Bridging Cultures Orientation
The Discovery Model
A primary objective of all ISA programs is to facilitate the learning and development of each student, regardless of background or prior preparation. At most study sites, we rely on host universities to provide quality instruction in the classroom, while ISA acts as the main facilitator of learning outside the classroom.
Since 2015, our efforts to promote this important type of learning call upon an educational framework we call The Discovery Model. This model organizes student learning and development into six areas of discovery: Intercultural, Historical, Sociopolitical, Professional, Environmental, and Sustainability.
Our resident staff uses the six discovery area icons to label co-curricular learning opportunities described on Schoology, our app-based Learning Management System (LMS). Throughout each program, we give participants numerous opportunities to pursue guided learning in these discovery areas through participation in ISA excursions, cultural activities, optional micro-credentials by WorldStrides, and community involvement.
Bridging Cultures Orientation
Upon arrival in their host country, all ISA students undergo a Bridging Cultures Orientation to familiarize them with their host community and prepare them to make the most of their time abroad. It is delivered to all students during the first week on-site and comprises a mix of practical tips, culture-general content, and country-specific information.
For several reasons, the first days after arrival offer some of the best opportunities to transmit information to participants effectively. We make the most of this time by giving our students tools they can use to approach learning abroad more intentionally. These include an app-based Learning Management System (LMS) called Schoology. Currently in use at all ISA sites, we curate this e-handbook of resources to help students adapt to the host culture and stay on top of upcoming calendar events.
In addition to robust information about money, transportation, housing, health and safety protocols, and risk mitigation, the Bridging Cultures Orientation also encompasses goal setting, tips for academic success abroad, and cohort-building icebreakers. With input from the U.S.-based Academic Affairs team, our teams abroad introduce students to some definitions of culture and frameworks for thinking about intercultural competence. These are tailored to reflect local program realities and draw upon resident staff areas of expertise.
During the Bridging Cultures Orientation, a Schoology calendar of on-site ISA activities is shared with students, highlighting upcoming co-curricular opportunities and important academic dates, along with ISA-led walking and bus tours programmed for the first week abroad. These tours aim to familiarize students with major landmarks, monuments, and public squares while demonstrating safe and efficient movement to and from host universities and popular neighborhoods, both on foot and via public transportation. We emphasize living, walking, and shopping as locals do, avoiding concentrated tourist areas.
Tours also include an introduction to the culture and history of the city designed to help students review and recall the information that they initially learned in their pre-departure online orientation. Additional cultural activities offered later in the program, along with tours of lesser-known areas of the city, deepen and expand on topics covered during orientation by incorporating learning objectives associated with The Discovery Model.
What is Schoology?
Since 2015, ISA has used Schoology to meet digital natives where they are. Schoology is an app-based Learning Management System (LMS) that allows our resident teams abroad to maintain a digital learning environment tailored to today’s independent, tech-savvy student.
How do students interact with Schoology abroad?
Two weeks before arriving at the study site, each ISA student is welcomed to a site-specific Schoology Student Guide full of tips, resources, and itineraries for each ISA-led event.
In addition, students can use Schoology to access…
- Themed learning modules to earn micro-credentials that connect their study abroad experience to their career goals.
- A program calendar with important dates for the Bridging Cultures Orientation, cultural activities and excursions, and other events happening throughout the city.
- Activities, restaurants, and attractions hand-picked and fully recommended by our local experts.
- Transportation guides and tips, complete with preset directions to navigate to planned events.
- Updates and safety check-ins directly from our team via the messaging feature.
- Links to relevant news stories and media, plus other cultural, academic, and personal resources.