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The SIT Experience
For more than fifty years, SIT has provided carefully designed and thoughtfully facilitated study abroad programs rooted in the experiential education learning model. This model, as popularized by David Kolb, guides students through an intentional approach to structured and unstructured experiences and a facilitated and mentored process of translating experience into learning in order to prepare them for more independent inquiry.
Most SIT programs have 20–25 students led by one academic director plus a number of local staff. Semester programs last 15–16 weeks and summer programs are 4–9 weeks. All programs begin with a thorough orientation that incorporates health and safety information and tools for cross-cultural adaptation.
Every program is framed around a critical global issue, which provides a lens through which students explore the issue through theory and its local manifestation.
Student learning happens through multiple formats — lectures, field visits, language study, homestays, and day-to-day interactions with local communities — in classroom and field-based settings.
SIT students learn to put into practice appropriate field research methods such as participant observation, cultural analysis, interviews, transects, oral histories, and quantitative data collection. They apply tools of investigation and analysis and develop greater curiosity, confidence, and self-awareness.
Every program concludes with a guided reflection and discussion period that examines the impact of the experience. Through this reentry preparation, students are encouraged to consider how they can incorporate their experience in the future. During this time, students also have the opportunity to provide feedback on their program.
SIT programs are led by an academic director — an accomplished academic and experienced program manager who typically lives full time in the country of study. Academic and program directors are responsible for instructional content, synthesis of classroom and field experiences, and daily program operations. These faculty, in close consultation with academic deans, craft a rigorous curriculum and design field and research experiences that match student needs and interests.
To facilitate a highly immersive and academically rich study abroad experience, each program assembles an exceptional array of program contributors to serve as lecturers, Independent Study Project (ISP) advisors, workshop leaders, and local resources. Academic directors, traveling faculty, and country coordinators include tenured university professors, scientists, medical doctors, published authors, critically acclaimed artists, community activists, and others with extensive experience in higher education, study abroad, and international and local NGOs. They are experts in their fields and extremely well networked in-country.
Guest lecturers and traveling faculty include leading academics at in-country universities, medical practitioners at local hospitals and clinics, political leaders, scientists conducting groundbreaking research, executive directors of NGOs and professional associations, MBAs, artists, community activists, and indigenous leaders.
Students also benefit from the efforts of numerous local staff who provide vital academic, logistical, and cross-cultural support. Administrative staff on most programs include a program assistant and homestay coordinator.
Detailed faculty and staff biographies are available on each program’s web page.
On SIT programs, language learning is classroom- and field-based; emphasizes oral proficiency; and carries into lectures, field method exercises, the homestay, and other program components. SIT views language learning as an essential and foundational tool to greater intercultural competency, thematic understanding, cultural integration, and the pursuit of an Independent Study Project.
SIT language courses do not always follow the traditional progression offered on most college campuses: the content and learning outcomes typically are specific to the location; reflect the local context, dialect, and community; and, on many programs, are tailored to the theme and learning objectives of the program (e.g., Spanish for the Health Sciences).
Many SIT programs offer language study at intermediate and advanced levels, and students must be able to obtain the required level of proficiency prior to beginning the program. This can be achieved by studying the language at the college level for the required number of terms or achieving the equivalent proficiency level in another way. Students have an oral proficiency interview shortly after arrival to determine their appropriate placement and language level. Some programs offer guided self-instruction for students whose language level exceeds the levels typically offered on the program.
Other programs may offer beginning instruction in a less commonly taught language spoken by the local community.
SIT places the highest importance on research ethics and ensures that students acquire the knowledge needed to conduct field study in an environment in which local and academic normative ethics are observed.
SIT’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) is headquartered at the main campus in Vermont and incorporates a local review board at each program site abroad. SIT’s review boards function as committees on the use of human subjects in research to partially fulfill the institution’s ethical responsibilities within its stated mission and to, when indicated, satisfy requirements of the Code Of Federal Regulations, Title 45, Part 46, Protection Of Human Subjects, Public Welfare, Department Of Health and Human Services, National Institutes Of Health, Office for Protection from Research Risks.
In developing its statement of policies and procedures governing the use of human subjects in research, SIT has considered guidelines of various federal agencies, the ethical codes of principal scholarly associations, and other relevant sources of information. The intent of these policies and procedures is to ensure that the rights and safety of human subjects in research are protected. Students are expected to fulfill their obligation to protect the rights of people involved in their research.
Research that includes human subjects will be reviewed in terms of the ethical standards of a local review board at the program level and, when necessary, the Institutional Review Board policies of SIT in Vermont. Human subject review policies apply to all research at World Learning, including that conducted by faculty, students, academic directors, or other staff.