The main benefits which students identify are as follows:
- Provides students with a better understanding of American society.
- Provides an opportunity to take a variety of courses not available at their home institution.
- Exposes students to the American system of education.
- Increases enthusiasm for American Studies.
- Prepares students for modules in American Studies at their home institution after their return from their period of study at an American university.
- Increases students’ self-confidence and self-reliance.
Typical student comment on the above points from University of Nottingham students in reports after their period of Study Abroad are as follows:
‘My time at the University of Illinois gave me a far clearer insight into various aspects of American society than I had before. I had many preconceived ideas. My time in America immeasurably improved my understanding of American culture. I was surprised to discover just how different American people are compared to the British. Living in a multicultural hall helped me to appreciate the unbelievable social and racial pollination which has helped to form the United States.’
‘Growing Up in America was a very interesting class, led by a charismatic instructor, which was based around class discussion of various pieces of American literature, with the theme of youth in the USA.”Three-quarters of the students in the course on Race and Cultural Development in American Life were non-white Americans. The personal experiences of the students in the class made it very interesting.”Juvenile Delinquency was an incredibly stimulating course, as it gave a deeper understanding of issues which are inextricably entwined into American culture.’
‘I was impressed with the overall system of accumulating credits in a diverse range of subjects. While it obviously lacks the intensity of focus of the English format I found the opportunity to study a wide spectrum of subjects appealing. Something which irritated me was that students put up their hands throughout lectures to make ridiculous points or to ask stupid questions. I found this irritating, though teachers there encourage such interruptions. The constant workload made me vastly improve my organisational skills and discipline, unlike the English system, which leaves the student to organise themselves.”I was not enthralled by the teaching methods. There was continuous assessment in all modules, which comprised doing a lot of small pieces of work, and they seemed far more interested in facts and figures rather than broader ideas and developments. The courses which I took were extremely interesting and furthered my knowledge of American Studies greatly, as well as offering me an insight into their university system.’
‘My time in America has fueled my enthusiasm for my studies back home. The greater appreciation of what makes Americans and America “tick” will allow me greater insight into American Studies and has considerably spurred my enthusiasm for the subject. I have come back and now feel excited about the courses which I am about to take. American Studies has become a reality.’
‘To be actually in America and to witness American culture was fantastic. I feel that I am better prepared for my courses at Nottingham, because I can draw from my Study Abroad experience. I feel that I will be better prepared to deal with my American Studies courses now, having got so much information there. I now have a reference point, which I can use to build on from the people whom I met, their attitudes and the lives which they led.’
‘I have definitely become much more independent because of my time in America. I had to make important decisions by myself. Moreover, I had to meet and integrate with a vast array of people from completely different cultures. Finding my way around airports and travelling to places like New York has helped me to develop as a person, which, although it may sound corny, is nevertheless true. I feel that the time abroad has increased my level of independence which will no doubt benefit me throughout the rest of my degree and in my search for a job after graduation.’
Exchange Programmes Talk Shop
At the BAAS conference in Glasgow in 1999, a lunch-time Exchanges Programme Talk Shop was put on the conference programme. This proved to be interesting and useful, and the experiment was continued at the BAAS conference at Swansea in 2000 and Keele in 2001. A report of the Exchange Programmes Talk Shop at the Keele conference may be read in the Spring/Summer, 2001, edition of American Studies in Britain, the BAAS Newsletter. It is hoped that the tradition of a lunchtime Exchanges Programmes Talk Shop has now become established as a fixture at BAAS conferences and that it will continue at the BAAS conference at Oxford in 2002.