Comments on: Scamtastic Study Abroad Programs: What to do? History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Mon, 22 Sep 2014 19:47:12 +0000 hourly 1 By: Melete Sun, 07 Oct 2012 14:35:22 +0000 Ugh. I had a colleague who does exactly this. At least, however, he does it in London, where language is more or less not an issue.

One year, however, he used a grant so he could spend a summer in France with his paramour, a lady of the junior faculty persuasion who supposedly was doing research on the book that was help her achieve tenure. Alas, her husband found out, called Distinguished Associate Professor’s wife, a marriage exploded spectacularly, and T/T Assistant Prof slunk away into the darkness. She ended up managing a bookstore in Seattle.

Not quite on topic…but gives you a flavor of the sort of guys who run these scams. Distinguished Associate Professor, BTW, is now a full bull and head of a department. Students love him: 4.9 at RateMyProfessors.

By: Z Sun, 30 Sep 2012 05:09:23 +0000 @Taxes, I would look into it as it’s a huge donation so yes, ask an accountant, seriously.

You are the first person I’ve talked to who has taught for free beyond directing an independent resarch project and it also sounds as though they took a huge amount of your time ahead.

I am interested because I have something of an opposite view: I think our place underpays us. This makes me less enthusiastic; I could teach a course in 4.5 weeks with 10 contact hours per week at home for the same cash as being on call 24/7 for the same amount of time abroad. If I made more for the study abroad gig, I would work harder to make it SUPER good. We get lodging, not very good, and the per diem is small, $20, for food and bus tickets and so on.

By: Lance Wed, 26 Sep 2012 17:29:14 +0000 @Z I honestly don’t know what you mean when you ask if I took my time off my taxes. I think I need a better accountant.

Most of the people I know do it because they are trying to be good citizens and recruit or draw students into a major. Some do it because they believe that these classes are, in many ways, superior to sitting in a desk. (Why just read about race relations in Guyana when you can meet the President of Guyana and ask her about the same subject?) And some do it because there is enormous surplus value in having this sort of experience on your CV. I guess, for me, it was all three.

By: Z Wed, 26 Sep 2012 06:02:44 +0000 @So Lance, you really did it for free, covered expenses and taught for free? Did you at least take your time off your taxes? Were you doing it for the sake of your department’s major or something like that?

By: loumac Mon, 24 Sep 2012 16:58:34 +0000 Interesting discussion – I’ve recently decided to no longer participate in my own department’s summer program for very similar reasons. I suppose the moral of the story is “buyer beware” – there are no doubt good bubble programs led by thoughtful, intentional faculty and there are no doubt horrible immersion programs. I’d like to see our study abroad office keep a folder of comments from former participants in all the different programs, with honest feedback to help others decide. Perhaps students could get a $50 reduction on fees if they agreed to do an anonymous, in-depth exit interview.

I do think the per diem thing can be terribly exploited. We don’t get per diems to live and work in our primary homes, or help with “Food, transportation, taxes, mortgage” etc. That’s called our salary. Sorry, but I don’t see why students should subsidize some peoples’ second homes (yeah, there’s some class resentment here – I’m speaking as someone who can’t afford a first home after 12 years on the job.) Here’s a not-entirely-hypothetical situation: a colleague is lucky/rich enough to have a second home abroad, gets hir salary to be there when zie is leading the study abroad, as well as extra housing expenses (based on the dodgy premise that zie is renting from hirself), yet still requests additional per diem, basically on the students’ backs. For what? Eating? Zie has a kitchen – zie is not forced to eat out every day. Transport? In that case, I want a per diem to cover my bus pass at home. Unfortunately, our uni. has eliminated per diems where they are actually justified (conference travel, where you are incurring genuine extra expenses, have no choice but to eat out, etc.), but is turning a blind eye to this kind of thing.

By: tony grafton Mon, 24 Sep 2012 12:38:07 +0000 So much depends on the program. All my prejudices are in favor of programs in which Americans study with the natives and against American-run programs. Yet . . .

My daughter did a semester in a European city, in a program sponsored by several universities, including mine. She was already fluent in the language and knew the city. The instruction, all in normal university courses and in the local language, was of pretty mixed quality, and assignments and book provision were far below American standards. On balance, I think, an OK experience, with one very good course, but not better.

