In just three days, I will head to Atlanta, board a flight to New York City, then catch a plane to Amsterdam. It will be my first time in Europe.
I am going with my doctoral cohort from the University of Alabama. We are going to spend nine days in the Netherlands and Belgium, studying comparative higher education, and I am excited about the way this trip will help me re-conceptualize my work as a higher education professional.
For me, going to Europe will be a great experience at least in part because I teach a lot of European history. Every semester, I teach at least one half of the European survey course, and some semesters, I teach both halves. I'm developing a History of Capitalism course, and my favorite course to teach is my European Imperialism and Global Decolonization class. I'm visiting places that are at the center of much of what I teach, and the experience will be great professional development.
Apart from contributing to my work as an historian of imperialism and capitalism, I am also looking forward to exploring the ways other countries administer higher education. In the US, we have a rather capitalistic system. Competition is sort of baked into higher education in the US. From the very earliest days of US higher ed, institutions competed for students, faculty, and resources. There exists no centralized ministry for higher ed in the US, and a quick look at the higher education landscape here will indicate that absolutely no centralized planning was carried out as the US system of postsecondary education developed. In Europe, we will study systems that are in some ways the opposite. European systems are, by comparison to the US system, highly centralized and planned, and, in some ways, they limit options for students. As an occasionally loud critic of the US system of higher education, I am looking forward to hearing from European higher ed administrators and faculty members about the pros and cons of their systems.
As I embark upon this adventure, I plan to write here regularly. I will share my thoughts, my observations, and my questions, and try to contextualize my lived experiences with the literature of comparative international higher education. For now, though, I'm just excited. While I have been out of the country a number of times, I haven't ever been to Europe, and I have never studied abroad. I hope to reflect on my experiences as a very nontraditional student studying abroad well after having begun my career. I also hope to write about European culture, the burden of imperial history, the impact of colonialism on higher education in Europe, and, of course, beer. Stay tuned.