Before studying abroad, students are often expected to learn about the history, culture, politics, society, and economy of the host country. Consuming news from local news sources is one way for students to learn how course content is manifested in the local society, to learn about current events, and to learn how global processes are impacting local events in the host country.
1. Introduce students to the importance of understanding international news. Facilitate a discussion of one or two current events happening in the region where the class will be traveling that relates to the course content. Provide students with a list of reputable local/regional news sources (i.e., online newspapers, weekly news magazines, etc.). As possible, these sources should be native to the destination, not CNN or NBC. Invite students to add to this list.
2. Weekly analytical writing assignment. For each week prior to departure, require students to select one news article, write a brief summary (2-3 paragraphs), and provide an analysis that extends a concept or theme relevant to the focus of the course (less than one page).
3. Weekly presentations. As time allows, invite students to briefly share selected articles and their analytical perspectives with the class. The professor should relate student presentations to course content and frame the discussion toward developing a more informed understanding of the cultural context of the destination. [Option: Create an online discussion forum for students to post weekly writing assignments according to specific content-area threads. Encourage all students to read and respond to each other’s postings. Active participation in the discussion forum could count toward the overall course participation grade.]
4. Topic-Specific Reflection. Upon return, have students select a particular topic that has emerged from the course content and weekly assignments. Require students to write a 2-3 page reflection paper on what they learned and how this learning has helped to shape their understanding of the study abroad destination.
Optional In-Country Research. Have students narrow their range of topics prior to departure to one or two broad issues. Once on-site, require students to conduct 1-2 interviews with local residents on these issues. The reflection paper should incorporate interview data and their reflections on it.
Evaluation happens at two stages: 1.) weekly summaries & analysis, and 2.) final reflection paper. Together, the total assignment can count up to 25% of the overall course grade - 15% for weekly assignments and 10% for the reflection paper.
Variable time allotted for weekly presentations and class discussion