by Stacey Webb, Suzanne Ehrlich, Dawn Wessling
(View video abstract)
While study abroad experiences are abundant in higher education, students studying sign language interpreting may find it difficult to pursue study abroad opportunities due to various factors; such as, lack of opportunities available, limited matched program structures, program design, or international partnership as a promoted value of the program and/or higher education institutions’ larger mission. Despite limited opportunity, research shows that there are many benefits to study abroad as they provide opportunities for students to develop personally, professionally, and academically (Dwyer & Peters, 2004). Study abroad is shown to support the advancement of interlingual pragmatics skills in L2 language learners (Barron, 2003). Additionally, the profession of signed language interpreting continues to evolve and sign language interpreters must be increasingly prepared to work in international contexts (de Wit, 2010). Recognizing the considerable benefits to students as a result of study abroad experiences, finding ways to enhance the experience and encourage more educators to engage in international partnerships will be of great benefit to the field of interpreter education.
Faculty from Heriot-Watt University, in Scotland has collaborated with students and faculty from universities abroad, including the United States and Sweden to create extensive short-term linguistic and cultural exchanges. These exchanges provided cooperative learning experiences for students of interpreting, students from deaf studies, and those who were learning a signed language. From these collaborative experiences, students were able to increase their exposure to diverse cultures and languages. Feedback from participating students highlighted the positive impact that the cultural and linguistic exchanges had on students’ global awareness, confidence, and increased fluency in the primary sign language they are studying.
This presentation highlights the benefits and challenges of collaborative short-term educational study abroad development and implementation; highlighting examples of essential study abroad program components including: multi-lingual, multi-modal learning environments, structured learning events, community-focused activities, social development through collaboration, use of instructional technology and social media, engaging the local deaf community, and reflective practice.