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Study Abroad

Internationalization and the Efficacy of Study Abroad


Heather J. Hoskinson
Southern Methodist University

Study Abroad

The essential messages of cultural studies are, finally, those at the heart of all
liberal education: We are not alone, either as individuals or as a nation; people and
peoples have come before and will come after us; all individual moral and
intellectual choices are made in social and cultural contexts, and within a
continuum of powerful, ever-evolving customs, faiths, and ideas.
John Engle, Chronicle of Higher Ed, http://chronicle.com Section: The Chronicle Review
Volume 53, Issue 22, Page B16
Globalization and the Higher Education Response
We live in an increasingly complex and interconnected world. The melding of economics,
culture, and politics on a global platform is evidence of this and although this mix up of culture
began in the mid-twentieth century, broadband communication and the resultant Age of
Information was the catalyst for the exponential acceleration of globalization. The process of
globalization is succinctly defined by Peter Stearns (2003) as the acceleration of interregional
contacts in speed, in increased volume, and in widening range. What does this exchange of
information, ideas, policies, and values across borders mean for higher education? The modern
university responds to the impact of globalization by the internationalization of its mission
(Altbach & Knight, 2007).
The conditions of todays world are such that higher education is compelled to
incorporate strategies that will produce more culturally competent students. This policy-based
response to globalization is a group of strategies referred to as internationalization, which
Klvermark and van der Wende (1997) define as any systematic sustained effort aimed at
making higher education more responsive to the requirements and daily challenges related to the
globalization of societies, economy and labour markets (p. 19). A multitude of rationales exists

Study Abroad

to justify internationalization of the higher education system, however the prevailing rationale
examined here portrays internationalization as a means to bridge the chasm between developing
and developed countries. Higher education institutions feel the pressure to produce culturally
accomplished students, adept at functioning in a diverse global system (Murphy, 2007, p. 198).
As societies become more open, universities should follow suit (Yang, 2003). The role of the
university as an educational institution that serves the public good (Kezar, Chambers, &
Burkhardt, 2005) is important to distinguish and as such, institutes of higher education have a
responsibility to participate in the world-at-large, and engage in the communities and conflicts of
the world.
The Institute of International Education posited that in order to succeed in the current
global economy, students need to expand their worldview, improve intercultural communication
abilities and cultivate international knowledge (Open Doors, 2009). Student and faculty
exchange, study abroad, service learning in foreign countries, overseas satellite campuses,
international education programs, cultural studies, and foreign language programs are just a few
of the diverse forms of internationalization of higher education. (Jackson, 2008) A further
examination of study abroad, an integral component of internationalization, its effect on
intercultural sensitivity, and an overview of initiatives utilized to increase diversity among
minorities and community college students yields interesting results.
Study Abroad: Growth and Historical Overview
As institutes of higher education are amending their missions to incorporate
internationalization strategies, study abroad initiatives are seeing dramatic growth. There were
228,000 students studying abroad during the 2011-2012 academic year (Open Doors, 2012). In

Study Abroad

1996, there were only 99,000 students studying abroad in the U.S. A 232% increase of students
studying abroad occurred between 1985-86 through 2001-2002 (Chin, 2003). These are
staggering numbers to consider given that it has not even been a hundred years since study
abroad became a traditional offering on university campuses.
David Starr Jordan of Indiana is considered the foremost pioneer of faculty-led study
abroad in the U.S. His local walking tours of the areas surrounding Indiana University eventually
became international walking tours, one of which covered over 250 miles in Switzerland, Italy,
France, Germany, and England. Summer walking tours were not uncommon, even as early as the
late 1800s. These tours were offered to the university and local community and were not linked
to academic credit. According to William Hoffa (2007) in his book, A History of U.S. Study
Broad: Beginnings to 1965, it wasnt until the 1920s that these international walking tours
evolved into faculty-led study abroad programs that culminated with final exams and were taken
for academic credit. Faculty led many study abroad programs, however they often served in a
coordinating capacity, organizing the programs and utilizing their international connections. As
the growth and popularity of these programs increased, individual connections to higher
education institutes abroad became institutional connections (Williamson, 2010) .
Study abroad programs began to develop rapidly following World War II, in part due to
their political support as a means to promote peace. The organization now known as the Council
on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) was formed in 1951, facilitating global education
programs and sending 4,000 students to Europe alone. The first Open Doors Report, published
by the International Institute of Education was published in 1954 and continues to provide
valuable international education data. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, international education

