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International Education in Global Times

Engaging the Pedagogic

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Paul Tarc

This book illuminates the changing landscape and expediency of international education in global times. Within this larger picture, the book focuses on the educational effects of international encounters, experiences and lessons – the complex processes of learning and subject formation in play during and after one's international/intercultural experience. These complex processes, hinged on past and present self-other relations, are illustrated by employing the parable of «The Elephant and the Blind Men.» In contrast to more narrow, developmentalist conceptions of intercultural learning, Paul Tarc attends to each of the linguistic, existential, structural, and psychical dimensions of difficulty constituting learning across difference. Becoming aware of, and reflexive to, these dimensions of difficulty and their implications for one’s own learning and resistance to learning, represents the domain of cosmopolitan literacy. The key intervention of this book is to re-conceive pedagogical processes and aims of international education as fostering such cosmopolitan literacy. Graduate courses on international education, study abroad, global citizenship education, and preservice education courses focusing on international education and teaching internationally could be primary candidates for this text.
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Chapter Three: It Changed My Life! Lessons from Study Abroad

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In Canada and the U.S., having a transformative international experience has become an idealized core component of international education and the promotion of global citizenship (Lewin, 2009a; Savicki, 2008). The current expediency of international education and the complex entangling of the idealist and pragmatic agendas discussed in Chapter One are key dynamics in making sense of the growing demand for an immersive international experience. Pragmatically, students are to become interculturally or globally competent, able to productively engage across cultural contexts, anywhere in the world. Ideally they are also to be more aware and engaged ‘critical thinkers’ and ‘active citizens’ who make a ‘positive’ difference in the world. Both agendas uphold the value of direct experience and experiential learning. In more celebratory representations, the international experience offers up the full complement of: experiential knowledge, intercultural competence development, service to others in need, personal empowerment, and resume credentials. These idealized outcomes are especially promoted in the large and expanding ‘study abroad’ industry in the United States (Savicki, 2008; Zemach-Bersin, 2009). However, the pragmatic and idealist agendas may not fit so well together for some study abroad students. Indeed, despite the growing number of expressions that the international experience is ‘life changing,’ the complex relations between ‘experience and reflection,’ ← 39 | 40 → ‘adaptation and learning,’ ‘personal empowerment and ethical transfor-mation’ and ‘awareness and action’ are in need of greater theorization.

The previous chapter used a parable as a way of hypothetically situating a set of difficulties inherent to learning...

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