Guidelines for Community Engaged Learning Abroad

doi.org/10.36366/G.978-1-952376-16-0 | ISBN: 978-1-952376-16-0 

Whether a stand-alone program or one component of a course or program, community engagement experiences abroad present a unique set of benefits and challenges for students and institutions/organizations. It is essential to ensure that the project(s) undertaken by visiting students are community-identified and driven. It is critical that institutions and organizations developing community engagement opportunities empower the diverse voices and perspectives in a community, rely on local expertise, and involve community members from a range of perspectives continuously. Throughout the process, institutions and organizations should prioritize the value of listening, learning, and working together with the host community, and avoid a results-oriented approach focused solely on specific timelines or deliverables. 

The most effective community engagement experiences abroad offer reciprocal benefits to communities and students. In some cases, these benefits may be tangible, particularly for service learning and volunteer experience abroad, but in others, members of the host community and students may value the intangible benefits that often inform the education abroad experience, such as exposure to new cultures and perspectives, engaging in a shared learning experience to build mutual understanding and to grapple with complex global issues, and an opportunity for personal growth.  

Community engagement programs by nature expose both students and host community members to differences in cultural and social norms. In some cases, this may also involve differences in access to resources and opportunities, as well as economic disparities. Intentionally structured community engagement experiences abroad can moderate preconceived notions and stereotypes about a country or community, and guide students to develop their listening and observational skills, along with a capacity for cultural humility. 

Community engagement programs located in developing, immigrant, or marginalized communities require thoughtful collaboration and communication between the home institution, coordinating organization, and the host community, with particular sensitivity to the dynamics of students from cultures of privilege working in communities with fewer material resources.  

These Guidelines focus on community engagement but may be broadly applicable to other types of education abroad programming for considerations relating to host community perspectives and concerns. The Standards of Good Practice for Education Abroad apply to all education abroad opportunities. Use them together to develop and assess community engagement experiences abroad.  

To conduct education abroad programming in a way that promotes social, economic, and environmental well-being, refer to the guidelines for Advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals through Education Abroad. For community engaged learning experiences with a health care connection, it is important to consult the Guidelines for Undergraduate Health-Related Experiences Abroad as well. 

 

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