The events of September 11, 2001, alerted Americans to the fact that regardless of our short-term responses, the long-term solution to global conflict involves promoting an understanding of and respect for the complex, diverse, and interdependent world that we share. Certainly this has been the mission of intercultural and international education throughout its history in American higher education, but what many regarded in the past as an educational enhancement is now more important than ever.
Azusa Pacific’s Global Learning Term (GLT) aims to encourage a deepening of the cross-cultural experience. William Frawley, writing in The Globalist, contends that:
Breadth comes from depth, not vice versa. The programs that provide depth over breadth include extended linguistic immersion, a concomitant home stay, courses in the language organized around a theme, and some kind of hands-on out-of-classroom experience in the language. This model goes the most distance toward breadth from depth. The huge majority of programs unfortunately just kill time globally, ultimately doing little more than exotically keeping students out of the workforce so as not to cause an economic crash. Many want more than study abroad as glorified tourism … Higher education should also look elsewhere in the world. Go to Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Mali, and Brazil. These are the hot places. Make the experience intense, theme-centered, hands-on, long-term, and in the native language.
Nicolas Kristof, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for The New York Times, sounds a similar chord:
Universities should move to a three-year academic program and require all students to live abroad for a fourth year. In that year, each student would ideally live for three months in each of four continents: Latin America, Asia, Africa, and Europe. A student might, for example, start off teaching English and studying Latin American history in Ecuador, then learn Chinese intensively in Chengdu, then work for an AIDS clinic in Botswana while reading African literature on the side, and finish up by studying Islamic history in Istanbul. In each place, the students would live with local families … I would also suggest offering extra credit for any student who gets malaria … suffering builds character.
Global Learning Term seeks to imbue the spirit of cultural challenge and compassionate service described by Frawley and Kristof. Students travel exclusively to Third World sites. The average term extends to six or seven months to facilitate intensive language learning and cultural adaptation. Students live with local families in marginal communities and complete “contracted” coursework in a self-directed manner. Typical study abroad programs send groups of 20–30 students to field sites. By contrast, GLT participants travel to their destination sites in pairs, then live and serve independently to maximize cultural immersion and encourage the development of a primary social-emotional support system composed of host nationals. This intensive experience requires GLT students to be self-motivated, self-organized, and morally self-regulating.