How do we think about study abroad, international education, cross-cultural learning, language acquisition, global citizenship, internationalization, and identity… and what are the contexts for learning about these themes?


Engaging Global Challenges
Diversity & Democracy, AACU. Summer Vol.18 No.3
Global challenges offer critical opportunities for student learning. This issue highlights the multifaceted ways in which higher education is involving students in addressing the globally complex issues they will encounter throughout their lives. Contributing authors describe possible avenues into this work and raise pressing questions about equity and inclusion in a globally interdependent society.

Speaking a second language may change how you see the world
Science Magazine. American Association for the Advancement of Science. 17 March, 2015
Cognitive scientists have debated whether your native language shapes how you think since the 1940s. The idea has seen a revival in recent decades, as a growing number of studies suggested that language can prompt speakers to pay attention to certain features of the world. In the new study, researchers turned to people who speak multiple languages. Rather than ask whether speakers of different languages have different minds, he says, “we ask, ‘Can two different minds exist within one person?’”

Expanding Opportunities by Opening Your Mind: Multicultural Engagement Predicts Job Market Success Through Longitudinal Increases in Integrative Complexity
Social Psychological and Personality Science, vol. 5 no. 5 608-615, July 2014
A longitudinal study found that the psychological approach individuals take when immersed in a general multicultural environment can predict subsequent career success. “People who have international experience or identify with more than one nationality are better problem solvers and display more creativity, our research suggests. What’s more, we found that people with this international experience are more likely to create new businesses and products and to be promoted.”

How Studying or Working Abroad Makes You Smarter
Time magazine April 29, 2014
“Research shows that experience in other countries makes us more flexible, creative, and complex thinkers.”

The High Impact of Education Abroad: College Students’ Engagement in International Experiences and the Development of Intercultural Competencies
Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 2013
This multi-institutional study attempts to discover whether different international activities in which students participate yield different outcomes for the development of students’ global and intercultural competencies.

How Facebook Can Ruin Study Abroad
Chronicle of Higher Education, January 2013
This article by Robert Huesca, a professor of Communications at Trinity University in San Antonio discusses the challenges and impacts  access to technology – cellphones and laptops particularly –  has on culture learning (and culture shock) for students while abroad.

Scholars, Spies, and Global Studies
Chronicle of Higher Education, August 13, 2012
This article by Nicholas B. Dirks, a professor of history and anthropology at Columbia University, who writes: “No one doubts that globalization is one of the most important trends of our day. Nor does anyone question that it affects what we study, how we teach, and whom we seek to reach. Beyond that, however, there is little consensus. Similarly educators increasingly agree that all undergraduates ought to pursue some study abroad. But should it involve language study and full cultural immersion? Or short-term travel and networking through internships and other kinds of programs? The lack of clarity is especially troubling in … area studies, where a growing number of scholars have abandoned older practices in favor of new forms of global study.”

On the Cognitive Benefits of Cultural Experience: Exploring the relationship between Studying Abroad and Creative Thinking
Journal of Applied Cognitive Psychology, July 2012
Drawing from research that shows a positive relationship between multicultural experiences and creative cognition, the present study investigates creative thinking as a possible cognitive benefit gained from studying abroad. Performance on the two creative thinking tasks were compared between students who have studied abroad, students who are planning to study abroad, and students who have not and do not plan to study abroad. Results showed that students who studied abroad outperformed the two groups of students who did not study abroad on both the general and culture specific measures of creative thinking. Findings from this study provide evidence that studying abroad supports complex cognitive processes that underlie creative thinking in culture specific and domain general settings.

American Identity in Study Abroad Students: Contrasts, Changes, Correlates
Journal of College Student Development. Volume 52, Number 3, May-June 2011
This article focuses on the students’ social identification as American. An important aspect of study abroad students’ social identification is rooted in how they define themselves with regard to their sense of belonging to and preference for the country from which they embark on their study abroad. National identity (in the case of this study, American identity) has implications both for student well-being and their potential ability to adjust to a foreign culture.

Gender Observations and Study Abroad: How Students Reconcile Cross-Cultural Differences Related to Gender
Originally from Journal of College Student Development, Volume 49, No. 4 (July/August 2008)
Although there are many important areas in which to conduct research regarding how students’ cultural assumptions and identities inform their cross-cultural understanding, for the purpose of this study the focus is on examining assumptions related to gender.

Cultural Borders and Mental Barriers: The Relationship between Living Abroad and Creativity 
This paper appeared in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (May 2009) and describes five studies done by Adam Galinsky and his research partners “employing a multi-method approach to systematically explore the link between living abroad and creativity. The relationship between living abroad and creativity was consistent across a number of creativity measures (including those measuring insight, association, and generation), both in the United States and Europe, demonstrating the robustness of this phenomenon.”

