ONSITE PERSPECTIVES IN FRANCE
Despite having several hesitations and uncertainties about it for the majority of our course abroad, I would say that my proudest moment of the program was when fellow MIIS student Danielle Fultz and I presented our learning-partner project to our classmates and our respective learning partner. Never having previously worked on a client-based project, I was highly uncertain and fearful about the final product that Danielle and I would develop, especially since our task did not necessarily equate to a product or tool that our learning partner could use. However, as we collectively developed strategies and suggestions for our learning partner, having taken their comments and various insightful resources into consideration, it became clear that we had indeed come up with a product for them to work with, and more importantly, that I had learned a lot in terms of effective communication and the various challenges associated with addressing and informing current study abroad participants (our project concerned effective communication strategies for study abroad program Vassar-Wesleyan Programs in Paris). It was also interesting to see how relevant of an issue this was to several of our learning partners abroad, and how the advice to our learning partner was useful for other programs as well (something that was made perfectly clear with the ensuing conversation among the three learning partners attending our final project presentation).
On a different note, and as a result of my experience in Paris, I was largely motivated to pursue two courses in IEM this semester to further explore and build on knowledge that I gained from firsthand observations of study abroad centers and service providers, as well as discussions with current practitioners in the field: education abroad management and comparative international education. The former course will help better inform me about the theories behind much of what I observed during our time abroad in Paris and further expand my knowledge on the development and design of various education abroad programs. I anticipate that the latter will further develop my knowledge of the logic behind differing international educational systems, and the respective issues that are emerging in the field of comparative education. My inspiration to take the latter course was also largely inspired from our discussions with Brown in Paris program director, Sylvie Toux, and several of the professors from Middlebury College’s Centre Madeleine, about the value of direct exchange programs, and of learning from other educational systems and philosophies.
On a final note, I would say that the program has reinforced and partially re-sparked my interest to work in the field of education abroad and with outbound students. While I am not entirely sure of the extent to which I would like to engage with these students, I know that I am interested in better understanding how programs can develop services that better address/facilitate experiential student learning, and reinforce the value of language proficiency in the context of study abroad. I am hoping that I can continue to explore this interest and hopefully engage in work that further exposes me to this practice in the future.