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destinations broadened as more and more students traveled to places such as Africa, Asia, South
America, and Japan. The International Education Act of the 1960s was a missed opportunity to
expand study abroad initiatives, however the efforts were thwarted by the Vietnam War as
funding was reallocated. Interest in international education declined in the 1970s and 1980s and
was not a high priority among institutions of higher education (Lee, 2012). With the close of the
cold war, technological innovations, and improvements in accessibility, participation in study
abroad began to pick back up again in the 1990s and has grown exponentially since then. Society
started to see the value of cross-cultural education and developed more initiatives to expand
study abroad.
Intercultural Sensitivity: Definition & Measure
According to a 2011 survey administered by the American Council on Education
(Mapping Internationalization on U.S. Campuses: 2012 Edition), internationalization efforts are
accelerating among baccalaureate, graduate, and doctoral institutions and specifically study
abroad, which has seen a 13 percentage point increase. Participation in study abroad programs
tripled in the previous two decades (Vande Berg, Balkcum, Scheid, & Whalen, 2004) and with
good measure. The experience of studying abroad positively impacts intercultural sensitivity and
cultural awareness (Jackson, 2008; Engle, 2004; Anderson, Lawton, Rexeisen, & Hubbard, 2006;
Clarke III, Flaherty, Write, & McMillen, 2009; Dwyer, 2004; Rexeisen, Al-Khatib, 2009), a
hallmark trait of a globally competent student. This potentially transformative experience can
have a profound impact on cultural attitudes and perspective. Immersion in a foreign culture,
learning the language of that culture, and living with a host family are the dominant components
of traditional study abroad and the sum of these experiences are influential not only on the

Study Abroad

individual student level, but on society as the students return to their native country exhibiting
increased levels of intercultural competence. Intercultural competence is defined (Hammer,
Bennett, & Wiseman, 2003) as the capacity to generate perceptions and adapt behavior to
cultural context (p. 2) and is an advancement beyond the merely cognitive level of mere cultural
awareness and knowledge (Watson, Siska, & Wolfel, 2013). Simply put, not only does the world
become more contoured and nuanced in the eyes of the learner, but he or she also begins to
understand how to interpret and navigate the more complex landscape. Learning and living
abroad provides students the opportunity to experience cultural differences in more complex
ways and by doing so, become a more effective leader and a more well-informed global citizen.
A level of interest in other cultures is required in order to be effective in another culture. This
development of intercultural sensitivity cultivates an awareness of cultural differences, however
the true transformation that denotes intercultural competence is a willingness to alter behavior
based on your understanding of that culture (Bhawuk & Brislin, 1992). Modification of behavior
to accommodate another cultures norms (and show respect) demonstrates flexibility and is a
crucial component in the second ethnorelative stage, Adaptation, of Bennetts (Bennett, 1993)
Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS). The DMIS is a theoretical framework
used to conceptualize intercultural sensitivity and competence.
The bulk of study abroad researchers evaluate changes in intercultural sensitivity using
the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) which measures the personal constructs toward
cultural variations (1993) described in Bennetts (1993) DMIS. This 50-question inventory was
constructed to assess changes in worldview by means of self-reporting and is one of the most
commonly used assessment tools to measure intercultural development (Rexeisen & Al-Khatib,

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2009). There are new and more intricate issues revealed with each modification in worldview
structure that accompany intercultural encounters (Hammer & Bennett, 2003, p. 423), thus the
transformative nature of the study abroad experience.
Denial/Defense, Reversal, and Minimization are the first three stages in the DMIS and
represent more ethnocentric perspective and behaviors. The individual in these stages tend to
oversimplify cultural differences and think in terms of everyone is essentially like
us (Rexeisen, Al-Khatib, 2009, p. 197). The prevailing worldview representative of these stages
embraces the us vs. them ideology.
The latter three stages of Bennetts DMIS are Acceptance, Adaptation, and Integration
and mark a shift towards ethnorelativism, meaning that ones own culture is experienced in the
context of other cultures (Hammer et al, 2003, p. 425). Individuals at this stage become more
perceptive about other cultures, observant of cultural nuances, and willing to adapt their behavior
to one appropriate of the culture.
Intercultural Sensitivity: The Data
Engle and Engle (2004) administered the IDI to 187 one-semester study abroad
participants for a total of six semesters. The results of their study depicted increases in
intercultural sensitivity and openness among students participating in a full-immersion program
and who have also received at least two years of pre-program language training. While this
achievable progress is encouraging, Engle and Engle also observed tendencies of the American
students that essentially curbed their cross-cultural competence. The desire for comfort tended
to dominate their experience in many cases and superseded any focus on cultural difference,
protecting them from situations ripe for cultural learning even if it involves discomfort. The

