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SIT urges U.S. students to study abroad in Africa
Publication Date: September 19, 2023 | Africa, SIT Graduate Institute, SIT Study Abroad
Publication Location: BRATTLEBORO, Vermont
Contact: Kate Casa | [email protected]
School for International Training today launches a broad campaign aimed at encouraging U.S. graduate and undergraduate students to study abroad on the African continent. “Africa: See for Yourself” asks students to challenge stereotypes and misconceptions, and to consider African locations that may be outside of their comfort zones.
“With this campaign, we are encouraging students to broaden their worldviews and consider decolonial perspectives—to experience the vibrant cultures and sustainable practices that make Africa a global hub for development, technology, research, and the arts,” said Dr. Sophia Howlett, president of SIT. “We are also restating our longstanding commitment to programming in Africa, where SIT has one of the largest program portfolios of any U.S. higher education institution or study abroad provider.”
We are encouraging students to broaden their worldviews and consider decolonial perspectivesSIT President Dr. Sophia Howlett
SIT offers 21 undergraduate programs in 10 countries in north Africa and south of the Sahara, including four comparative International Honors Programs that include African countries on a four-continent itinerary. Five of SIT’s Global Master’s programs also spend a full semester in an African country.
“At SIT, we see it as an obligation to continue to offer high-quality programs for students to engage with Africa, African people, and the way countries and communities across the continent are confronting the world’s most critical global issues,” said SIT Provost Dr. Said Graiouid.
Although study abroad participation is rebuilding after a near shutdown during the pandemic, most U.S. students are now choosing westernized locations, such as Europe or Australia. The U.S. State Department’s annual Open Doors report showed a steady increase in U.S. students studying abroad in Africa starting in 2000. That trend began to reverse in 2018-19, even before the pandemic brought it to a standstill. Data for 2021-22 is expected to be released in November.
“We know, through our own program enrollment and from our institutional partners, that there is a sharp decrease in the number of U.S. students who are choosing to go to Africa, and in the number and location of programs available to them,” said Mory H. Pagel, SIT vice president for strategy. “This trend is of great concern.
“Global education is a critical component in the development of future citizens and leaders, whether they are in the public, private, or nonprofit sectors,” Pagel said. “Can you imagine the next generation of our workforce who have no relationship to Africa, the second most populous continent in the world where the median age is under 19 years old?”
“Africa: See for Yourself” encourages students to consider the continent’s rich array of cultural diversity, academic excellence, and transformative opportunities. Recognizing African countries’ significant contributions to history, sustainability, global health, education, politics, social justice, and advocacy, the campaign urges students to choose programs that provide a deeper understanding of the world.
SIT’s summer and semester undergraduate programs focus on a wide array of subjects, from hip-hop to global health to international relations. Many programs address climate change and sustainability through marine ecosystems, conservation, and social justice. Five of SIT’s Global Master’s programs include a semester in Africa: climate change in Tanzania, diplomacy and international relations in South Africa, global health in Kenya, humanitarian assistance in Morocco, and sustainable development practice in South Africa and Malawi.
All SIT programs worldwide are developed around a framework of critical global issues and are appropriate for students from a range of disciplines. Hallmarks of SIT programming include academic rigor, independent research or internship opportunities, homestays and language learning that create deep cultural immersion. The programs are grounded in authentic experiential learning that prompts students to think critically about a subject through a cycle of classroom learning, field visits, research, and reflection.
SIT programs are vetted through ongoing risk assessment and review. Programs are run by experienced local faculty and staff with deep community and regional partnerships. SIT also provides 24/7 access to student support in the U.S.
SIT is also collaborating with partner institutions and organizations to ensure continued student access to Africa programming and to explore additional opportunities. This year, SIT and Dickinson College announced an innovative new partnership for a program in Cameroon, which is open to all students.
In summer 2024, SIT and Dickinson College will also host a professional engagement program in Cameroon focused on decoloniality, sustainability, and epistemic justice for U.S.-based faculty and staff.
In addition, SIT is developing a five-week experiential seminar in Tanzania in summer 2024 with support from a U.S. Department of Education Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad grant. The program will introduce college and high school educators to the ways in which Tanzanian communities use local knowledge to address the impacts of climate change. The main goal of the program, said Project Director Dr. Jonathan Walz, chair of SIT’s Global Master’s program Climate Change and Global Sustainability, is “to infuse African perspectives into U.S. classrooms and curricula when discussing climate change.”