Traditional study abroad, voluntourism and even international service learning are often* a form of neo-colonialism. When privileged (mostly white) students and others travel to previously colonized nations it is usually with the intention of ‘helping’ even though they are ill-equipped and have no real skills to offer. These models create dependency on the part of the host country and paternalism on the part of the student.
Education abroad should be the vehicle for not just students, but for all people to examine global power dynamics and equitably engage with ideas and people beyond one’s own place – but it is largely failing to do so.
What if instead of traveling ’to help,’ we traveled to other communities to learn? What could we learn under the tutelage of local experts, leaders and changemakers – particularly in countries that are typically viewed through the lens of poverty? How would this experience change the way we view race, racism, colonialism, and power?
*Often does not mean always. Human and resource support that is ethical, equitable and welcomed by the community can be of great service.