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study revealed that direct and authentic contact with the host culture is an integral component
in the development of intercultural competence. However, programs that challenge the student
by placing them into culturally and linguistically unsettling environments has receded annually
(p. 221). The ubiquity of American pop culture, the growth of English as nearly universal lingua
franca, and daily communication with family and friends back home via the internet are all
factors which insulate the student studying abroad. The experience provides a lot of cushion
between the student and the prevailing cultural differences around him or her. The idea that
universities serve a private good and not a public one is one of the prevailing ideologies that lead
to the the growth of student as consumer practices (Altbach, Reisberg, & Rumbley, 2009). The
marketplace demand to appease the consumer/student (Molesworth, Nixon, & Scullion, 2009)
exerts pressure on study abroad programs to provide a more comfortable experience for
participants, forsaking the true aim of an internationalization.
A second study utilizing the IDI to measure changes in intercultural development
confirms the positive impact of study abroad. Rexeisen and Al-Khatib found significant
improvement on all three ethnocentric scales, evidenced by a 10% increase on the overall
development score for the group (p. 199). Two particularly interest findings also came out of this
research. Women make much more significant improvements in cross cultural development than
men. With women representing 64% of study abroad students, this is most certainly significant.
Also, as students ethnocentric worldviews were lessened, so was their materialism.
We can see that the study abroad experience overall has a positive impact on intercultural
sensitivity, however how do other factors such as program duration affect cross cultural
awareness? As the quantity of students studying abroad increased, the demand for a wider variety

Study Abroad

of programming also grew. The traditional year long, cultural immersion programs are no longer
the norm. Fifty-eight percent of study abroad students participate in short-term programs, either
in summer programs or programs with a duration of less than 8 weeks. (Open Doors Report,
2012) Time and expense are serious challenges for todays college student and shorter programs
provide a workaround to these issues. There is emerging research examining the effect of
program duration and how program duration impacts the learning outcomes of study abroad.
Using the IDI to assess changes in students worldview before and after participation in a 4-week
study abroad program, Anderson, Lawton, et al (2004) recorded improved levels of intercultural
sensitivity (p. 464). Even over the course of such a short program and with the students going to
English speaking countries, the degree of denial and defense characteristics was reduced and
students became less likely to view their own culture as superior. With rising tuition costs, and an
increased population of community college and first-generation college students, this is
encouraging research. Short-term programs are more feasible for students with less access to
resources and less overall flexibility.
Study Abroad and Diversity
Minority students made up 23% of study abroad participants in 2011-2012, African
American students only comprising 4.8% of this population (Open Doors, 2012). A new initiative
funded by the American Council on Education (ACE) will bring more study abroad opportunities
to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) as part of an expanded effort to
internationalize. The U.S. Department of Education awarded the three-year grant to ACE with
the goals of the project to identify the factors that enhance and impede the internationalization
process at HBCUs and to disseminate findings from this action research project to the broader

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HBCU community ("Creating Global Citizens," 2013). Multiple higher education institutions
are a part of this initiative that started in January 2011 and include Howard University, Tuskegee
University, Virginia State University, Savannah State University, Dillard University, Lincoln
University, and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Tina Brown reports
that Cheryl Davenport Dozier, President of Savannah State University, has seen the number of
study abroad participants grow from six participants in 2001 to 63 students studying abroad
during the summer of 2012 (Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, 2013). Dozier founded a
presidential scholarship to fund international studies abroad and the university also sets aside
funds to create more opportunity for faculty to travel with their students.
The three-year grant program finishes up at the end of 2013 and over the summer of
2013, leaders met to discuss some of the findings of the Creating Global Citizens initiative. Dr.
Brad Farnsworth, the assistant vice president for the ACE Center for Internationalization and
Global Engagement, presented to the summit attendees and identified six elements of
comprehensive internationalization: articulated institutional commitment; adequate
administrative structure and staffing; setting of curriculum and learning outcomes; faculty
policies and practices; student mobility for exchange and study abroad programs; and
collaborations and partnerships with overseas institutions (Roach, Diverse: Issues in Higher
Education, 2013). Identification of these components provides a clear picture for institutional
leaders on how to progress in their internationalization efforts and also confirms one area in
particular that need further researching, learning outcomes.
The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire sought to extend the reach of study abroad to its
large community of Hmong Americans. A program in Thailand is offered with this population in

