This post is a summary of part of my talk where I used photos on a program website to demonstrate how even when we take real steps (such as financial support) to promote and support including underrepresented groups in study abroad, we often still do it in a way that doesn’t really challenge what I called the “default whiteness” of study abroad. That is, we focus on trying to increase the numbers of students of color studying abroad, but don’t really think about some of the problematic ways in which we represent study abroad. To explain what I mean, I’ll look at two pages of a program website.
In my very first post on this blog, I discussed how despite popular belief, language and intercultural learning are not automatic outcomes of study abroad. I also mentioned three key components of study abroad programs necessary to promote these outcomes: language and intercultural contact, reflection upon this contact, and connecting the pre, during, and post sojourn experiences. In this post, I want to focus on one of my favorite interventions for study abroad, that of ethnographic projects for study abroad.
For U.S. students, study abroad has never been more popular—according to the Open Doors data from the U.S. State Department, the number of students studying abroad has more than doubled since the turn of the 21st century, and about 10% of U.S. students will study abroad during their undergraduate career. As a study abroad researcher, this is both exciting (because more students are getting this opportunity) and disheartening (because there seems to be little attention paid to what happens after students cross that national border and gain the status of a study abroad student).