A View of Study Abroad from Rural America

February 18, 2015 7:49 PM | Deleted user

A View of Study Abroad from Rural America

Note from Paula Clark and Ted Hamilton Professors, Columbia College, Sonora, California Feb. 2015

We have taught at a small rural community college in Northern California for seventeen years. Introducing students to the idea of studying abroad has been quite the experience – for us and them!

As a background, over the past three decades we have developed a High Demand x High Support (HD x HS) Teaching Pedagogy, designed to challenge more and accommodate less many of the problems that entering students bring to college. These problems, widespread throughout the college population, are pronounced in rural areas. Recognizing that community college students in general and rural ones in particular rarely make strong transfers, the overall goal of HD x HS has been what we have called STP – strong transfer potential. This HD x HS pedagogy, the foundational anatomy in all the courses that we teach (across several disciplines), though far from successful from the perspective of enrollment and retention is nevertheless very successful when viewed otherwise. The students who persist in two or more of these courses move on from our institution to chart pathways that would not be expected from their backgrounds (community college, rural, and often social and economic problems of every stripe). Though the numbers are small, those who venture overseas have quite an experience. 

It is important, we believe, to recognize that in an environment like ours, just entertaining the idea of study abroad requires bumping up against a great deal of negative – even spiteful – social pressure. This pressure comes from many places including those that perhaps may come as surprise (family, friends, the community at large, and often the college itself).

Though our numbers are small, the stories are not.

Rural America is not on any one’s radar, but much of rural America is in dire straits and though the matter touches just about everyone, the young are bearing the brunt of it. If they are to survive – ideally thrive – they will require what their communities generally do not offer and they will require options that they themselves do not/cannot envision for themselves. Right now a former student is in India – a grandmother who would like to eventually practice medicine in rural America – and she is in rural India! A single mother with very limited post-transfer aspirations eventually transferred to UC Berkeley and just returned from a summer in Spain. Another former student who managed to fail the first five classes that he took with us (in the end he passed them all), ultimately transferred with impressive success, completing a humanitarian project in Ghana for which he received an award upon his return.

If you would like to check us out we have placed our very substantial faculty websites below. We have also included the in-progress website designed to accompany our HD x HS approach – there are maps at the HD x HS site showing some of the destinations to which our students have traveled, studied and worked.

Faculty Websites:




General HD x HS Website:



Where HD x HS students have travelled:


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