Implications of an experiential food and environment-related course for Chinese and other international students
This project focuses on the short and long-term impacts of an experiential travel course, ‘Living Rural Communities and Environments’, that has been delivered through the University of Manitoba in the nearby rural community of Clearwater since 2006. The course is tremendously popular and about half of the students who have taken the course are international students, most of these from China. The goal of this research was to explore the implications of experiential education and community service-learning for international and especially Chinese students. In addition, how and what degree at attitude and behaviors for such students were affected by this intensive experiential learning course was explored. The methods involved focus group interviews with students who took the course in 2017 and 2018, interviews with community instructors, and an online survey consisting of Likert scale, multiple choice and open-ended questions that was distributed to all international students who have taken the course since 2006. Experiential education was found to be a highly effective method of conveying knowledge to and engaging students with the course material. The course had longstanding impacts on student attitudes and behaviours including the knowledge of food systems, consumption or local and organic foods, and attitudes and awareness of the inequity faced by Indigenous people in Canada. The influence of experiential learning on Chinese students was especially profound because of the effective absence of outdoor and experiential learning experiences in China. This research helped us better understand the unique experiences of Chinese and other international students in this travel course in comparison to other university courses that have been taken. It also helped maintain and strengthen contacts between these past international students and other students as well as with instructors and community members.
Experiential learning, International students, Higher education, Community service learning