Today’s discussion made me think more broadly about the local to global possibilities, implications, and potential impacts of a study away program related to environmental communication.
I have contemplated developing an international study abroad program for undergraduate students focusing on understanding the complexities of an environmental issue; understanding how various audiences approach an environmental issue; and determining effective strategies for communicating information about that environmental issue; however, today’s discussion made me realize that there could be more opportunities for impact ranging from global to local.
For example, take the issue of water quality. A study away program could examine the science behind water quality issues, the audiences involved with water quality issues (e.g., local government, utilities, residents, companies) and their perspectives (e.g., economic gains/costs, environmental consequences, public health consequences), and the communication issues/opportunities surrounding water quality issues. From a local to global range, water quality issues could be examined from a local perspective (e.g., North Carolina water quality issues), domestic/urban perspective (e.g., visiting Detroit to understand water quality issues), and/or an international perspective (e.g., visiting Africa to understand water quality issues). Study away could involve one of these experiences or could encompass all three. Nonetheless, these issues could be discussed/examined (even without visiting physical locations) at all three levels in a study away experience.
A couple of practical insights I gleaned from our discussion today included the importance of having students spend time understanding themselves (i.e., their personal identities) before they immerse themselves in a different culture, and the importance of encouraging students to live as locals live to truly experience the culture.