Does studying abroad help students to become global citizens?

Does studying abroad help students to become global citizens?

It is undeniable that studying abroad is a rich and valuable experience for our students, enabling them to adapt and work well in multicultural environments and encouraging greater open-mindedness and cultural awareness. However, we noticed that the students were often unable to appreciate and discuss these experiences fully. 

We decided to develop the Glocal Awareness course to give the students a tool kit to navigate their intercultural experiences. The course is a multi-campus course, taught entirely online in multi-campus groups

First, students work individually through online modules where they are taught some essential theories of intercultural communication and management. During this time, students are expected to keep journal entries about their different cultural experiences during their study abroad term, including group assignments with students from different cultural backgrounds, internships, volunteer work or even personal trips. At the end of each module, students check their understanding of the concepts through quizzes before moving onto the next module.  

Once the students have completed the theoretical work, they work on their introspective papers. In parallel, they have individual meetings with their coaches to ensure that theory is linked with the personal experiences. Finally, in multi-campus groups, they are required to peer review each other’s papers. By reading and learning about each other’s experiences in different locations around the world, the students are benefitting from wider cultural knowledge. Therefore, this course was developed to help them cultivate the knowledge, language and reflection necessary to be able to capitalize on this valuable experience.  

The SKEMA DNA drove our reflection in the construction of the course. Globalization is an integral part of SKEMA because not only do we have students hailing from different countries around the world, but we also ask our students to study in the 7 different world-wide campuses. In many institutions, students study abroad, but their experience is not formally followed and there is no real integration with the program curriculum. This is why the Glocal Awareness course was so innovative. We wanted to capitalize on such a rich experience, and bring the students’ awareness of this experience to a higher level of critical reflection and understanding.  Digitalizing this course was also a big challenge; developing online content takes a lot of time, expertise and investment in advance. Also, organizing worldwide multi-campus teams on the same schedule is not easy. Therefore, we had to really reflect on the best way to digitalize this program so that it met the needs of students and faculty.   

The course was run for the first time in Spring 2020 and early feedback from the students has generally been positive.  This course is a part of a series of projects and activities that the students do during their studies, including a pre- and post-test of intercultural awareness to measure their progress during their studies, and the Global Citizens Project, carried out in the 2nd year of their studies, to help the students prepare for their studies abroad.In the SKEMA BBA, we believe that cultivating the skills linked to intercultural relations and building knowledge of different cultures is the key to being a global citizen.

Alexandra SaundersProfessor of Communication and Social Sciences, SKEMA Business School

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