Sarah Glasco presents at NAFSA conference, publishes article in CUR Quarterly

The assistant professor of French presented research on short-term study abroad programs and intercultural competence at the annual convention in May. Her article, "Preparing Undergraduates for Research Projects in Faculty-led Short-term Study Abroad Courses," appears in the Winter 2014 issue of CUR Quarterly.

Assistant Professor of French Sarah Glasco presented on May 28 a poster entitled “Enhancing Intercultural Competence in Short-term Study Abroad Courses” to  attendees in San Diego at the annual convention of NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

The presentation is the result of Glasco’s latest scholarship into teaching and learning and her experience co-teaching Winter Term pre-departure and study abroad courses in 2013-14 with LD Russell in the Department of Religious Studies.

Glasco is interested in researching and implementing innovative and effective ways in which students can reap socio-cultural and linguistic benefits from short-term experiences, particularly via meaningful interactions with locals. She and Russell teach GST 267: “Eat, Pray, Love: Sacred Space and the Place of Religion in 21st Century France,” and have collaborated in the past on multicultural/multifaith activities, such as the Tournées French Film Festival in Fall 2012, for which Glasco received a grant from the French Cultural Ministry to organize at Elon and at which Russell was an invited discussant.

Glasco said that major goals for students when they go abroad for any period of time include acknowledging, analyzing, and reflecting on and reacting to the difference between ethnocentrism and cultural relativism as well as making informed comparisons between their own culture and the culture of the host country, not to mention gaining cultural sensitivity to local codes of conduct as a result of local interactions

This is particularly challenging in a short-term course. Glasco and Russell decided to maximize time in local settings by setting the course abroad in only two cities: Paris and Montpellier. In this way, students could unpack their suitcases and get a feel for the places while Glasco was also able to take advantage of her many connections in France in order to offer students multiple opportunities to have authentic conversations with both locals and expates alike.

Glasco’s discussion at NAFSA focused on having students consider their own self-portraits while abroad and to consider subverting traditional notions of culture and the identities associated with it. She told attendees that the students’ task abroad is to be able to de-center their own preconceived notions of cultures.

“In the end,” Glasco said, “it’s the transfer of that knowledge and experience gained abroad that counts, and so post-return conversations are key to helping students process their experience in order to realize personal, intercultural and academic growth.”

Glasco and Russell helped a few students maximize the post-return experience by mentoring them for SURF. Glasco’s publication “Preparing Undergraduates for Research Projects in Faculty-led Short-term Study Abroad Courses” in the Council on Undergraduate Research Quarterly CURQ on the web mentions Elon’s annual forum and will be in December.  

Though conducting undergraduate research and studying abroad are extremely valuable experiences for a college student, they often function in their individual vacuums, rarely connected,” she said. “I sought to marry the two by encouraging students to understand their experience abroad as their primary source and to submit abstracts for consideration at SURF as well as researching the topic and finding an audience for the article.”