Meta-travel: A critical inquiry into a China Study Tour
This paper questions whether participants on short-term study tours typically allow themselves and their understandings about the world to be transformed by their experiences or if these brief trips only serve to reify and legitimize preconceived notions and stereotypes about the world. Based on an analysis of U.S. graduate students’ experiences on a trip to China, we argue that short-term study tours have the potential to provide a valuable opportunity for participants to deepen their understanding of themselves and their role in the world. However, they can only do so if a critical reflection component is incorporated in the study tour. Specifically, short-term study travel can help participants understand the situated and shifting nature of their identities as students and travelers. It can also deepen their awareness of how they are positioned globally as students of a U.S. based institution, and explore how positionality, identity, and stereotypes shape their worldview during study tours. By engaging in an intentional, critical reflection process, we argue that participants can experience deeper emotional and intellectual transformation during short-term study tours. We use the case of a study tour to China to propose a framework for reflection during short-term study travel that we call “meta-travel.”
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