I’ve just read a very important article by Goldie Blumenstyk in the August 16 Chronicle of Higher Education (via subscription only), “Meet Higher Education’s Newest Players: ‘Education Sherpas.’ It’s applying the analogy of the sherpa as guide to the acute need on our campuses for mentors to assist students make it through the “higher ed maze.” Especially for low-income and first gen students. In case you did not know the stat, less than 50% of students who start college finish their degree within six years!
But this idea made me think about my re-blog of a post I wrote last year asking why more students did not “see” or understand the link between their international experience and their employability. Of course, these students come from backgrounds, relative to the need discussed above, of privilege –one where they do have resources and support to figure things out, right? But, I also know that these are students who may need support or mentorship to fully make meaning of their cross-cultural experiences and place them in perspective when it comes to their career development.
Why not assign each student-or perhaps a cluster- going abroad a peer sherpa? A guide (someone who has already been abroad) who might be trained (much as RAs receive training for their dorm advising) and receive compensation for their work. I was an RA and Head Resident Advisor as an undergrad; then in grad school I was a fellow in training and became a Residence Hall Director (my first job). I know how much effort it takes to work through complex interpersonal issues, conflicts and misunderstanding among students living in campus residences.
Why do we think students can make sense on their own through the complex decision-making prrocess to go abroad for study/work/internship or service? I’d like to be informed about innovative ways campuses work to guide students –using peer support-through their decision-making to go abroad, make meaning while overseas, and then fully integrate their learning in strategic ways which impact their employability.