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mind and since its inception in 2004, 64% of the students have been Hmong and HmongAmerican (Obst, 2007). There exists a wide range of program models similar to this one that
address the need for greater diversity.
Another initiative promoting minority participation in study abroad is the Benjamin A.
Gilman International Scholarship Program. This program awards scholarships to students with
limited financial means who plan to pursue study abroad opportunities. Selection criteria targets
minority students, students with disabilities, and students intending to study in non-traditional
countries, to name a few. Sixty percent of scholarship recipients are minority students , three
times the national average. Other statistics are equally impressive. Thirty-five percent of
scholarship recipients are first-generation college students and 83% are the first in their family to
study abroad. The average award is around $4,000, although the maximum is $5,000. Students,
in conjunction with receipt of the Gilman scholarship, become eligible for a Critical Need
Language Award of up to $8,000 if they are willing to study one of the critical need languages
while abroad. Arabic, Chinese, and Japanese are a few languages on the critical need list. The
International Academic Opportunity Act of 2000 funded the Gilman scholarship and is sponsored
by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. If the current
budget proposed by the Obama administration passes, $2.2 million would be cut from the fund
(Wilhelm, 2013), effectively limiting untold quantities of students from experiencing study
abroad and blocking their access to cross-cultural learning.
Study Abroad and Community Colleges
Every realm of higher education is feeling the pinch of difficult financial times in the
U.S. Global education initiatives and internationalization efforts become less of a priority at

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many institutions in this financial climate. Many community colleges have devised innovative
means to circumvent issues of financial constraint in order to provide more opportunities for
their students to study abroad. This is particularly noteworthy in light of the fact that community
college students are drastically underrepresented among study abroad participants. The
International Institute of Education (IIE) report (Open Doors, 2009) identified barely above 2%
of all study abroad participants as community college students. This minute percentage
represents a substantial unfulfilled need given the fact that over half of undergraduates in the
U.S. are community college students (Raby, 2008). The general makeup of community college
students is much more diverse than the average four-year institution and is comprised of larger
proportions of minority students, first generation students, and students with high financial need.
Costs and fees are often cited as a formidable barrier to pursuing study abroad (2008) among this
population of students, according to a survey conducted by IIE and the California Council for
International Education (CCIE). Use of the consortia model is one of the means utilized by
community colleges to make international education more available to its students.
National associations such as Community Colleges for International Development
(CCID) and the American Council on International Intercultural Education (ACIIE) grew out of
individual efforts at community colleges in the late 1960s. These organizations served the
purpose of establishing study abroad programs, faculty development opportunities, and
international affiliations while sharing administrative duties, resources, and cost among its
membership base. The membership base was mainly comprised of well established community
colleges with solid financial means. As the initiatives and reach of these associations expanded,
membership fees, travel expenses, and professional development costs increased (2008). It

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became cost-prohibitive for community colleges to maintain membership. Thus the


establishment of international education consortia over time, sharing resources and fulfilling a
leadership role among fellow community colleges, establishing valuable and productive
collaborations, and advancing the goal of cross-cultural education.
The term consortium in this instance is defined as a formal association of institutions in
a state or region choosing to pool their human and financial resources to offer collaborative
programs for all member institutions (Korbel, 2007, p. 48). The power of the consortium model
is the ability to leverage staff time and budgets across multiple institutions (p. 48) and
consequently, making it possible for financially challenged community colleges to provide more
comprehensive international education programs to their diverse group of students. Community
Colleges for International Development (CCID) is an exemplary example of one such
consortium. This consortium, founded nearly 40 years ago at Brevard Community College, offers
extensive services, programs, and networks which support the advancement of
internationalization. Institutional recognition and analysis are also integral components what they
do. The CCID network is composed of over 100 colleges and attendees of their annual
conference come from 30-40 different countries. The annual conference is an opportunity to
share knowledge, build strategic partnerships, and problem solve the issues that global education
initiatives face. Participants in these crucial networks become vocal advocates for study abroad
as they return to their home institutions and become the lightning bolt for change in this area.
Success stories arising from the efforts of global education consortia abound. Besides
sending thousands of community college students to study abroad, three consortiums in
Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin, have received Title VI funding to support their efforts in

