapt easily to new circumstances?
  • Cultural identity: Would you say that you have a single or multiple cultural identities? How would you explain your culture to others?
  • Vocational development: How do you picture yourself using this experience when you return? At your home institution? Professionally?
  • Global citizenship: Do you identify yourself as someone who can make a difference in the world? What sort of global issues interest you? (pp. 111–114)

The Global Classroom prepares students for the reality that coming home can be as difficult as going abroad by providing tools and tips for making the readjustment easier. It also then asks students to reflect on, "Where next?," or how study abroad can impact their vocational and personal plans for the rest of their lives.

While readers may find that they do not agree with every question or phrase the authors pose, overall the list of questions are very helpful prompts for students to consider. At the end of the manual is a repository of Web sites helpful for everything from international travel and tourism to blogs, health and safety, financial aid, and work/volunteering abroad.

In summary, the authors introduce a new conceptual model that needs to be tested through subsequent work and research. Nonetheless, this little paperback is an easy read, convenient to incorporate as part of a predeparture orientation or course, an airplane trip overseas, continued travel during study abroad, the flight home, and "welcome home" gatherings or reflection sessions. It is a practical how-to manual for students or anyone new to study abroad regarding logistical preparations and travel considerations, as well as a guide to journaling and reflecting on study abroad experiences and their meanings in students' lives.

Lantis, Jeffrey S. and Jessica DuPlaga. 2010. The Global Classroom: An Essential Guide to Study Abroad. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers.