As a lecturer, one aspect of my job is to work with home students who have been away on a year abroad and students from overseas who come to the UK to study, either on an Erasmus or exchange programmes. A new piece of research has shown that students who undertake overseas study perform better when they return to their home institution: read the full article here
When I was an undergraduate I went on an exchange programme to the University of South Carolina and I truly believe that without that exchange year I wouldn’t be an American History lecturer today. The whole experience inspired me to take my study of history further. However, exchanges can also inspire students in many other ways. The study of students at the University of Georgia claims that exchange students are more likely to go on to a successful completion of their degree.
The study’s critics say that this is because exchange students are not typical anyway. They are more likely to be affluent, go-getting or may be choosing to do easier courses. But it would be difficult to challenge the statistics on the benefits of the year abroad to non-white minorities. Their completion rate was 18% higher than their contemporaries who did not go abroad.
Anecdotally, being able to contextualise their study by, say, learning about Shaekspeare while studying in England, or slavery while studying in the Deep South, really helps students to grasp the importance of challenging concepts as well as encouraging them to engage more fully with content based learning.
So, as lecturers we have a responsibility to encourage the development of these programmes. After all, it might help our own careers too. We can develop international networks with academics overseas, perhaps leading to conferences, workshops or other ways of sharing knowledge. Thinking globally is not only good for the student, it’s good for the lecturer too.