Greetings from the Study Abroad SIG!
As study abroad programs continue to grow in importance in the second language learning of our students, more and more teachers are becoming involved in their school’s study abroad programs. Similarly, since its founding in 2008, the Study Abroad SIG has grown from our initial 20 signatories to over 100 members.
One of the main reasons for founding the SIG was a common experience many of us shared. Schools wanted a study abroad program and teachers were asked to take part in it. Unfortunately, many of us did not have any specific knowledge about study abroad. There was no common arena for sharing resources that could help teachers deal with the intricacies of running such a program. Thus, the SIG was formed to be a place to provide information to help teachers develop their study abroad programs.
The strength of the Study Abroad SIG lies in its networking and resource sharing. The SIG is active throughout the year, with the PanSIG conference in May and the JALT International conference in November being the main focus of our work. We hold panel discussions and forums at these conferences and get feedback on new trends in study abroad.
The SIG now has its own yearly conference in September. So far, the presentations have been both outstanding and enjoyable. One thing the conference highlights is the commitment of teachers to their programs. It also indicates the variety of study abroad programs that have been developed throughout Japan and the rest of the world. In addition to research presentations, the conference offers a platform for study abroad students to share their experiences. Their presentations complement the conference theme and add depth to the voices contributing to our understanding of study abroad. The challenge ahead is to see where programs overlap and how we can share our experiences more thoroughly. The SIG would like to expand its list of conference collaborators to include administrators and study abroad companies.
We published our first newsletter called “Ryugaku” in May of 2008. Over the years, we have collected many excellent articles related to study abroad. As we peer-review each article, the quality of articles is high. Moving forward, the SIG is looking to broaden its available resources and help teachers develop their programs more fully.
The SIG has two primary platforms of communication: the SIG website and a Facebook page. The website, <http://www.jalt-sa.org>, carries most of the information and is a repository of resources to aid members. Non-members can visit the site and download older copies of Ryugaku while members receive the latest version. There are plans to expand the website to meet the varied needs of our members.
The SIG’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/874744595974613/) is also a way for our members to connect and discuss things easily and quickly.
As the SIG continually seeks to meet its members’ needs, the officers ask that all members get involved in some way. Getting involved does not have to be a big time commitment. We need people to help promote the SIG at conferences, help develop the SIG’s website, or connect with other researchers to further research in the field. We also encourage people with specific skills, such as computer programming, to help the SIG develop its online presence. There are many things to do and we would love to hear your voice.