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Critical pedagogy & ethical considerations for study abroad programming

International programs have the ability to forever impact the students who study on them as well as the communities where these programs take place, in both positive and negative ways. As the curriculum, partnerships, itineraries and activities of a program are developed, we encourage program directors to critically examine the program structure and ethical implications of conducting a program in the host country location.

This is a speech given by Ivan Illich to the Conference of InterAmerican Student Projects (CIASP) in Cuernavaca, Mexico on April 20, 1968. While rooted in the historical context of the time, Illich’s criticisms of voluntary service remain relevant when considering international service learning and community engagement today. The speech can be used to get students to think critically about how they engage in service abroad and reflect on their motivations and the implications of this work.

To Hell With Good Intentions

This book is a great resource by UW faculty member and long-time study abroad Program Director, Dr. Anu Taranath. Through engaging personal travel stories and thought-provoking questions about the ethics and politics of our travel, “Beyond Guilt Trips” shows readers ways to grapple with their discomfort and navigate differences through accountability and connection. Dr. Taranath’s book includes approachable insights and discussion prompts that can help fuel important conversations with your student group before, during and after your program. Consider incorporating her book into your pre-departure orientations and on-site curriculum.

This article presents a profile of the “colonial student,” study abroad students that travel to consume the pleasantries of a new place, without experiencing the struggles and setbacks of living abroad. These students engage in experiences that are safe, known, and familar to their lives back at their home universities. The article continues on to outline the ways in which universities cater to the desires of these colonial students by building programs that continue to isolate and insulate them from the local environment thereby creating a “shadow American culture” within the host community. The article provides some theories on student development to suggest ways to better integrate students in their host cultures and, essentially, invite them to step off the veranda of colonialism. The article includes a sample letter that directors can provide to students asking that they engage with these ideas midway through their program.

This article describes a faculty members experience developing a program in Nicaragua on the psychology of social inequality. She discusses her program’s structure and organization, the program goals, content and pedagogy, and the effectiveness of short-term study abroad programs. She then ends with some of her own recommendations that others can use when developing a faculty-led study abroad program. This article could serve as a resource for someone just starting the process of developing a program, as well as faculty interested in critically examining social equity issues within the study abroad context.

This article highlights the ethical implications of studying abroad in relation to environmental sustainability. It provides suggestions for how travelers can be respectful of the environment, culture and socio-economic dynamics of the host country culture. It could be used to start a conversation with students about how they can be more respectful and considerate travelers and also has implications for how Program Directors choose in-country partners, vendors and activities.