Academic Travel | an essay by Adeoluwa Akanbi

– Photo Source: Panoramia.com

Time away from campus can increase efficiency for members of academic community. Travel, of course, also raises awareness of other cultures and socio-cultural customs that may be desirable to incorporate into your own routine by and by. It’s hard to find academics who do not desire an academic travel once in a while. Truth is, academic travel refreshes you both intellectually and, of course, even socially.

Someone I talked with said: “When I was in the university, we would occasionally hear about a professor going on sabbatical. I never really knew what that meant. All I knew was that we wouldn’t see that professor for a period of time. Now I’ve been learning about sabbaticals because I want to go on one someday.”

So, what is Sabbatical?

A sabbatical is an extended leave in the academia usually taken for rest, travel or research. It’s a period of time spent away from your normal work routine. It’s usually done in a different physical environment, may be paid or unpaid and can last from a few weeks to a couple of years.

The first academic sabbaticals were launched by Harvard University in 1880. There’s debate about Harvard’s rationale for introducing the plan but the research suggests that sabbaticals were intended for academics to take a year to recharge themselves mentally and physically…

Sabbatical or a sabbatical (from Latin: sabbaticus – i.e. of ‘Sabbath’, literally meaning “a ceasing”) is a rest from work, or a break, often lasting from two months to a year. In recent times, the word sabbatical has come to mean any extended absence in the career of a person in order to achieve something, say, fulfill some goal – for instance, writing a book or travelling extensively for research. While some universities and other institutional employers offer the opportunity to qualify for paid sabbatical as an employee benefit, called “sabbatical leave”, some offer unpaid sabbatical for employees wanting to take career breaks.

The first academic sabbaticals were launched by Harvard University in 1880. There’s debate about Harvard’s rationale for introducing the plan but the research suggests that sabbaticals were intended for academics to take a year to recharge themselves mentally and physically, to be exposed to new ideas that they could then incorporate in their own work, and to pursue research and writing projects that would be difficult to complete with the day- to-day interruptions and demands of a normal academic year.

As for who takes sabbaticals, there is a general feeling that those in the humanities and social sciences, where acquiring research material may require a trip overseas, tend to use study leave more than their scientific colleagues. But how they use sabbaticals, whether they remain in their resident cities or head off, depends on the nature of the research and opportunities more easily accessible, I suppose. Many an academic has discovered words flow better in the field.

Among other benefits sabbatical has are:

• increased faculty efficiency
• versatility and productivity
• strengthened institutional programs
• enhanced learning environment
• improved morale
• enhanced loyalty to the institution
• enhanced faculty recruitment and retention
• enhanced intellectual climate and
• enhanced academic reputation.

It is clear that the benefits can reach from the person to the institution and to the society at large.

After working the same job day in and day out, they often experience a burnout and don’t feel encouraged or motivated. An extended vacation is the perfect way for them to recharge and come back to work with renewed focus.

What about Fellowships?

Fellowship in the academia refers to an academic research-based position in another institution or merit-based scholarship, or a form of academic financial aid. Fellowships support researchers or academicians pursuing advanced research that is of value to knowledge. Recipients usually produce articles, monographs, books, digital materials, archaeological site reports, translations, editions, or other scholarly resources in the humanities depending on the area of interest of researchers. It is particularly interesting to know that projects may be at any stage of development; although it can be very competitive because, sometimes, a fellowship can attract over 1000 candidates and the awardees vary as well as the funding ratios from year to year.

Interest alone does not do it! Requirements for having a fellowship granted include a proposal on the intended research, a copy of the applicant’s Curriculum Vitae, a copy of the applicant’s official doctoral transcript or PhD testamur, and supporting letters from two referees.

The importance of academic travels can’t be overlooked as academics would return from such travels rejuvenated and often feel as though they have a new job. After working the same job day in and day out, they often experience a burnout and don’t feel encouraged or motivated. An extended vacation is the perfect way for them to recharge and come back to work with renewed focus. Without the usual time constraints, faculty members have an opportunity to reflect on their careers and the direction of their work. This reflection may help them to redirect their teaching, research, and service goals. They can also focus on personal goals.

Academic travels broaden perspective and makes personal and professional priorities clearer. Younger employees have the opportunity to grow in their roles. When more experienced employees take a sabbatical, there will be a need to take over their responsibilities, hence, they will be more exposed.

With never-ending teaching and administrative commitments, finding time to write a book, visit a distant library, or carry out field work is a challenge for faculty members in the humanities, and academic travels are a sure way out.

———-
Adeoluwa Blessing Akanbi is a graduate of English Language from Obafemi Awolowo University and is presently completing her master’s at the University of Ibadan in the same discipline. She is Copy Editor for Bravearts Africa.

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