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Independent Study and Multicultural Education

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Independent Study and Multicultural Education

The following is an interview that Verge Magazine , out of Canada, did with Vagabond Journey on the importance of independent study and international/ multicultural education.
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Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
in Brooklyn, New York City- October 22, 2008
Travelogue Travel Photos
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1. What kinds of travel experiences have you had as part of independent studies or projects (“independent” meaning a project that was not already a prescribed part of a standard curriculum set out by your school; a project that was self-directed or that you designed yourself)?

I did my undergraduate studies at Global College, Long Island University, which is a four year, accredited, international studies program, with centers in Costa Rica, South Africa, India, China, and Japan. A large part of the curriculum of this school is based upon independent study projects that students carry out with the assistance of an academic advisor. As for myself, I focused the majority portion of my studies on independent projects that I carried out in Japan, India, China, Morocco, and Portugal.

For one semester in Japan, I took 9 credits of independent study, and did two major projects. One was a very in-depth investigation into traditional Japanese tattooing and the other was a study of haiku poetry and its symbiotic relationship with Zen Buddhism.

I studied in China for one year, and focused my independent projects on Tang Dynasty poetry, contemporary Tibetan nomads, and martial arts. For the Tibetan nomad independent study, I went out to Qinghai province in the west of China to conduct my investigation. The Tang Dynasty poetry project cumulated in a journey into the TianTai mountains in search of the 11th century poet, Han Shan’s, hermitage.

I then studied for a semester at Global College’s South Asian Center in Bangalore, India. Here I began my study of journalism by formulating, with the assistance of my academic advisor, a course called Ethnographic Journalism (which would eventually become my formal area of concentration within Global College). In this independent study, I went into the Chinatowns of India, a Tibetan refugee camp at Bylakuppe, and wrote articles about many aspects of Indian society. The Tibetan refugee article was published by Abroad View magazine, and I am currently re-working an article on traditional Indian woodcarvers for publication.

From India I went to Morocco and Portugal for a complete semester of independent study. My main focus was on journalism, and I wrote pieces on Moroccan culture and society – focusing on the Ramadan celebration – as well as an article on graffiti artists in Portugal that was published in Cafe Abroad InPrint.

3. What did planning for these independent projects involve? For example, did you work with a faculty advisor? When did the planning process start? Did you have to prepare proposals, hand in progress reports? What steps did you have to take before you began your project/study?

The independent study projects that students do in Global College, Long Island University must be well researched in advance and proposals need to be submitted and approved by the student’s academic advisor before they can begin. Throughout the semesters that I studied independently, I worked very closely with my advisers to optimize the results of my work.

4. What work did you complete?

If you go to this page, Travel Articles, you can browse the bulk of the work that I accomplished while studying independently.

5. What did you learn?

The most important things that I learned while studying independently were the more subtle, person skills that derive from designing and carrying out large research projects on my own volition. Skills such as self confidence, determination, and inter-personal communication are cultivated through independent study. Though I think the most important skill that I gained while studying independently abroad was that I was able to learn how gain access to people, places, and experiences that I need to carry out my research. Independent study teaches students the HOWS of life, and not just the whats, wheres, and whens.

6. Did studying independently allow you to do things you wouldn’t have been able to do through study in traditional courses/programs?

Yes, definitely. I came to Global College (previously called the Friends World Program) because I was worn out and jaded with the structure and limitations that are inherent to the conventional education model; I wanted to get out in the world and take control of my own education and to shape my own knowledge and opportunities. I found sitting in a classroom, far removed from the source of what I was studying, unbearable. I needed to go directly to the spring of knowledge, and quench my curiosities for myself.

8. How did studying independently allow you to have meaningful experience in a way that traditional courses/programs may not have allowed?

Through studying independently I was able to escape the cage of the classroom and experience my education for myself. Global College provided me with a way to study independently in virtually any country in the world that I wished to travel to, investigate what I was passionate about, and produce work that I am still proud of. I could not have done this through doing the redundant dittos and busy-work assignments that are the hallmark of a conventional university education.

I was also able to make many friends and contacts through studying internationally and doing independent projects that I would not have been able to make if I sat sedentary in a US university for four years. I know that I will always utilize the contacts that I made and the experiences that I had while studying independently with Global College. In point, independent study enabled me to grasp my research topics in both hands and to really make something of my university education.

9. What are the disadvantages of studying independently? What is difficult about it?

The main disadvantage of studying independently is that it is the student needs to be responsible for their own education. Simply put, the student must be their own teacher and come up with strategies to seize the information and knowledge that they desire. During the course of an independent study semester, a teacher or an adviser can only guide the student toward their goals, it is up to the student to take that guidance and make something of it. It is my impression that if a student is not passionate about their studies and they are not driven enough to make contacts on their own, then their independent studies may not come to fruition. When you study independently, you essentially throw yourself out into a middle of a sea of possibility, and you have to make it back to land by way of your own guts, determination, and ingenuity. Studying in this manner is a great way to cultivate essential life skills and experience that you can take with you for the rest of your life, but, if you sink, nobody will be there to pull you back afloat. Independent study is a good litmus test for a student to check if they are able to face the world beyond the university gates. From my experience, independent study is a slight risk, though I feel that it is one that is worth taking.

10. Anything else you would like to add?

Yeah, for examples of the projects that I did while studying independently with Global College, Long Island University, please visit, http://www.vagabondjourney.com/ or http://www.vagabondjourney.com/travel-articles.shtml

And go directly to Global College’s homepage, http://www.brooklyn.liu.edu/globalcollege/

Related Pages:
International Study and Travel
Global College Long Island University
How to Finance Travels and Study Abroad
Scholarship for Travel
Global College China Center
Global College Costa Rica Center
Global College Japan Center
Global College South Africa Center
Global College South Asian Center

Links to previous travelogue entries:
Drunks Drop Money- Travel Tip #15
Travels New York City
David Lida Interview

Independent Study and Multicultural Education
* Travel Blog Directory * Vagabond Journey.com * Travel Photos * Travel Questions and Answers

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Filed under: Journalism, Study Abroad, USA

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3048 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Polis, Republic of CyprusMap