How to support students to make the most of their global experience

10 October 2019

During the summer of 2019, Nottingham Trent University (NTU) sent 20 widening participation students on a two-week summer programme at the CETYS Universidad in Ensenada, Mexico. The aims of the programme were for the students to challenge themselves, break existing paradigms, and improve their intercultural competencies. There was also a focus on the value of global experiences and mobility to students' employability.

The Programme 

Through studying alongside CETYS students, the NTU students developed a rich understanding of Mexico as well as a network of friendships for life. The classroom study was complemented with industry visits, such as to the Fender factory, and cultural activities, such as a chocolate making workshop and a visit to the local vineyard. 

An innovative element of the programme was a bespoke community engagement weekend organised exclusively for NTU students. The students visited two rural indigenous communities, the Pai Pai and the Zapotecs. Conscious of wanting to make the visits valuable for both parties, the communities were asked what they would like to get out of the visit. As a result, students learned some Pai Pai language, engaged in traditional handicraft, played team games and took part in traditional dance. The students also taught English to the children and planted trees in the school grounds.

Student feedback on the community engagement weekend was excellent:

 'It was incredible. In no other circumstance …would this have been a possible visit. A very unique and grounding experience', student participant.

'It was the most humbling experience and I was very privileged to have experienced it. I was able to put into action what I've learnt in my course (childhood studies) and teach the children at the community', student participant.

Important takeaways from the weekend included the application of knowledge from the students' degrees, creative thinking, perspectives on citizenship, reflections on privilege and social justice, having an impact and developing an open mind.  

Follow-up activities

A key aim of the trip was to focus on students' employability and the development of skills, attitudes and behaviours needed for the global workplace. NTU wanted to assist the students in going beyond the 'best experience of my life' description, to find ways of analysing and reflecting on the experience and harnessing and articulating the employability for current life-wide and future life-long learning.

At the beginning of the trip, the students were given a general self-efficacy scale questionnaire to complete. The focus was on statements relating to problem solving, persuasion skills, having clear goals, dealing with the unexpected, resourcefulness, coping mechanisms, being solutions-focussed, creative problem-solving and 'handling whatever comes your way'.

In the coming semester, the students will be encouraged to reflect on the experience of the trip by focussing on one of the statements and finding examples to illustrate it. For example, they might choose the statement 'I am confident that I could deal efficiently with unexpected events'. This reflection will be through written or visual forms, such as a mood board, a photo-story or maybe an infographic poster.

Students will then be supported in rehearsing the articulation of what they gained from the trip through writing mock job applications, having mock interviews, updating their CV and their social media profiles.

NTU intend to follow these activities with a model for discovering how global experiences can support student self-efficacy and employability.

Georgia Stone, School Employability Manager for Arts and Humanities, and Stephen Williams, Director of NTU Global, Nottingham Trent University.

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