A History of U.S. Study Abroad: Beginnings to 1965

By Tillman, Martin | International Educator, May/June 2008 | Go to article overview

A History of U.S. Study Abroad: Beginnings to 1965


Tillman, Martin, International Educator


A History of U.S. Study Abroad: Beginnings to 1965

By William W. Hoffa

Reviewed by Martin Tillman

BILL HOFFA (full disclosure: I've known him since he entered the field) has researched and compiled a significant volume which benchmarks major historical events in the education abroad field; the "beginnings" of the title are indeed just that: dating what we recognize as study abroad to the ancient model of the "wandering scholar" between 600 BC to AD 250. Hoffa is a former college professor, long-time leader in NAFSAs education abroad community, former head of the Scandinavian Seminar, and a prolific author. I like the fact that Hoffa begins his book by acknowledging the historical antecedents of the modern industry that engages campus professionals and nonprofit administrators today. NAFSA's sixtieth birthday year presents an opportunity to reflect upon our profession and the impact of historical, cultural, political and socioeconomic forces which have shaped the work we all do today

Throughout the volume, Hoffa usefully provides careful annotation to his ideas and historical observations; and he discusses and highlights early writings and research by international educators who may not be well known to younger NAFSA members (While "works cited" appear in a comprehensive reference section, the volume suffers for lack of an index). Starting with an analysis from ancient history through the ninetheenth century, Hoffa then breaks up the twentieth century by decade to discuss trends, cite evolving campus and nonprofit organizational models of education abroad (formal and experiential), and the expanding influence and impact of congressional legislation on the profession and practice of education abroad.

ZORBA GOES ABROAD

During a holiday on Crete, my wife and I visited a museum exhibition devoted to the literary works of the islands most famous son, Nikos Kazantzakis, author of the acclaimed novel which became the movie, Zorba the Greek. We were surprised that so much of the exhibition was about the value of his world travels to his literary sensibilities. As quoted in the exhibition: "Travel was a way for him to harvest the riches of the world...and to let them settle within him before fermenting with his deeper feelings and emotions. No culture can be superior or inferior, but each local culture has an organic role to play in the history and culture of humankind." Kazantzakis was thinking and acting in the tradition of the European wanderjahr, which Hoffa points to as a forerunner to early twentieth century models of overseas study like the junior year abroad. One of my favorite short sections in his book is an early chapter titled, "Ancient Roots and Modern Premises." It's a terrific list of how modern education abroad programs and models share pedagogical premises from early forms of the quest for knowledge beyond one's borders. To cite a few: "No culture or country possesses all of human knowledge and wisdom; ...in the struggle to learn on the linguistic and cultural terms of the new host culture lies much of the wisdom to be gained by the experience; Some of the value of experience abroad comes from having to learn new ways of learning that are different from those at home. …

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