Sh*t Study Abroad Students Say

*Note:  If the word “shit” offends you, please do not continue to read this post.

A few weeks ago, I googled “shit study abroad students say” after seeing the brilliant “Shit New Yorkers Say” video sensation.  I was hoping someone would do a version of this for study abroad – and today, in my inbox, it magically appeared!

(Side note: The students who made this video did call it “Stuff Study Abroad Students Say.” I am honoring the “Shit People Say” series by renaming this video with the appropriate “bad” word.)

Now watch this clever video! Laugh. Roll your eyes. Be sad. Smile.  Do whatever feels right for you.  Then read the rest of this post:

Did you enjoy that? Was it hard to watch? Did any of this sound familiar?

It sure did to me.  Four colleges under my belt and I cannot begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard these statements. They come from the young voices of (US) Americans from an incredibly ethnocentric country (see this previous Melibee post), one that is slapping together study abroad programs faster than many would like to admit.  Many are revenue driven and poorly designed, leading to students belting out statements like the ones in the video.  (Please don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of schools and 3rd party providers that put great care into study abroad program design and learning outcomes.  But many – let’s face it – don’t. )

The timing of this video really struck me. Yesterday, I had the honor of facilitating an online workshop with Dr. Eric Hartman on Global Service Learning: Design/Reflection/Connection – and it couldn’t have been more timely.  Dr. Hartman spoke of the importance of partnership, culture, careful learning outcomes, mutual respect, addressing our ethnocentricity prior to departure., etc.  The gap between great global service learning program delivery and the “run of the mill” study abroad experience is clear.  These students, in my opinion, did a remarkable job of capturing that delta in this video.

This video will serve as a beautiful new resource for pre-departure, orientation, re-entry programs, classroom discussions and academic programs (international education administration/intercultural studies.)  It has so many applications!

What are your thoughts about this video?  How might you envision it being utilized? What did you appreciate about it? What frustrated you about it?  Let’s get some dialogue going about this subject.

Let me close by extending my heartfelt thanks to the Amizade students for creating not only this video, but the opportunity for all of us to reflect on how we contribute to the statements you have highlighted.  Once again, students are providing teaching opportunities.  Does it get any better than that?






  1. Danielle says:

    Love that somebody did this! Personally couldn't relate too much since I never studied abroad in Europe–but I certainly heard it enough from friends/acquaintances. Thanks for sharing! Definitely appreciated the "Ohhh! Class…" bit at the end. Emphasizing the academics in study abroad is probably the most difficult task for those designing the programs.

    • Missy Gluckmann says:

      I'm glad someone did it because I was seriously tempted to tackle it…lol! I seriously did google it weeks before. Such a great tool for your work on re-entry too, no?

  2. Joseph says:

    Missy-I think you nailed it on the head when you describe the revenue-imperative that is central to many study abroad programs. This video reminds me of some discussions I had with a colleague recently about the old Grand Tour from the 1660s to the 1840s. Google "Grand Tour" to see what I mean. A specific quote by E.P Thompson (excellent author on cultural hegemony and resistance movements) captures the link between this phenomenon and modern study abroad students: He argues that the Grand Tour was much more than just traveling and learning in that "ruling-class control in the 18th century was located primarily in a cultural hegemony, and only secondarily in an expression of economic or physical (military) power." This "soft power" as the Obama admin has coined it, is very much rapped up in the emergence of study abroad implicitly, and obviously part of Boren, Gilman, FLAS, or Peace Corps experiences. Its an emergence that spun out of control and left critical analysis by the wayside within the Study Abroad industry. Poking fun at the Grand Tour is very present in this video, but it presents a challenge when we ask ourselves "what else is there?" I think that this video makes us consider this question but answers are still very far off.

