Editor, Daily Nexus,
As the regional director for UC’s Education Abroad Program in France, I must take exception to the picture you painted in your front-page article (“French Demonstrators Disrupt EAP,” Daily Nexus, Apr. 5) regarding what our students are doing during the strikes in France. Your article began by stating that UCSB students “are left without an education” due to the cancellation of classes at some of the universities. There is only one sentence, at the very end of the article, which alludes to what our students are actually doing with regard to their education during this time.
UC’s Education Abroad Program is no stranger to university strikes, as they occur all the time in countries around the world. As with any professional study abroad organization, EAP immediately steps in to assure that students continue working toward their degree objectives no matter the circumstances. What is rarely understood about how university education works in other countries is that classroom lectures are only one of the ways in which students learn. In Europe, the emphasis is on the student learning regardless of the means, not on the teacher teaching. Therefore, if classes are not in session, education does not stop. It continues as it normally would with the students doing the work that is expected of them in order to pass their exams.
Because UC students are not aware at first of this important difference, EAP provides on-site supervision of the learning experience abroad. EAP employs UC faculty directors to head up study centers abroad precisely to be able to mediate the learning experience in cases such as this. These directors have been working individually with each student to insure that they understand what they are supposed to be doing to continue their studies while classes are not in session. They have also established special tutorials and seminars for the students during this time, so that by the end of the semester every student will have completed gradable work that will assure full credit for the term.
By concentrating almost entirely on the nonacademic side of our students’ experience during these strikes, your article also missed the real story of what studying abroad is all about. The UC students in France this year are among the luckiest anywhere in EAP because they are in a unique position to witness and, yes, study – with the guidance of their UC faculty directors on site – what the social contract that is so dear to the French is all about, and, more than that, to compare how the French are dealing with their immigration issue at the same time that we are trying to deal with ours here in the U.S. These students are getting a real education out there in the field.