Forum on Education Abroad Conference: Recent Research on Student Learning and Development Through Study Abroad

Will attempt to post during this session at the Forum on Education Abroad Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina (USA):

Patricia Chow presented on the IIE Open Doors report review:

262, 416 US Students studied abroad in 2007/08 (8.5% increase over the previous year.) Women outnumber men two to one in study abroad.

Bernhard Steitwieser (Northwestern University):  Discussed new theoretical model to create a diagnostic inventory for their students (student learning in International Education.)  It is in a very early phase. It should be useful for program design and assessment.  Using something called “Phenomenology Methodology” which researches different ways that students learn during a particular shared phenomenon (international experience.)  Methodology looks at concrete experience, then drilling down to specific experiences. 

So far, found 4 different areas of conception of an international experience:
1) Observing  2) Interacting  3) Participating and  4) Adopting.  These are hierarchical.

Dr. Deirdre Sato (Purchase College):  Dissertation research was on the impact of short term study at a liberal arts college in the Northeastern United States.  Programs were 5 week summer programs in China, France, Italy and Spain that took place between 2003-07.  Research was done once student were alumni. Gender was 71% female.  Largest reply from Italy – which was the largest program. Findings included a wider choice sof academic studies  – they were open to other subject areas upon return. Didn’t see a strong influence of short term programs on career development series of questions. Some students were in internationally related careers, but the numbers were small. Some referenced skills they gained abroad including interviewing skills.  Were more open to study or living abroad in the future.  Host country attitudes – how they viewed the host country values.  They had little knowledge of the host culture prior to going abroad; they did not worry about people being unfriendly toward  them. They felt that they knew the country well upon return. Tended to focus on points of similarity. Students were able to make the connection that they could negotiate their host country and could transfer that skill to other countries.  She also looked at global perspectives.  One of the strongest average agreement was “I do not judge or discount the interests of others that I don’t know, even if they’re not compatible with my own.” Students did express that they had issues upon re-entry, more so than arrival culture shock.  Appx 48% changed their opinions about the US upon re-entry.  Students were reflective of their home country upon their return. Re-entry stress did impact personal and social development – such as maturity, self confidence and appreciation of the arts. Alumni indicated the difficulty of being an American post 9/11 to a large extent. Students were compelled to review how they view themselves, especially after the start of the Iraq War. They often felt compelled to be a role model for the United States and talking about U.S. politics more than ever before.  They felt ill equipped to explain U.S. foreign policy. They could see the negative views of the U.S.  more easily while abroad. They were more reflective about what is means to be an American in a contemporary world. Recommendations for program planning include stressing the personal and social transformatoin when promoting short term programs as well as the connections with faculty can foster persistence in higher education.

Antonia Lortis/Ryan Gonzalez  (University of Minnesota):  Researched why there is a difference in the numbers who attend the “first step” (inital advising) meeting and who actually go abroad.  Looked at this as a purchase process.  If too many details are given up front, consumers will disengage. Perhaps we’re not celebrating  and nuturing the decision to come to the office for information enough. They are not statisticians, but did predecision making meeting survey (1)  and post decision meeting  survey (2).  Data shows students want application and financial questions when they arrive in the office. Fear of finances are strong barriers.


One audience member commented regarding the impact of Short Term Study Abroad – seems like institutions are researching internally.  Seems that world view is changing in those cases also and appears to support Dr. Sato’s data.  Wonders if this type of study can be applied to older populations next.

Comment on a survey by IIE – research on internships for Science students.  Data on impact on the student and on the mentor.  (RISE program through DAAD).

This conference is officially over – I hope to write reflective comments once I get some sleep!