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international program development. Other notable accomplishments include increased efforts to


host international scholars, enhancement of curriculum, program development, and expansion of
short-term, reciprocal faculty exchanges. A 2008 survey, conducted by IIE and the California
Council for International Education, revealed that participation in study abroad programs has
increased by 60% since 2001. It would be hard to imagine that the efforts of community college
global education consortia didnt have considerable impact on this growth.
Challenges and Ideas for Future Research
Diversity among study abroad participants will remain to be a challenge for the
foreseeable future. Despite the progress of global education initiatives and the larger number of
minority students going abroad, the percentage (78%) remains predominantly Caucasian and
female (64%) . Research to uncover and better understand the motivation of students who pursue
study abroad would be extremely useful in order to design more effective diversity initiatives
pertaining to global education.
China is now the fifth leading destination for U.S.-based study abroad students. Brazil
and South Korea have seen a 13% and 16%, respectively (Open Doors 2012: Report on
International Educational Exchange, 2012). With the expansion of study abroad into a wide
array of host countries, many of them developing and non-western nations, the need for better
quality assurance becomes apparent. Many of these countries do not possess the capacity or
political will to regulate these programs (Altbach & Knight, 2007). Presently, it is impossible to
apply a U.S.-based regulatory framework to the apples and oranges that make up foreign study
abroad institutions. Without a somewhat standardized system of assessment, quality assurance is
extremely difficult.

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Fifty-eight percent of study abroad students choose to participate in a short-term


program, e.g. summer intensive programs, 8 weeks or less programs . The popularity of these
programs, due to the flexibility and affordability they offer, warrants more study regarding their
effectiveness. What is the impact of such short programs on intercultural sensitivity and is it
lasting?
One of the many far reaching effects of privatization in higher education is the practice of
student as consumer. Universities are increasingly catering to students desire for comfort and
this becomes problematic, especially in the case of study abroad program design. One of the
main tenets of cross-cultural education is placement of the learner into a cultural environment
much different than his or her own, more often than not surrounded by non-English speaking
people. Naturally, this can cause discomfort in many American students unaccustomed to such
situations. Many programs now allow students to live with their American peers, do not require
prior language training or language study while living in the host country, or do not encourage
students to interact more with the host culture. More research that would evaluate effective
program design would be especially helpful in this regard. How can modern study abroad
programs be designed in a way that will encourage wholehearted participation for the
discomfort-averse American student?
Lastly, American institutions are feeling the pressure to demonstrate that a college
education provides students with marketable skills, useful and applicable in the workplace.
Following completion of study abroad programs, how are student learning outcomes correlated
with workforce skills? Do gains in intercultural competence carry into the marketplace once
graduates become employed? This would be a fascinating and useful area of research.

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Conclusion
Globalization has greatly influenced higher education and internationalization efforts
have intensified as a response. It is clear that success in an increasingly interconnected world will
require more interculturally competent citizens. Recent research exhibits the impactive nature of
study abroad on this meaningful skill. The Intercultural Development Inventory is a valuable tool
to measure changes in intercultural sensitivity and many universities should consider adopting
the IDI to assess student learning outcomes.
Diversity and accessibility are prominent issues in study abroad programming. Many
initiatives, consortia, and scholarship programs have arisen to serve underrepresented student
populations and minority groups. It is of primary importance that these initiatives continue to
receive support and expand in order to bring more equity to the field of study abroad.
The majority of study abroad research has occurred in the last decade, so there is a huge
need for further research in many areas, including regulation of foreign programs, study abroad
student profile and motivation, student as consumer and discomfort avoidance, and marketability
of intercultural knowledge, to name a just a few. Researching these issues will only strengthen
programming efforts and will be consequential moving into the future.

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