    • Missy Gluckmann says:

      Joseph – I will definitely look into your recommendation – thanks for sharing it. I hope that this video raises serious conversations on campuses about what we are really doing by sending students out en masse on programs that don't effectively prepare or involve reflection about their time abroad. Wouldn't it be innovative if program administrators designed with the same care as they do with the general liability release forms? Isn't this type of returned student MUCH more dangerous in many ways!? Thanks again for writing and sharing, Missy

  3. Maria C. says:

    It was very well done and amusing. Some of the statements are really clueless and harmful ("they are so poor but so happy", "the children are cute, I think I'll take one home") but I think the majority are harmless and compleltely natural. A problem does exist if the student doesn't go any futher than just taking photos, shopping, and eating chocolate, etc. You could definately use it as a discussion tool with a group both before and after their time abroad.

    • Missy Gluckmann says:

      Hi Maria, I think that this video is actually equally useful for FACULTY and STAF designing programs and leading groups – as they are often focused on the syllabus, logistics, legalese and budget over the actual learning outcomes and perception that we have about the world and that the world has about US. Do you agree? Certainly, it is a very useful tool for students too – but it goes much deeper than that in my opinion. Many thanks for sharing your thoughts, Missy

  4. Kristi Ellison says:

    This is such a great article and video. I can remember hearing every one of those lines at least once in my experience as a study abroad alum and student advisor with a third party provider. Missy, I couldn't agree with you more that this video (and article too!) can be extremely useful in reminding every study abroad provider what our purpose is-ensuring learning outcomes with our students.

    Thanks for sharing!!

    • Missy Gluckmann says:

      Thanks so much for your note Kristi! It really resonated with me also. I have been working with Dr Eric Hartman on a global service learning workshop and it is such a strong reminder of how deep the reflection and learning can go – and this video reminds us how shallow they often are. Thanks again for your comment!

  5. This was very entertaining and very "real". I have taught and administered in Italy and the Middle East and witness part if not all of this type of attitude on a daily basis. However, it is endemic to study abroad students – I hear it from tourists, faculty and staff on site visits, expats and people who you would think would know better.

    I believe very much in how international education is presented and packaged to institutions, students and parents – not to mention how it is structured on the other side of the workd where the students are going.

    The old models of language and area studies based experiences are few and far between as the franchise has been expanded. Students and institutions are shopping for a laundry list of "transferable courses" that are almost carbon copies of the courses taught on the home campus. Furthermore now one can take all those pesky core requirements abroad – and often times not have to worry about the grade if you have the good fortune to just transfer credit.

    Talking about program models – as being on the "other side" it is imposed on foreign schools by partner schools and 3rd party providers to offer services in line with the home campus, usually much more than any home campus offers for its students when you think of the ratio of students to staff. Do increased services actually make it more difficult for students to "own" their experience and have an increased level of "integration" ? I say yes.

    Another comment that could have been used: "Uh, like my teacher like has like an accent?" or in an e-mail of concern from a parent " we are worried that Bobby Jo is being indoctrinated in the ways of the Roman church with all this talk of Jesus and the Madonna in her Renaissance Art course.."

    The question is what is the student supposed to be doing when they are abroad? Is it that there are far too many prerequisites put on the majority of students who are studying abroad that are ill-equipped, especially in terms of language and cultural skills. What can we really expect to happen in 15 weeks?

    • Missy Gluckmann says:

      Rene – I really appreciate your comment and perspective. I am struggling with the same challenges and feel frustrated when people don't understand that study abroad IS an "industry" these days. I am working on a project intended to create awareness and tools to address the struggles you beautifully describe abroad. More info about this will be coming on the blog in the coming months. Meanwhile, the question I've been asking is "what are you and/or your organization doing that facilitates these kinds of sterotypes and ignorant statements?" I am hoping that it will at least encourage orgs to raise the question with sr. administrators and faculty when they are asked to "push" out new programs. Thank you again for raising such important questions – and as you said – What do we expect to really happen in 15 week programs that are often designed for the masses vs for specific learning outcomes.

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