Faculty-Led Study Abroad

by Stasia Lopez /
Stasia Lopez's picture
Oct 04, 2013 / 0 comments

This month, I will be writing a series on faculty-led study abroad, interviewing students and professors. Studying abroad is such a life-changing experience and there are different types of programs that match a student’s needs and interests. A faculty-led study abroad program is where a faculty member (or more) takes a group of students abroad from anywhere from 1-6 weeks (programs vary). These professors teach classes on specific material designed to give an intercultural perspective while also giving students a chance to gain exposure to different backgrounds and cultures abroad. Studying abroad is considered an experiential learning endeavor—where students make meaning from direct experience. For example, students studying botany on a faculty-led program in Costa Rica can not only learn the background on specific plants in that region but collect samples, do further research, network with other botanists in the field by doing informational interviews, visit labs and tour research centers.


The same can also be true for someone studying business in China. The students will have gained a lot of knowledge from their professors regarding business and even a specific niche. They may even be given an assignment to work in groups to come up with a specific business plan, one that would sell to a specific international market. Professors will lead students to tour companies, talk and network with professionals, and try samples of products. The great thing about faculty-led study abroad is that even though it is for a short period of time, the students are still gaining exposure to not only their specific area of study but also to global cultures. This exposure can help the student gain an increased level of cultural awareness and sensitivity.


NAFSA’s Guide to Education Abroad (2005) really helps advisors understand how much student development theory is a crucial component of understanding where and how students are gaining knowledge. Students are constantly changing and evolving as the student is exposed to new experiences. In the chapter on Advising Principles and Strategies by Anderson and Murray (2005), the contributors discuss William Perry’s nine-stage theory of cognitive development. [The theory] “assumes that development occurs through interaction with others and is sequential, hierarchical, and irreversible. Perry urges that a combination of support and challenge from advisers is needed for students to move to the next stage” (p. 176).


This can really come into play for a student who is considering studying abroad. There are four categories to Perry’s theory. The first one, Dualism, helps students meet the need of an authority figure [the direct source of knowledge], something a student wants and needs on a faculty-led study abroad program. According to Anderson and Murray (2005), “Students in the dualistic stage typically are most successful on a faculty-led short-term program or island program, although they may also be ready for a highly structured study abroad center program” (p.177).


I decided to interview a small handful of people who participated in a faculty-led study abroad program to explain more about what their experience was like. Check back as more interviews are added!


A Student's Perspective: Study Abroad in Bruges, Belgium

A Student’s Perspective: Study Abroad in Prague, Czech Republic

Faculty Perspective: Study Abroad with Dr. Andrea Sanders Canberg

Faculty Perspective: Study Abroad with Dr. Dave Louis



Brockington, Joseph L., William W. Hoffa, and Patricia C. Martin, (2005) Eds.  NAFSA’s Guide to Education Abroad for Advisers and Administrators. NAFSA:  Washington, DC.  Third Edition




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.