Faculty Perspective: Study Abroad with Dr. Andrea Sanders Canberg

by Stasia Lopez /
Stasia Lopez's picture
Oct 16, 2013 / 0 comments

This month we have featured several students who participated in faculty-led study abroad programs to hear their perspectives of their experiences. Today, we are featuring a professor from the College of Charleston, Dr. Andrea Sanders Canberg, who leads groups of students abroad on faculty-led trips. She has a PhD in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management, a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors degree in Environmental Biology. Read the interview below showcasing Dr. Canberg’s experiences on leading faculty-led trips abroad!




Dr. Canberg in Kenya

Dr. Canberg in Kenya


Did you always want to work in higher education? What led you to becoming a faculty member?

No, when I first went to college, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I love animals and wanted to help them, but I found working for a vet boring. I loved Biology and the outdoors so I stayed a Biology major. I spent a lot of time hiking, kayaking, skiing, rock climbing and thought I wanted to be a Field Biologist. I worked as a Field Biologist in Costa Rica for a year as a volunteer and then returned to the U.S. and spent a few years working as a raft guide and backcountry guide. My real passion was adventure in the outdoors and I enjoyed leading people and teaching about the environment.
Eventually, this led to my decision to pursue a Masters degree in Experiential Education which focuses on teaching through experience-“learning by doing.”


Were you always interested in leading a group of students abroad? Where was your first trip? How did you get involved in faculty-led programming?

Yes, I love to travel and I have a passion for inspiring young people to explore the world and learn about themselves through those experiences. Studying abroad can lead to incredible transformational learning and global citizenship that can only occur through experiencing another culture and challenging oneself to go out of one’s comfort zone.

The first trip I led abroad was to Costa Rica in 2007. I worked for an Adventure Travel company and led 22 day trips with teenagers backpacking, sea kayaking, and whitewater rafting.  Since then, I have led more trips to Costa Rica, Nepal, Thailand, Prague, and Kenya. Each trip was unique and had different goals and purpose.  I became involved in faculty-led programming quite frankly because I found classroom teaching to be a bit boring. And knowing the incredible learning that occurs through well-planned study abroad trips, I was driven to start planning my own. Honestly, it is probably what I do best as an educator.


What are some challenges that faculty members face leading a group abroad? How do you tackle those challenges?

Some faculty members who embark on leading study abroad groups have no experience leading small groups and don’t understand group dynamics and how to bring a group together as a team. I have a background in leading small groups in the outdoors and abroad, so this is not a challenge for me, but I see it frequently.

Occasionally, you will have a student who is there for the wrong reasons and this can be challenging. I have found that getting the group involved in influencing this type of student is helpful but it depends on the particular student.

The biggest challenge I have found though is not the students, but some co-leaders. If it is not a good fit, it can be an unpleasant experience. Clear expectations about the roles of each co-leader is essential. But, sometimes it is just a matter of personality differences. I love co-leading when the dynamic is good, but I also love leading groups on my own. This can be problematic when leading in a country that does not respect women and in that case, I would definitely choose a male co-leader. It is important to understand and respect the culture into which you are immersing yourself and your students.


Does a faculty member have to be tenured to lead a group? What are some trends that you’ve seen and what are the skills needed to lead a group of students abroad?


Trends - depends on the College or University - some are completely faculty initiated. Others have regular programs that go to the same places year after year and will often have different faculty lead every year.  There are also a lot of companies out there that capitalize on the opportunity and work with Universities-they plan, market, and organize the study abroad experiences and then a faculty member from that University will go with their leadership and the students.


What do you tell students about the importance of studying abroad?

I tell them that it can be life-changing, that they need to experience the world to be a good citizen in the world, to understand and appreciate other cultures, and most importantly that they will learn more about themselves as a result.


Are there certain times of the year that faculty-led programs usually take place?



What is a typical faculty-led program like? How do programs [that you’ve facilitated] integrate course material and the local culture?

In my experience, that is completely up to the ,but has to be approved by the Department and the College.


What advice do you offer students who’re interested in going on a faculty-led study abroad program? Are students required to attend a pre-departure orientation?

I interview students typically so that I am sure that they are ready for this type of experience and let them know what to expect and some of the challenges they might face and about the cultural norms where they will be going. I require pre-departure study and orientation and small group team building, but that is not required by all faculty.


Did you study abroad as a student in college?

Yes, I went on a Biology field study in the Arctic Northwest Territories of Canada-kayaking for a month.

I also did some in-country studying: Honors Field Geology visiting and Studying the Geology in America’s National Parks.

And I participated in Outward Bound which really prepared me for leading and facilitating team building in small groups. (www.outwardbound.org)


What is up next for you? Anything else you’d like to share with us?

I have become passionate about a cause - clean water in developing countries. My last trip was an international service learning trip in which the students raised funds for a Water system to be implemented in a small village in Kenya. The students then went to Kenya for the dedication ceremony. It was life-changing for those students and myself.

Since then I have started a company to support Water Missions and one of my goals is to involve young people and eventually have them volunteer and visit the communities that where the water systems are saving lives.  Travel with a purpose. Visit www.swig-water.com

There is also a very cool organization called Tourismcares.org that supports these types of experiences.

Here’s the video that the students produced-digital stories-about their experiences:





This is part of a series on international education, as part of our commitment to #GenerationStudyAbroad and our commitment to the White House Summit on Study Abroad and Global Citizenship. You'll find many more inspiring stories here on Wandering Educators!







Anastasia R.D. Lopez, M.A. recently graduated with her Masters degree in Educational Leadership in Higher Education and Student Affairs degree from Western Michigan University. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Robert Morris University. Her experience in higher education and student affairs ranges from Career Services, Academic Advising, working with first generation students, students with disabilities, international students, transfer students, undergraduate/graduate students, and study abroad and international education at both public and private universities. She also has related experience in business as well as hospitality and tourism management. Stasia is a Global Education Editor with Wandering Educators and lives with her husband, Fernando, in Michigan.
Photo courtesy and copyright Dr. Canberg