My son, by contrast, did a parachute program run by his elite school for one term, in a South African city. All instruction was in English, most of it by professors from his university. The courses were rigorous and demanding, the center where he and others lived was provided with everything they needed, the professors were around for informal talk and travel as well as for instruction. My son and his friends had a wonderful time and saw a lot, but they also learned a great deal.

Sigh . . .

By: Lance Mon, 24 Sep 2012 12:33:25 +0000 I think y’all make a very fair point: certain programs attract certain kinds of students. For all the wrong reasons, a trip to Florence or Dublin just draws a wider range – including the best and the worst.

But I also don’t want to leave anyone with the impression that only the most diligent and serious students sought out the chance to go to the DR, or Cuba, or Guyana. Going on one of the these trips is like being a parent. And there were plenty of students who got too drunk, or fell in love, or who went AWOL. This is some high intensity &^%$. I’ve mopped vomit on other continents. You just have to be prepared to, you know, offer guidance 24/7 on more than Junot Diaz or David Dabydeen. And that is, surely, not for everyone. And if you aren’t willing to do that sort of work, then it quickly becomes a pub crawl masquerading as a classroom on the road.

And then there are days where you just go somewhere – like Dajabon, on the border between Haiti and the DR – and everything clicks for the students (and faculty). All the abstractions snap into real life focus. And they can’t look at the world the same way. They stop drinking. They read more carefully. They think.

So in the end, I think what matters most is the issue raised in the original letter, and that was refocused so excellently by H-Ann above: this is about having the right institutional oversight and right-minded faculty in place. Before I could even admit a single student, I had to write about a dozen drafts of a 30 page, day by day account of what we were going to do “in country.” Exhausting! And worth it. The U had to put that process in place. And I had to be willing to submit myself to it.

Finally, this was a zero sum game for me financially. “Salary” was always budgeted into program costs. So to keep the program cheap, I covered my expenses and took nothing else. That was sort of standard practice. And a good one.

By: Emily Mon, 24 Sep 2012 10:04:34 +0000 I’m an American graduate student at a British university that commonly plays host to bubble programs for American undergrads. People here tend to find the programs peculiar–the American students parachute in for one short term, or one summer session, and leave again, without seemingly having learned anything about the university or local culture, or met any non-Americans. (There’s a common stereotype here, I think, that Americans are fine individually but really annoying when they hang out in large groups of other Americans, which they are seen to do frequently.) But administrators here seem to put up with these programs in large part because they’re very lucrative money-makers for our cash-strapped institution.

One of the reasons I am a grad student here at all is that I had the good fortune to do a proper exchange at this university when I was an undergrad. I swapped places with a British student, landed in his academic and social environment with not an American in sight, and over the course of six months started really to understand the differences between British and American culture (not to mention benefiting from the research strengths here, somewhat different from those at my home department). The program is logistically complicated, open to very few students from the British university and from my elite American undergrad doing certain subjects, and because no one makes any money off it there’s resistance to expanding it. Yet it’s not difficult to see that it would be a better educational and cultural experience for everyone concerned if it could be expanded.

By: Z Mon, 24 Sep 2012 07:00:50 +0000 “As a French historian, I can’t imagine what sort of curriculum I would devise beyond visiting a bunch of historically significant places and discussing why there were significant. How can that be rigorous?”

Well, take them to archives and show them how to work on a project. That is truly using the site.

I have a literature class where they have required reading ahead of program time, then during study abroad they will go to actual literary readings by these authors, do research on them in major libraries in destination city, try to get interviews, things like that.

I have a developmental reading / introduction to the study of cultural objects class where they will have to follow a news story or cultural issue or formation in the papers and other media, do research on it, gather materials and choose theoretical approaches to its study.

If you go to a big city and universities there are on term time, you can go to lectures and events; you can also get guest speakers from there for your classes, people you could not afford to fly to the US but that you can afford an honorarium for a talk there. (Then, a bonus is that your students have actual contacts in those foreign universities to reactivate later.)

If I were a linguist I would have them do fieldwork in regional speech and dialectology. They could go around meeting people, interviewing, recording, asking about slang, finding preservations of grammatical constructions no longer in use generally, etc.

There is tons and tons you can do beyond tourism.

But, I am still not for it, really.

By: Z Mon, 24 Sep 2012 06:49:34 +0000 P.P.S. “Maybe that’s due to the different kind of student who will sign up for study abroad in Cuba or other troubled Caribbean/South American destinations, versus the kind of student who will sign up for study abroad courses in Western Europe?”

This is possible, even probable. Still.