Claudia Escaler: Experiential Learning for College Students

Experiential learning is very special and beneficial to college students. Typically, when thinking of experiential learning in general, the first example that people think of would be college students. With good reason, of course. College is the time in a person’s life that experiential learning is most common. It is almost expected, on top of the fact that there are more opportunities given in general. College students, especially in Elon, are blessed with the opportunities to study abroad and even have resources like the Elon Job Network that help them branch out into the working world. Experiential learning is almost crucial for students who are trying to figure out their place in the world. It is difficult for a student to know exactly what they want without having gone out into the “real world” and experienced it for themselves.

There has been plenty of research showing how experiential learning gives students an opportunity that traditional classroom/lecture style teaching does not. Plenty of studies, such as one from Savage and Wheman in 2014, show that students who engage in experiential learning have experienced, “enhanced communication skills and developing civic responsibility… an increased sense of personal satisfaction, a feeling of professional growth, and an increased awareness of previously unmet need in their communities”. This shows personal growth that is more accessible with experiential learning opportunities.

There are certain aspects of a student’s personality that can really be enhanced by a study abroad trip. Whether that is their outlook on a certain debated topic, or even just a better understanding of the world outside their own little bubble. In a study done by Bettye Smith and Wenting Yang, it is shown that student who have gone on a study abroad trip do become more well rounded, and cultured individuals. Before the trip, the students took a 29 item questionnaire titled the “Intercultural Learning Outcomes.” This questionnaire was taken before the trip to show the students initial understanding and knowledge of different global aspects such as, functional knowledge, knowledge of world geography, knowledge of global interdependence, knowledge of interpersonal accommodation, and knowledge of cultural sensitivity. It was shown that when the students took this questionnaire after their trip, they scored higher that the pretest, indicating growth and better understanding of the world. Understanding other cultures and the world around us is a really important part of growing as people. This is insight to the world that college students would only be able to experience through the experiential learning of study abroad.

Experiential learning is also crucial for college students to be able to gain experience in the field in which they want to get involved in. Internship positions and jobs will help them understand the field more, therefore giving them a better idea of what they want and do not want in their lives. For example, earlier in my life, I thought I wanted to work in the Human Resources department of a company. However, after an internship with one, I personally found it to be much more desk work than I had expected. Of course this comes with limitations as well, because I was only an intern. They might not have wanted me doing much, but being in that environment helped me to decide that was not what I wanted to do. Internships are key factors in deciding what it is you want to do with your life because a job may be very different than you expect it to be, so it is important to have those experiences in college. Experiential learning in a workplace is very important to learning and understanding a field or job type.

Experiential learning is something we are all taught while we are growing up. The phrase “learn from your mistakes” comes from people going out into the world and actually experiencing things for themselves. It goes to show that experiential learning is incredibly important for individuals to experience, and college, being the most fluctuating time of your life, is the best time for you to have said experiences. College is the best time to fail and learn, making experiential learning something crucial for students to experience.