The Passport Tour (TPT) has traveled to more than 20 institutions across 6 states; impacting more than 1,000 students from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds. TPT is one of Diversity Abroad's (DA) initiatives to engage students, staff, and faculty with the ultimate goal of "preparing the next generation of global leaders.” This national outreach effort is eminently rewarding and enables us to spark an interest among students who have not considered studying abroad before, and to connect students to Diversity Abroad’s resources.
Each campus visit is unique and tailored to reach as many students as possible. This year our student events have included:
Study Abroad Fairs
Study Abroad 101 Information Sessions
Resource tabling in Student Unions
Open advising sessions in Multicultural Student Centers
Recording student interviews
Leading diversity and inclusion discussions for staff and graduate students
Moderating a panel consisting of students who have studied abroad
Upholding our Commitment
We meet students where they are-- on campus, in classrooms, and within inclusive academic spaces. TPT has visited a diverse array of locations and institutional types such as colleges and universities in rural and urban areas, ivy leagues, and institutions with limited access to global opportunities. The diversity of campuses may vary considerably, but the commonality is all institutions have underrepresented students who are not studying abroad. Students are seeking diverse perspectives on the personal (career) significance and overall community impact of this educational endeavor. That’s what makes Diversity Abroad’s impact on campus so unique.
Additionally, we are upholding our commitment to increase visits to Minority Serving Institutions, and during this semester alone, almost half of all TPT visits have been at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) or Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs).
Open group discussions with students about their excitement, and conversely their barriers to studying abroad create our top memorable moments of the tour. These conversations that we facilitate on campus not only allow students to hear from each other and help their peers critically think through topics of concern, but they also allow faculty to understand their students' needs. This is why we encourage faculty members to also review study abroad resources to prepare students who seek their advice.
Likewise, one-on-one conversations with students are just as valuable as the group discussions. In conversing with students, many have told us that they see a reflection of themselves in the DA team. May it be that we share the same race/ethnicity, religious identity, passion for travel and food, immigration story or ambition to thrive in life, students quickly open up and share their thoughts. For example, I recently shared a meal with a student who promptly connected with me based off of physical identity. With much excitement, she recommended we eat at the best new restaurant near campus where she anecdotally walked me through her recent semester abroad in South America. Giving students undivided, unadulterated attention, be it in a group or individualized settings, helps them to reaffirm and improve self-efficacy, which is the desire of all educators.
Also, while visiting campuses we are able to meet a few of our Diversity Abroad scholarship recipients. Seeing them glow with joy as they share their memories of the “best experience of their lives” is always a lasting memory for the team.
Build authentic connections with students and don't assume that a student knows how study abroad is defined or it’s permanent impact on their personal and professional lives. Therefore an attentive ear is essential. If a student says “I can’t study abroad”, perception can lead a professional to believe the student isn’t interested, when in reality they may be concerned about the multitude of valid reasons that, unbeknownst to the student, can be overcome. Just this week while on a campus in Florida, a student walked past our resource table and mentioned that she would love to study abroad but has a child and can not be gone for a long duration of time. I countered by explaining to her that her school’s study abroad office offers short-term, week long programs. In that moment, her perception of study abroad shifted from completely unrealistic to possible and her perspective on the opportunity was more optimistic.
Our challenge to you: listen with intentionality, connect with integrity, educate with care, engage in critical conversations, and challenge students to pursue a global opportunity. It’s a straightforward and healthy reminder for all of us to better refocus our students perceptions to help them have a clearer view of reality.
The Passport Tour will be on back on the road visiting campuses across the country in spring 2017! If you are interested in hosting Diversity Abroad on your campus, please contact Daneen Johnson, Community Engagement Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, celebrate International Education Week with Diversity Abroad and IES as we host Embark to Excel: A Virtual Student Conference on Study Abroad and The Socially Conscious Global Citizen! Reserve your virtual seat here: http://bit.ly/e2econference2016