City As Relationship


  • Martha Johnson



City, Study abroad, Education abroad, Emotional relationships


Volume XX (Spring 2011) of Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad takes a thematic focus on “Study Abroad and the City.” As part of the Global Cities Seminar hosted by CAPA International Education in Vancouver in May 2011, participants were asked to consider the use of the city as text, the city as document, and the city as cultural informant. The articles featured in the journal and at the workshop presented an array of case studies and compelling arguments for ensuring active engagement with the physical environment that various urban spaces provide as educative tools for students abroad.

During the discussion that followed the presentations, an aspect not fully explored either in the journal or on the panel occurred to me. What about the city as a relationship? As Rodríguez and Rink suggest in their article Performing the City: Engaging the High Tech Flaneur (2011), the ability of the city to elicit a visceral and emotional response is a powerful but often untapped element of the experience abroad. At the most obvious and basic level, travelers inevitably articulate their experience of destinations in the language of emotion: “I did not really like Venice, but I loved Rome.” I would like to give a bit of consideration to the emotional relationship travelers, and more specifically students on programs abroad, have with cities. I would also like to suggest some of the opportunities “the city as relationship” might offer if explored or presented as such.


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Author Biography

Martha Johnson

Martha Johnson is the Assistant Dean for Learning Abroad in the Global Programs and Strategy Alliance at UMN. She has worked in international education since 1991 for organizations and institutions in the US, Ireland, and the UK. Martha has presented on numerous sessions and workshops at international conferences, consults with universities internationally, has served in leadership positions in NAFSA and the Forum, and authored numerous articles and publication chapters on topics relating to international education.


Rodríguez K and Rink B. (2011) “Performing Cities: Engaging the High Tech Flaneur”, Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad XX 103-117

Lysgaard, Sverre. (1955). “Adjustment in a Foreign Society: Norwegian Fulbright Grantees Visiting the United States.” International Social Science Bulletin 7:45–51.




How to Cite

Johnson, M. (2013). City As Relationship. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 22(1), 127–130.