CP in Focus: 4 Essentials of Teaching Your Own Course Abroad

Melissa Stone is a Program Manager in ISA’s Custom Programs [CP] division and a contributor to ISA Today as part of an occasional series called ‘CP in Focus.’

ISA students working in a lab in Panama.

These days, there’s no such thing as a standard “Custom Program.” The types of opportunities that universities, study abroad offices, and faculty are looking for are constantly changing, which is part of what makes CP interesting. Perhaps the most common type of customized program is what we call the ‘Teach Your Own Course Abroad’ model.

‘Teach Your Own’ programs are pretty self-explanatory. University faculty lead students abroad as part of a credit-bearing course based at the home institution. Sounds simple enough, yet there are several important considerations to take into account when planning a program like this.

  1. Classroom Reservations – Where will classes meet? Local universities sometimes have space available for rent, especially during break periods when there are fewer students on campus. Most ISA offices have dedicated
    classroom space as well, just in case. 

    An ISA Classroom in Costa Rica right before the start of class.
  2. Student Accommodations – Where will your students stay? Many short-term faculty-led program participants stay in hotels, student housing, or homestays with host families. Where will you stay?
  3. Guest Lectures & Academic Visits – Arrange guest lectures and academic visits relevant to your course. These can supplement classroom learning or they can be the primary contact hours for your program.
  4. Cultural Activities & Excursions – Sometimes these components are the basis of the course and sometimes they are complementary to classroom time.

For example…

UNC Charlotte’s Discovering Costa Rican Health & Human Services Spring Break program through the School of Nursing traveled to San José they visited community clinics, non-traditional healthcare professionals, examined the Costa Rican healthcare system as well as explored the realms of social work and care organizations.

  • Academic visits included a community clinic, a public hospital, a non-profit organization with an HIV/AIDS focus, public hospital, a botanical healer, and more.
  • Guest lectures from Costa Rican healthcare professionals.
  • Excursions to sites of historical and cultural importance.