With encouragement from Knox faculty and The Eleanor Stellyes Center for Global Studies, more students have participated in study abroad programs and immersive faculty-led trips this academic year.
Knox offers students access to more than 100 off-campus programs, which includes domestic and international travel, short-term immersive experiences, and faculty-led trips. Approximately 53% of Knox students study off campus before they graduate.
Participation in off-campus programs has seen a promising increase because of short-term faculty-led offerings, and an increasing set of long-term opportunities.
Four new courses with immersive travel components were introduced this academic year: Israel/Palestine (history), Mexico (Spanish), China (art & Asian studies), and Maine (biology). Long-term programs focused on the sciences in Cambodia, Nepal, Kenya, Tanzania, Panama, Costa Rica, Chile, and Peru have been sponsored by faculty over the past several years.
Professor Robin Ragan’s Spanish 221 class met regularly on campus during the fall 2018 term to discuss Mexican geography and culture before departing for Oaxaca. Ragan remarked that this opportunity allowed students to be engaged in a professional environment of their choice while interacting with native Spanish speakers.
“In many cases, I think this program helped students clarify and solidify their career choices,” she said. “It certainly gave them more confidence to interact with native Spanish-speakers, and a desire to continue learning and improving.”
Keara Crook '19, who spent nearly three weeks traveling in southern China with her Asian Studies class, said that “the length of the program was perfect.” The course, titled Arts, Culture, and Landscapes of Southern China, prepared students during the fall for their winter break travels.
“The travel component of the class added another, deeper level of education that was previously missing,” Crook said. “It is one thing to learn about many of the 56 ethnic groups that are present throughout China, and it is another thing to learn about a focused number of these ethnic groups and then experience their cultures first-hand.”
Faculty-led immersion programs during the breaks provide experiential learning opportunities for students who find it difficult to study off-campus for an entire semester or term. Faculty are now also developing spring and summer break trips connected to courses during the term to create more specific engagement opportunities.
“This is a distinctive format for us, and enables students to prepare well for their off-campus experience and also get to know one another before the trip,” said Bren Tooley, director of the Stellyes Center. “Usually, there is also some form of collaborative reflection and presentation for the campus community after the experience as well.”
The additions are a part of the Knox 2018 Strategic Plan to expand on experiential and immersion learning, and create expanded opportunities for students. The Stellyes Center has recently added 42 international programs to the list of pre-approved off-campus study programs and has developed several strategies to allow a more diverse pool of students to participate in off-campus programs.
Tooley said that traditional programs continue to see a steady increase in recent years. This is because program providers like IES, DIS, CIEE, and FIE offer strong financial support for Knox students.
“It has been good to see that students have not let concerns about costs prevent them from exploring opportunities as there are usually ways to help defray the cost of study abroad, most often through one's chosen program,” she said. “Our provider partners are very supportive of Knox students on their programs, offering merit-based as well as need-based scholarships to students who apply.”
Study abroad programs are more accessible to Knox students through prestigious scholarships such as the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship and the Fund for Education Abroad scholarships. More than 22 Gillman Fellowships have been awarded to Knox students in the last four years in an effort to help a diverse group of students study and intern abroad.
An increasing number of students also choose to participate in programs, internships, and service opportunities in the summer to better fit their schedule and budget.
“Not everyone wants to participate in international opportunities during their undergraduate studies, but for those who do, it is good that we have a variety of ways in which they may do so,” said Tooley. “It's definitely not just a matter of the traditional 'study abroad' format, which doesn't suit all students.”
Photo above: Debora Oritz adjusts the sail during SEA Semester. Below: students visit a gallery during the immersive program Knox in New York.