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Studying Abroad, a "Hands On" Approach to Political Science
Unformatted Document Text:  This paper attempts to look at the question of how study abroad fits into the undergraduate political science curriculum and thus what it can contribute to an undergraduate education. In particular it will focus on issues related to “hands on “learning, including the use of field trips, conferences and simulations to enhance learning and comprehension (I). These experiences are particularly useful as tools to teach about foreign political systems (notably the EU), but also in order to learn more about our own American political system through comparison. As well, it will look at the benefits to exposure to different, non-American schools of thought, intellectual traditions and methods of teaching in the discipline(II). Finally, it will look at the utility of foreign language learning and the intercultural experience and the added benefits in the study of political science. Examples from personal experience as a lecturer in political science both in French and US universities and study abroad programs will illustrate these points. I. Learning through Doing and Seeing In undergraduate education we perhaps tend to associate “hands on” more generally with hard sciences than with the social sciences. Though certainly internships in the political science curriculum are quite popular when possible, more generally traditional methods have been less based on practice than on theory or readings and discussions in the classroom. G uest speakers from politics or think tanks Hearing from political actors or professional observers (professors and think tank analysts) of political life is key to bringing politics into the political science classroom. Certainly capital cities like Paris offer a particularly rich political scene from which educators and their students can benefit. More specifically in Europe, the geographic proximity of capital cities such as Paris, Brussels and London also allows for the integration of international and European political issues and actors. These speeches can take the form of conferences on specific topics such as women in war or current elections in France including documentary film makers, lawmakers, political scientists etc. A mix of policymakers/elected 4

Authors: Sheppard, Elizabeth.
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This paper attempts to look at the question of how study abroad fits into the
undergraduate political science curriculum and thus what it can contribute to an
undergraduate education. In particular it will focus on issues related to “hands on “learning,
including the use of field trips, conferences and simulations to enhance learning and
comprehension (I). These experiences are particularly useful as tools to teach about foreign
political systems (notably the EU), but also in order to learn more about our own American
political system through comparison. As well, it will look at the benefits to exposure to
different, non-American schools of thought, intellectual traditions and methods of teaching in
the discipline(II). Finally, it will look at the utility of foreign language learning and the
intercultural experience and the added benefits in the study of political science. Examples
from personal experience as a lecturer in political science both in French and US universities
and study abroad programs will illustrate these points.
I.
Learning through Doing and Seeing
In undergraduate education we perhaps tend to associate “hands on” more generally
with hard sciences than with the social sciences. Though certainly internships in the political
science curriculum are quite popular when possible, more generally traditional methods have
been less based on practice than on theory or readings and discussions in the classroom.
G
uest speakers from politics or think tanks
Hearing from political actors or professional observers (professors and think tank
analysts) of political life is key to bringing politics into the political science classroom.
Certainly capital cities like Paris offer a particularly rich political scene from which educators
and their students can benefit. More specifically in Europe, the geographic proximity of
capital cities such as Paris, Brussels and London also allows for the integration of
international and European political issues and actors. These speeches can take the form of
conferences on specific topics such as women in war or current elections in France including
documentary film makers, lawmakers, political scientists etc. A mix of policymakers/elected
4


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