With study abroad suspended for the spring 2021 semester, the Office of Study Abroad looked for opportunities to continue to foster global and intercultural learning. For the first time, OSA is able to focus on the 60% of Wesleyan students who do not study abroad and ways for them to develop intercultural knowledge, skills, and attitudes. OSA has joined with Pachaysana, a study abroad organization in Ecuador, to offer interactive, online courses for spring. Wesleyan students taking the courses will interact with community members in Ecuador. Two of the courses are taught in Spanish and two in English.
Many of our other study abroad partners approached OSA with online study abroad opportunities, but Pachaysana’s was the only program OSA wanted to partner with. What was appealing about the courses was the interaction with local community members. With many virtual study abroad programs, there is a professor teaching a course from abroad, and there may be things like walking tours that students watch. But with this program, students in some of the courses will pair up with Ecuadorian participants to do projects. In the other courses, students will work with Ecuadorian educators who have previously taken part in the study abroad program.
This interaction will provide a more meaningful, experiential context for student learning, as well as benefits for the local communities in Ecuador. The Ecuadorian participants as well as the Wesleyan students can take what they learn in the courses to create change in their communities. The program is not the same as study abroad, but OSA hopes that efforts of this kind can grow even after students are allowed to travel.