What is immersion?

Breaking the Chains.jpg

We define immersion as the active participation in a culture markedly different than one’s own, which leads to critical reflection, empathy, and perspective shift.

A core goal of Amherst’s liberal arts education is the encounter with and appreciation of intellectual and cultural difference. Such encounters are valuable for individual development, and they are necessary for the common good in a complexly interconnected world. Students will ideally experience intercultural exchange on a daily basis during their time at Amherst in ways that enrich their education. That said, learning experiences away from campus can enhance understanding of difference in additional forms and have the potential to enrich campus life when individuals return to the Amherst community. The learning goal for Amherst’s Global Education program is, therefore:

To encourage meaningful encounters with intellectual and cultural difference while away and upon return.

Elements of Amherst’s global education program that help to achieve this goal include:

  • Language Study

A country’s cultural practices and cultural frames of reference are inscribed in, not separate from, its languages. The majority of Amherst students study away in a setting where English is not the primary language, though some students study in countries where English is spoken widely or at other institutions within the United States. But even in these cases, students will encounter a different idiom and a different vocabulary to which they will need to adjust. In cases where a foreign language is spoken, students are expected to study the language of the country for the duration of their time in the program. Significant language study in advance of travel and continued language study upon return are strongly recommend and may be required for some majors.

  • Program of Study

Study away allows students to explore ideas and experiences beyond what is available at Amherst. Some students use study away to increase depth of knowledge in a field, and others to have access to different topics and methodologies, yet all gain from the insights that come from a shift in institutional and geographical perspectives. A student whose major includes mastering a language will inevitably improve proficiency and cultural competency.

  • Immersion

Immersion in a single locale over a substantial period of time is crucial to any study-away program because it increases the likelihood of meaningful encounters. Examples of immersion include living with a local host family and participating in university clubs and organizations. The Committee on Global Education therefore insists on immersion as a criterion for approving programs.

  • Personal Growth

A global education helps students become more confident, independent, and self-aware, and provides them with unique opportunities to reflect critically on themselves and their personal background or history. After navigating the inherent unpredictability and ambiguity of the maturation process while away, students return to campus ready to add significantly to classroom and campus conversations in new ways. Such first-hand experiences add depth to their ideas and how they articulate these ideas.

  • Global Insight

Responsible engagement with our diverse and interconnected world requires flexible thinking, an openness to varied perspectives, and an awareness of divergent experiences and needs. Such global awareness is a central component of a liberal arts education, and study away is a powerful tool for this broadening of vision and understanding.

-Revised by the Committee on Global Education, Spring 2018