The transformational power of Study Abroad for our students is inextricably linked to place. One of the ways that scholars talk about the theory of “place” is that it sets the stage for human encounters. As ACU students live and study in the communities of Leipzig, Montevideo, and Oxford, they embody these encounters – when they explore, worship, and learn, even buy groceries – and through them begin to consider other versions of themselves and the world.
In anticipation of the Leipzig Villa Grand Opening, the Adams Center, the CAS Dean’s Office, and the Center for International Education wondered what kinds of faculty conversations and experiences could happen in Leipzig to further our goals for study abroad, especially in light of the experiential learning focus of the strategic plan.
One of the purposes of the trip was to give faculty the opportunity to experience places that are part of students’ curriculum, such as a city walking tour and excursions to Wittenberg and Buchenwald. However, most of the work of the trip was spent in making connections in the Leipzig community and thinking deeply about outcomes of Study Abroad, how to increase student participation, and what obstacles need to be addressed.
On our first afternoon in Leipzig, we considered what it means to think about a city as a text – to encounter Leipzig intentionally and incarnationally, not as tourists. We talked about cultivating habits of attention, mastering the vocabularies needed to interpret a place, and connecting small details to larger historical, political, and sociological questions.
On Wednesday, the President/Rector of HTWK, Leipzig University of Applied Science, welcomed us, and we toured science labs and media production spaces, in anticipation of partnerships for ACU faculty and students studying in Leipzig.
On Thursday, we applied design thinking principles to consider high-impact practices for our students and to be frank about obstacles for students, faculty, departments, and degrees.
On Friday, as we wrapped up, faculty were all over Leipzig meeting with potential partners in hospitals, engineering labs, art galleries, and student service providers.
As one might imagine, the time in Leipzig was full of conversation between faculty, administrators, advisors, and trustees: about Leipzig, about our disciples and connections among them, and about the dreams we have for our students and their opportunities to change the world.
(Don’t forget that the Leipzig Faculty Fellow is an opportunity to participate and cultivate these conversations in Leipzig.)