Two workshops focus on student support

Regional staff share experiences, resources

SIT staff from throughout the Middle East
gathered in Tunisia last month. It was one of
two regional workshops aimed at improving
support for U.S. students abroad.

SIT staff got together for two important workshops last month -- in Quito, Ecuador, and Sidi Bousaid, Tunisia -- focusing on student support and group dynamics. Designed by our program teams on the ground in these regions in collaboration with SIT’s Office of Student Affairs, the workshops brought together SIT staff members to examine the complex issues confronting U.S. students today.

Identity issues, student advocacy efforts and other nationwide social movements, are  evolving rapidly on U.S. campuses. These movements touch on complex constructs of identity – including disability, diversity, gender, and sexuality – and often come into even sharper focus during a study abroad experience when students find themselves in unfamiliar settings. SIT’s local teams are usually the first line of support for our students. These same staff members may also be those most removed from the processes and cultural contexts through which U.S. students are constructing their identities, and the movements such as Black Lives Matter and #metoo that are shaping U.S. campus environments.

Our January workshops gave participants an opportunity to share experiences, reflect on best practices, and access a wide variety of resources to help them support and better understand what shapes today’s students.

For example, one session focused entirely on race and working with diverse student groups. This session helped local staff grasp the critical concepts for understanding racial dynamics in a U.S. context; racial stress when studying abroad; and how to facilitate dialogue about race and racism during the program. In another session, on thoughtful and intentional ways to establish a good group dynamic, local staff discussed new ways to create safe spaces, make time for processing, understand micro-aggressions, and unmask difficult dialogue. 

SIT regularly brings our academic directors and other staff members to the United States for training and orientation. The introduction of regional workshops developed by staff members is aimed at significantly enhancing individual and collective understanding to better equip our teams to address the complex issues that can have a significant impact on a student’s study abroad experience. The workshops were also a chance for SIT staff to build more robust regional support systemsl.

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