Theses Doctoral

Exploring the Learning Experiences of Study Abroad Participants

Burya, Jill Anne

The purpose of this qualitative exploratory study was to explore, with former study abroad participants, their perceptions of how their experience abroad has influenced them. The results of the study provide recommendations to prospective study abroad participants and to those that develop and advise for programs. Ultimately, the recommendations inform these constituents of the challenges that occurred while abroad, how participants learned to manage the challenges, and how their attitudes have changed since returning from study abroad.

The study is based on the following three assumptions: 1) Participants in the study are potentially still learning and growing from the experience; 2) Participants understand and acknowledge that one can reflect on such an experience; 3) The participants are able and feel comfortable speaking and writing about their experience and the overall influence of studying abroad.

With the use of a purposive sampling strategy, data was obtained from former study abroad participants through interviews, critical incident responses, and a focus group. Eighteen participants completed the interview process and also submitted a critical incident response. The focus group was comprised of five additional individuals.

The findings of the study stated: 1.) An overwhelming majority of participants described dealing with cross-cultural issues - developing relationships with locals, overcoming language barriers, and understanding values, traditions and ways of life. 2.) All participants indicated that they learned to overcome the challenges faced through conversation with others, specifically with friends and other students, local community residents, and family members. 3.) All participants said they saw an increase in their open-mindedness towards embracing new experiences and perspectives since returning from the study abroad experience.

The main recommendations of the study were the following:

1.) The learning outcomes associated with study abroad experiences should be prioritized throughout the program development phase and advisement process. Reflective practice should also be incorporated in order to further a participant’s learning and development; and 2.) prospective study abroad students should have access to a variety of stakeholders and content in order to support them in the study abroad decision-making process. Finally, participants should willingly engage in the decision-making process to ensure that they are making an informed decision.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Organization and Leadership
Thesis Advisors
Volpe, Marie
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
March 2, 2022