How failure to meet expectations and lack of communication can sour a student’s perspective on global education.
As a prospective student, one of the things that drew me in about Goucher was the opportunity to broaden my perspective internationally. However, as an actual student, I found myself met with requirements that overshadowed the importance of a study abroad trip.
Goucher College is one of three universities in the United States that are 100% study abroad required. One of this institutions’ selling points is the study abroad requirement, with the philosophy that “the global community of the 21st century demands that you have an international perspective.” It’s constantly advertised to prospective students, spoken of on tours, and pushed on the official Goucher website as giving students a special edge with “global experience.”
Despite this constant messaging of advantages and integrated education, many students feel this requirement can be isolating, and puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to graduating. A lot of this isolation stems from the financial barriers that a study abroad trip poses, and the gap in communication between administrative offices and the student body.
The study abroad page of Goucher College’s website claims to have an expert team of staff and faculty dedicated to supporting students in their study abroad planning. Despite these claims, the study abroad office has seen frequent turnovers in staff since 2019, these changes not being effectively related to students in a timely manner.
The person employed in that office during my study abroad quit while I was abroad, leaving me with no line of communication to Goucher during that time. Much of the information and experience within the study abroad office is not passed down among emerging faculty, as people in the past have left the office abruptly.
It can be jarring to start a journey whether it be financial, emotional, educational, etc. and have it go in a completely unanticipated direction. Many students may come to this institution with an understanding that they are required to study abroad, with the expectation of help and clear communication from those facilitating the experience.
In addition to these emotional and financial barriers, COVID’s impact has harshened the idea of traveling abroad for many students as well. International travel can be a daunting experience, and it can be especially difficult to prioritize your health while navigating highly trafficked areas with people coming and going from different places.
With each Goucher student’s experiences and perspectives being unique, how can just one person be expected to curate the ideal global education for everyone? Since the foundation of this requirement, Goucher has evolved in more ways than one. Could it be time to reassess this requirement and whether the global experience outweighs the burdens students may take on?