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Pictured: Bates College visits Moscow with SRAS.
Table of Contents
Faculty-led programs provide a number of benefits to both students and to the professors leading them.
On the student level, a short-term program can make study abroad more accessible to those who might otherwise miss out on an international experience due to their overall academic plan/schedule, financial situation, or other obligations at home (family/work, etc.). Shorter, more-focused experiences can make it possible logistically and financially for more students to participate. Students (and their parents) with little or no overseas travel experience may also find this model more attractive, feeling more comfortable about travel with someone they know. That same familiarity can also lead to more discipline during the time abroad, especially as concerns academics.
On the faculty-level, along with the obvious bonus of teaching a favorite subject in a country or region of special interest, leading a program abroad has a number of other professional benefits. Most colleges and universities, feeling the pressure to match other schools in terms of overall numbers of students receiving international experiences, highly encourage faculty to consider leading short-term programs and look favorably on it when making decisions on promotions. On a C.V. it clearly signals an enthusiastic educator willing and ready to take on big responsibilities – and is also a great indicator of an engaging educator that students will follow to other parts of the world. For those with foreign language backgrounds, it provides the opportunity to brush up on skills. For those with special research interests in the destination country(ies), it provides the chance to engage with local in-country experts and develop a network of ties abroad to draw from professionally.
Faculty-led programs are an excellent opportunity to work collaboratively with colleagues from other disciplines. We encourage faculty in the planning stages to contemplate partnering with another department. Co-leading a program not only takes some of the pressure off an individual instructor, but greatly increases the pool of potential participants. Collaborating on a faculty-led program will not only lead to closer professional relationships with professors from other disciplines, but will also make the program more dynamic and rewarding for the students. An unexpected, but very common result, is that students who were primarily from the other discipline then begin enrolling in courses from your discipline once they return home.
While the initial setup of such a program may at first seem daunting, SRAS can guide you through the entire process from conception to execution, ideally making it not only pain-free, but indeed an all-around pleasurable experience.
The expanse from Central Europe to Vladivostok, and encompassing Central Asian and the Caucasus is rich with opportunities for faculty led exploration. You might say it is as deep (in content) as it is wide (in geography). Even if we limit ourselves to studies of culture and language we have incredible diversity. But the list of subjects to be explored in-depth and creatively in this region is long – from politics and economics to science and technology to art and music, and everything in between. Perhaps more importantly, however, this region offers different perspectives on traditional subjects and global issues. These perspectives are born due to the location's unique place in history, stage of development or transition, and even conflicting geopolitical or cultural-social objectives. This region presents unique opportunities for comparative study and reflection.
This is also a challenging region. It is challenging because there is little or even misleading information about it. It is challenging due to political tensions and areas of conflict. Visas and other issues can simply make it seem much more daunting to even think of leading a group of students here. At the same time, this gives even greater impetus to faculty-led programs. Students find it much easier to travel independently to other parts of the world, especially where language is not a barrier. The value of the faculty leader is even greater in this region, in facilitating exploration below the surface, the obvious, and putting it all in context.
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Pictured: Union College students visit Lake Baikal with SRAS
Faculty-led programs can be anything from a 7-10 day introductory tour of Moscow and St. Petersburg – as a way to inspire students to embark on, or continue, their study of the Russian language – to a full semester abroad in one or more locations. There are many opportunities for thematic programs, and the intertwining of disciplines. They can be more travel-oriented, meaning excursion-based learning in great part, and quite a bit of movement, or they can more resemble a study abroad program, with added coursework and oversight by a faculty leader. In the latter case, a partner institution in the region would likely be involved, providing not only content, but also access to longer-term housing options.
Two main factors determine just how far ahead you need to plan such a program. The first is set by your home institution, which often has guidelines for faculty-led programs. These guidelines can range from deadlines for announcing the program to pricing parameters and mandatory inclusions. As this form of programming becomes increasingly popular, study abroad offices are becoming increasingly involved and proficient in assisting faculty leaders with the internal logistics. The second has to do with the region – and what specific challenges it presents, from visas to politics. Generally though, discussions and planning for faculty-led programs of any duration start at least nine months in advance.
Looking for ideas? Check out this article by SRAS written to give you some initial food for thought!
Educators are not tour operators and we highly doubt most of them want that responsibility – even temporarily. SRAS is a responsible partner who can communicate with you and understand you and your objectives clearly. Let SRAS:
The following items are the most sensitive in terms of cost and availability and especially with budget tours, constitute the majority of the costs. SRAS can help you arrange the following:
Visas: Russia requires a visa for everyone arriving on an American passport and the type of visa needed (and the time necessary to obtain it) can be influenced by the structure of your program. Most other countries in our region do not require visas of Americans for periods of stay that fit easily within the parameters of most faculty-led programs (under 60 or 90 days), but there are some exceptions where visas are needed in these countries as well. This is perhaps the most important issue in planning as not all students will already have passports, they may not be American passports (potential additional hurdles with visa processing), or they may be too close to expiration. SRAS will help you understand and monitor this situation for your students.
Housing: When seeking affordable accommodations for a group it is important to make reservations as early as possible, especially for peak tourist periods (summer). In addition to hotels and hostels, we can assist with home stays, dormitories, and other alternatives, such as camps and apartments.
International Airfare: While there technically is such a thing as group fares, they are not as cheap as the cheapest available non-refundable fare. These inexpensive seats are also limited, meaning that if you have a group of 20, this ranks up with visas as one of the first things to lock in.
Train: Domestic train tickets typically go on sale 45 days prior to departure. Again, with a large group you want the passenger list ready for submission prior to that so as to have a chance at keeping the group together in the same wagon.
SRAS has been on-the-ground in the region for 20 years. In that time we have built up a network of resources that allows us to work creatively within nearly any budget, and provide both logistical and emergency support for your group. We are also passionate about what we do, seeking constantly to inspire students with the possibilities in this region and to engage them beyond the classroom. We'll be glad to hear from you to learn what you are hoping to accomplish abroad!
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