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JCCC Stories

Bringing international travel to the classroom

September 16, 2018


Some of the deepest learning comes from living in someone else’s world, however long or brief that might be. That's why JCCC's International Studies program encourages everyone to find opportunities to travel abroad. This includes the people tasked with your education.

In late May, Dr. Sheri Barrett, Director of JCCC’s Office of Assessment, Evaluation, and Institutional Outcomes, spent one lovely evening visiting with new friends. Sitting in a garden under a sky lit softly with the colors of a setting sun, they discovered how much they had in common.

The garden was in a suburb of Leiden, South Holland, Netherlands. The new friends were an administrator faculty researcher at mboRijnland School and his grown daughters. Barrett was there to observe how the career and technical school operated.

Just a year before, in May 2017, JCCC English Professor Beth Gulley was marching in a muggy train station in China. She and fellow protestors carried signs calling out men who grope women on the trains and demanding the right to ride without being assaulted.

She was in the Tiyuchang Station in Xi’an, Shaanxi, China, at the time, during her yearlong teaching position at Northwestern Polytechnical University (NWPU).

Barrett and Gulley are just two of the many faculty, administrators and staff who’ve traveled abroad on behalf of the College. JCCC partners with international career and trade schools like mboRijnland and NWPU to share ideas and techniques to improve education.

Those who participate in the programs say they gain so much more.

A global perspective

Each year a faculty member from NWPU travels to Overland Park and spends a year as a guest instructor at JCCC. He or she teaches and observes, then takes that new knowledge back to schools in China.

Gulley took a yearlong sabbatical in 2017, and she and her husband both taught English at NWPU. Their son, who was 15 at the time, enrolled in an online school through their Paola school district. It was a long investment, but Gulley says the experience was worth every day.

Aside from immersing herself so deeply in the culture, filming videos on writing for her students, and presenting active learning workshops to faculty from multiple colleges and disciplines, Gulley says she has a much deeper appreciation for JCCC students.

“Our JCCC students are much more self-motivated because they choose to come here,” she says. “We have an academic forgiveness that’s not necessarily found in other cultures. Our students can choose what they want to study, change their minds and even fail. The choices for other students are limited in many ways. In China, there is one chance to pass a college entrance exam.”

Going Dutch

JCCC is one of several U.S. schools that participate in an exchange program in which American faculty and administrators are paired with their counterparts from the Netherlands.

In what's dubbed the Dutch Exchange, JCCC participants open their homes to visitors from the Netherlands for two weeks each October. The Dutch contingent tours the College and observes how JCCC operates. In May, they host the JCCC participants in their homes.

The experience gave one participant an acutely personal perspective, as well as a global one.

“I have a much better understanding of what our international students must be experiencing so far from home,” says Anna Page, Honors program director. “They’re missing their favorite foods, feeling homesick for the familiar, navigating the strange differences with restaurants. They might not always have someone who understands exactly where they’re coming from, especially if they come from a background that is significantly different from the United States.”

Broaden your horizons

Traveling abroad is the best way to see how everyone on this planet is connected to each other – economically, politically and socially. Teachers can incorporate this international perspective into their coursework.

“We can better help students see the world we truly live in and how we as individuals and members of a state or country interact within that global world,” says Janette Jasperson, Study Abroad coordinator. “The current trade war is a good example. We need to show students how imposing a tariff affects each country for good or bad. We are a globalized economy and a global world. Our sports, foods and even diseases are international.”

The Office of International Education offers scholarships and travel grants to students and College employees. For more information, contact the office at 913-469-8500, ext. 3470.