By Dr. Michael Horowitz
Mark Twain once said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” Committed to preparing innovative, engaged, purposeful agents of change who serve our global community at TCS, we happen to agree. However, while it’s impossible to argue that students of every generation can benefit from the expanded view that study abroad programs afford, for working adults—these experiences hold particularly meaningful value.
A More Robust Learning Experience
Study abroad engagements are something of an introduction to life for traditional students between the ages of 18-22. The lens through which an adult student experiences these global engagements, however, is entirely different. In contrast to traditional college students in their late teens and early twenties, adult learners are more seasoned, with access to perspectives, baseline understanding, and an expanded world view that only life experience allows. Not only do they have a greater appreciation for the significance of this experience not customarily available to them as working adults, they are also better equipped to assimilate the experience into their lives.
Direct Application to Professional Roles
Working adults also have the distinct opportunity to immediately apply what they learn from global academic engagements to their profession. Focused programs can be experienced more fully by a non-traditional student through the lens of awareness. Take for instance, a study abroad program focused on the current immigration crisis. By contextualizing the subject matter into professional terms, working adults can translate key insights to professional skills refinement and enhancement. The potential impact of close range examination of immigration can extend well beyond increased awareness of migrants’ challenges alone to more empathetic nurses, more sensitive legal counsel, more astute mental health practitioners, and more focused early childhood education professionals.
Meaningful Social Impact
For study abroad programs with community service-based curricula, like those at all TCS partner colleges, greater society stands to benefit from the participation of more seasoned students. Because non-traditional students have the capacity to bring their well-informed life experience and professional perspectives beyond their curiosities alone to these programs, they contribute at a much higher level with faculty, collaboratively with each other in the course of the program, and within the larger communities these field experiences serve. Based on their broader definition of community and intentionally inclusive design that includes adult learners, college faculty, staff, administration, alumni and trustee study abroad participants, TCS programs not only benefit the larger community, but perpetuate participant social issue advocacy and the growth of community partnerships around the world.
A Study Abroad Case in the Making
A prime example of programming with an unparalleled opportunity for adult learners is the TCS cross-college study abroad program scheduled for this fall. Through this Education Beyond Borders study abroad trip to South Africa exploring the impact of identity, non-traditional students will be in a strong position to assimilate the curriculum into their lives, directly apply key learnings to their profession, and meaningfully advance favorable social impact at home and abroad. As one of the most culturally diverse nations on earth, South Africa is the optimal venue to examine the complex challenges inherent to a country of 55 million people that speak over 20 tribal languages and deals with millions of immigrants and a myriad of related social issues. The rich global experience this program promises participants on the issues of resilience and reconciliation was born from six focused years of in-country relationship building and field experiences between TCS partners and the South African community, and the meaningful contributions of working adult students in these programs.
While the primary purveyors of study abroad programming might appear on the surface to be traditional college students, a leviathan opportunity for favorable community impact with the power to change the world lies in global academic engagement by working adults!