Complementary to the Western European Study Abroad experience, another term of the Liberal Arts Program is devoted to travel and study in the developing world, usually in Southeast Asia. This 6 – 8 week study abroad program includes significant cultural exposure, as well as formal study of history, culture, and contemporary social and religious development.
In Fall 2016 we will visit Thailand and Laos. This term places the study of the Western tradition, a major part of the SSU curriculum, in a truly global perspective. Accommodations vary from being billeted with a Thai family to staying in guesthouses, hostels, and hotels. Meals are generally provided by hosts, or eaten in various cultural restaurants.
The Asia Study Abroad Program is integrated closely with the four-year Liberal Arts Bachelor of Arts curriculum at St. Stephen’s University (SSU). That curriculum explores essential themes in the development of Western Civilization in relation to other world civilizations. Thus, the Asia term is integral to the academic learning objectives of the undergraduate curriculum at SSU. The Asia study abroad term has been developed to help students reinforce and refine their understanding of the histories, philosophies, cultures, religions, languages and the arts of Southeast Asia—Thailand and Laos in particular.
Following the criteria and guidelines set out in the course syllabi, students undertake preparatory work prior to their departure for Asia, they continue their studies while abroad under the supervision of SSU instructors who travel with them, and then students return to SSU to complete their academic requirements in the weeks following their return from Asia. This study-abroad experience constitutes a full term of interdisciplinary, cross-cultural study. Students and program leaders travel together as a community of scholars — 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for six weeks.
As such, the academic components consist of five, 3 credit-hour courses. Pedagogically, the program is structured around formal lectures at SSU and at partner universities, on-site presentations by local experts, student-led seminars, field-trips and work carried out by students individually and in small teams. Students are required to attend all sessions and are graded on assigned projects, class participation, independent research and final papers/exams. Notwithstanding the specialized content of each course, components of the Asia curriculum complement one another and students are required to make these interconnections while they compare and contrast Southeast Asian societies with those of the West. In addition, in Thailand, the students live with local families in homestay programs.