1. What program did you lead?

My Program was the EDHI 403: Leadership Abroad in Ireland Program. It was a spring break study abroad opportunity offered this Spring Semester. We spent four days in Dublin, and three days in Galway.

2. What made you want to teach a class abroad?

I was in a unique position, as this class has historically been associated with the Undergraduate Leadership Studies Minor that is a part of the Educational Leadership Department. The last time the course was offered was in March of 2020– my Director, Abby Haworth, was actually in Ireland checking her notifications each day as they navigated the beginnings of lock down. The course itself continued to be talked about with students that work with my area (Leadership and First Year Experience Programs) and it was due to some of these students that the trip was brought up again. One student in particular had a strong interest in the trip and began reaching out to Study Abroad and the Educational Leadership Department about it. The Department wanted to commit further to offering High Impact Practices for students, and the rest was history.
For me personally with the trip, I wanted to create something meaningful for student leaders to participate in. They could be a freshman, all the way to a grad student, and if they chose to take this course, I wanted them to understand leadership from a lens that would be applicable to their personal career goals/life experiences. I was also interested, as this is a spring break trip, which allows students to get a study abroad feel without walking away from their commitments on campus. I really liked that about the trip, and the fact that it could lead to a passion for study abroad and allow students to take more courses related to studying abroad.

3. How did the abroad component enhance the topics students were studying?

We were incredibly intentional about how we structured our curriculum. With the trip being about smack dab in the middle of our course, we knew we needed to scaffold assignments and lectures to help with cultural competence, leadership understanding, and Irish historical context. We were intentional to align history lessons with specific activities we would be participating in while in Ireland. With assignments, we gave students freedom to pick topics that interested them that they could continue to explore while in Ireland and as a part of their post trip work.
It’s one thing for myself and my co-instructor Rae to speak to them about theories and historical moments, but it’s another to actually stand in the places where the history happened. From going to Croake Park, now a sports complex, that was once the sight of a bloody rebellion, to exploring kilmainham gaol and seeing where the rebels were held and eventually executed, to exploring agriculture and farm life and how important it was to Irish survival during the great famine. Seeing it with their own eyes, hearing from the locals and tour guides about these experiences and how they pertained to them personally– it was that much more impactful and helped to ground the experiences as something “real” to our students.
One assignment is for the students to complete a Photo-Voice(ish) activity. They must identify a social issue and explore how it is present in Irish culture/society. One student started this research with a culture project over political activism in Ireland, specifically concerning the Israel/Palestine conflict. While in Ireland, they were able to see street art everywhere in support of Palestine, or stickers and banners concerning Irish immigration laws and anti-Palestine rhetoric. Other students explored femininity and womanhood, others the queer experience. All of these were furthered by being on the ground in Ireland and seeing (both in Dublin and Galway) how these groups were treated and viewed.

4. What do you think were the benefits for your students? What growth did you see?

I think my students left with a deeper cultural understanding and competence, as well as more confidence in themselves. I’m sure this is said often, but it is the largest benefit I saw. For example, we had the opportunity to meet with students from a semester long program while in Ireland. These students came from all sorts of universities– and had been there far longer than our students. Yet, when interacting with locals, participating in cultural events, or being open minded to new discussions, our Ball State students where leaps ahead of where these students were. This was on our last full day in Ireland– and admittedly, while I know my class were great students, I don’t think they would have been that engaged or prepared on Day 1 (having seen them all half asleep and struggling to get comfortable in a new place). Further, as the week went on, they began to go out without asking Rae or myself to come with them to ensure they could find their way back. They felt more confident in navigating transportation or walking through the city. Even when we returned, there was such a strong feeling of confidence from them.
Lastly, in a strange way, I feel like this opportunity helped the students feel more connected with our University. So many of them knew no one in the class when they started, and by the end, the group was so tight knit they were upset when Rae and I canceled class the first week back! Many of them began to ask more about Rae and I’s rolls in the Office of Student Life and ways to get involved, about other Study Abroad opportunities, and about the Leadership Studies Minor. Furthermore, I know some of them learned about new organizations and opportunities on our campus from each other given how involved they all were.

5. What did you like most about teaching abroad?

Genuinely, getting to develop connections with these students and helping to tie the course to their career goals was my favorite part. In the Leadership Studies Minor, since it can be added by any major, we get a diverse group of students, all of whom are incredibly involved in some capacity. Leadership In Ireland is so broad– and that is intentional. Rae and I worked with each student to make sure all of the assignments were tying back to what they were interested in, and seeing the connections they made to content, and the excitement on their faces as we explored Ireland and found things pertaining to their interests, was so heartwarming. Definitely one of my favorite professional experiences that I have had.

6. What was your favorite memory/experience?

In particular I enjoyed our day exploring Dublin. We got a walking tour, visited Trinity College, went to kilmainham gaol, and had free time to explore before we had a nice sit-down group dinner in the Temple Bar area. We learned so much about Dublin and the history behind it, as well as the experiences of different historical figures. We also got a special invitation into the Bank of Ireland (formerly their house of Parliament). This was something our tour guide had not even had the opportunity to do before!
Honorable mention were all the little moments spent bonding with the group as a whole, from playing Uno No Mercy on the train across the country of Ireland, to getting a traditional Irish breakfast in Galway. Or our day trip to the Aran Islands and Cliffs of Moher. We got to take a boat around the bottom of the cliffs, as well as visit the top of them. It was beautiful.

7. Do you have any advice for students thinking about going on a faculty-led program in the future?

Take a chance. It can be scary, but it’s such a valuable experience. Talk to the faculty leading the trips, see what sorts of activities they are doing and what their learning goals are for them and see how that aligns with what you want to do. Also, see how much of it can be tailored to fit what you want to do professionally if you have to.
Additionally, take advantage of all scholarship programs. Almost every single one of my students were able to get scholarships from the Rinker Center or from the CHIRPS program. Don’t be afraid to ask the faculty, study abroad office, or financial aid office about scholarship opportunities that exist outside of those.

If this post got you thinking and you’d like to talk to a study abroad advisor, set up a 1-on-1 advising appointment here.