Accepted paper:

Decolonizing Study Abroad in Africa


Laura Seay (Colby College)

Paper short abstract:

Study abroad practices in Africa are often inherently unequal & neocolonial. This paper examines an attempt to decolonize study abroad through a US-Uganda exchange program. Through exchange, the program facilitates understanding, more equal opportunity, & long-term partnership.

Paper long abstract:

Study abroad by American undergraduates can be inherently neocolonial, allowing those students to travel & learn on the African continent while offering little opportunity for those they learn from to do the same. In doing so, faculty and students often use communities as the backdrop for their own learning and observations, with little benefit - and even harm - to community members themselves.

This paper explores an effort to decolonize the study abroad experience in Africa through the creation of an exchange program between an American university, Colby College, and a Ugandan village, Kikuube. With a goal of helping all involved to understand that we have much to learn from one another, since 2015, four groups of Colby students and two groups of Kikuube residents have traveled to one another's communities for short-term study abroad experiences. In Kikuube, Colby students reside with host families, participating in every aspect of daily life, from farming to washing, cooking, and cleaning. In Maine, Kikuube citizens stay on the Colby campus, attend classes, speak to community groups and schools, and explore the community. Through the exchange, we are building a long-term partnership based on mutual respect, more equal opportunity, and better understanding.

This paper examines the effects of this program in Kikuube and at Colby, and engages broader questions of decolonizing pedagogy. Challenges, including visa issues, language barriers, and funding inequality, are also discussed, as is the pedagogical challenge of teaching American students to think outside typical study abroad & service-learning models.

panel Pol21
Decolonization and pedagogy - disruptions and connections in the classroom