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Intensive Courses Abroad: Freshmen Friendly, Freshmen Ready

Curriculum Planning and Development

Intensive Courses Abroad: Freshmen Friendly, Freshmen Ready

Intensive Courses Abroad: Freshmen Friendly, Freshmen Ready
More than ever, education can and should prepare students for global understanding and competency. Traditional study abroad programs, which provide excellent opportunities, are often not considered by nor available to students until later in their academic career, nor is spending a semester studying abroad an option for many students for a variety of reasons. Using short-term programs and offering them to students at the very beginning of their affiliation with a university, provides a unique opportunity for the students, faculty, and the institution with long lasting and impactful learning and benefits to all stakeholders.

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[dropcap]More[/dropcap] than ever, education can and should prepare students for global understanding and competency. Traditional study abroad programs, which provide excellent opportunities, are often not considered by nor available to students until later in their academic career, nor is spending a semester studying abroad an option for many students for a variety of reasons. Using short-term programs and offering them to students at the very beginning of their affiliation with a university, provides a unique opportunity for the students, faculty, and the institution with long lasting and impactful learning and benefits to all stakeholders. Intensive Courses Abroad (ICAs) are credit-bearing international academic experiences that take place in 7–14 days. ICAs use learning tools such as guest lectures, industry visits, research, service, and other hands-on activities that transform the host city and country into a living laboratory. They are led by a faculty director in conjunction with pre and/or post instruction on-campus and/or online. Within the past decade, Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pa., has offered more than 70 ICAs during its quarter-system calendar breaks, engaging nearly 1500 students in 40 countries, in subject matters across all disciplines. I have developed and led numerous ICAs since 2013. In the fall of 2016, I piloted a new “Freshmen Friendly” (FF) ICA which included three incoming first-year students whom had not yet begun their on-campus courses. They joined nine upperclassmen in the program. The course was “Leadership in Film and Practice” and it was administered in the Netherlands. Since that time, and after the success of the pilot, we now have several more FF ICAs; in AY 18-19 there will be 10 offered, of which I am involved in four. Locations include Eastern and Western Europe, South America, and the West Indies. The FF ICAs are adaptations of existing programs; that is, a review was conducted of current ICAs to determine which ones would be suitable for first-year students (considering both the topic and the faculty director). Like traditional study-abroad, most short-term faculty-led programs at the university level have enrolled upper-classmen. With the increase need for and benefits of cultural awareness and global competency of university students, FF ICAs establish early exposure and development of the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that occur from participation in international opportunities, and thus lay a solid foundation for ongoing global participation. Although FF ICAs take some buy-in, planning, training, promotion, and monitoring, the benefits are clear and notable. The FF ICA Program at Drexel University has several objectives, which include: After the launch of the official FF ICA Program, first-year participation in ICAs went from 34 participants over five academic years (2011 -2016, during spring and summer term breaks only) to 81 participants in only two academic years (2017 - 2018) (and during all four term breaks - fall, winter, spring, and summer). That is a 140 percent increase in one-third the time with double the accessibility.

 Participation by Discipline, AY 16-17 and 17-18

According to the IIE Open Doors Report in 2017, only 10.4 percent of US undergraduates study abroad. Because of the opportunities of FF ICAs, Drexel first-year study abroad alone is three times this national average. Additionally, 22 percent of FF ICA participants studied abroad again in some way in just over the two years that data has been tracked. Leading any course abroad is both challenging and rewarding; including first-year students adds to both the challenges and the rewards. Here are some the lessons learned and tips from the development and execution of the FF ICAs. Early research and reporting (after two years) from the FF ICAs has shown the following key success indicators: As we continue to grow the Freshmen Friendly Intensive Course Abroad Program at Drexel University, we are also establishing future goals. Finally, some of our FF ICA participants have said: For more information on the Freshmen Friendly Intensive Courses Abroad, visit The Drexel University Study Abroad Website. Dana D’Angelo is a Clinical Professor and Center for Teaching Excellence Fellow at Drexel University. She can be reached at danad@drexel.edu. Ahaji Schreffler is responsible for study abroad program development and Drexel’s Intensive Course Abroad initiative