College-Bound Students’ Interests in Study Abroad and Other International Learning Activities
American Council on Education, February 2008
“Despite global terrorism and other tumultuous international events, college-bound high school students’ interest in study abroad and other international learning experiences while in college is strong, according to a recent study conducted by the American Council on Education (ACE), Art & Science Group, and the College Board.”

No Borders: Beyond the Nation-State 
This essay about placing America ‘s past in a Global context is adapted from A Nation Among Nations: America ‘s Place in World History , published by Hill and Wang, a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Copyright © 2006 by Thomas Bender.  The author is a professor of history and university professor of the humanities at New York University.

On the Backs of Turtles 
International Educator, Summer 2004 
Meta-curriculum in study abroad and the fostering of an intentional learner.

Retention & Academic Success Data
Examples of data – all reflecting similar outcomes – on the positive effects of students integrating a study abroad experience into their the undergraduate curriculum. 

The Impact of Study Abroad on Academic Success: An Analysis of First-Time Students Entering Old Dominion University, Virginia, 2000-2004
Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, Vol. XXIII, Fall 2013
This article adds to the growing longitudinal studies that suggest significant relationships between studying abroad and five- and six-year graduation rates and the beneficial effects of study abroad programs on undergraduate degree completion.

Go abroad and graduate on-time: Study abroad participation, degree completion, and time-to-degree.
Doctoral Dissertation: University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Hamir, H. B. (2011)

  • Of the 2002 University of Texas-Austin freshman cohort, 60% of study abroad participants graduated in four years, compared to 45% of non-participants.
  • Graduation rates were also 20% higher among participants five and six years after admission.

Academic Outcomes of Study Abroad
Inside Higher Ed article (July 13, 2010)
In 2000, researchers began an ambitious effort to document the academic outcomes of study abroad across the 35-institution University System of Georgia. Ten years later, they’ve found that students who study abroad have improved academic performance upon returning to their home campus, higher graduation rates, and improved knowledge of cultural practices and context compared to students in control groups. They’ve also found that studying abroad helps, rather than hinders, academic performance of at-risk students.

The GLOSSARI Project: Documenting the academic impact of study abroad 
Sutton, R. C., & Rubin, D. L. (2010)
“The University of Georgia System implemented the Georgia Learning Outcomes of Students Studying Abroad Research Initiative (GLOSSARI). The GLOSSARI methodology avoids inflating the impact of study abroad on graduation rates by only comparing students who have persisted to the same stages of their college careers.” Key findings:

  • Students who studied abroad had a 17.8% higher 4-year graduation rate.
  • Students of color who studied abroad had a 17.9% higher 4-year graduation rate.
  • African-American students who studied abroad had a 31.2% higher four-year graduation rate.
  • African-Americans who studied abroad had 6-year graduation rates roughly the same as white students who studied abroad (84.4% vs. 88.6%).

Overseas Study at Indiana University: Plans, participation, and outcomes
Indiana University Press 2009
“This report utilizes data from seven cohorts (2001-2007) of beginning students at Indiana University Bloomington to examine students’ plans to participate in study abroad, their actual participation in overseas study courses during college, and the impact of their participation in overseas study on a number of academic and developmental outcomes.” Findings include:

  • Students who participate in one or more overseas study courses by the end of their fourth year of college have significantly higher cumulative grade point averages than non-participants, even after accounting for prior academic achievement and college major.
  • Compared to their peers, students who participate in one or more overseas study courses by the end of their fourth year of college have a greater likelihood of graduating within four years, even after accounting for prior academic achievement and college major.

Study Abroad and Time to Graduation; University of California, San Diego
“UC San Diego studied the Fall 2002 freshman cohort from the university’s EAP (Education Abroad Program) and OAP (Opportunities Abroad Program) to determine if study abroad had an impact on retention, graduation, and time to degree.”

  • “Students who studied abroad were retained at a higher rate than their counterparts who did not and graduated at four, five, and six years at a rate higher than those did not participate in study abroad.
  • This favorable effect held generally constant across gender, ethnicity, major field of study, status as first or second generation college student, parental income, predicted first year GPA, SATI composite range, high school GPA and high school quintile, and first quarter UCSD GPA.
  • While the margin of difference varies among these variables, the direction of influence is consistent:
    students who study abroad do better than students who do not.”

Beyond immediate impact: Study abroad for global engagement
A University of Minnesota report. (2009). Key findings:

  • Of the Fall 1999 and Fall 2000 freshmen, over 85% of those who studied abroad graduated in five years, compared to only about 50% of those who did not study abroad.
  • Of Fall 2003 freshmen, 64.5% of those who studied abroad graduated by their 4th year, compared to 41.0% among non-study abroad students.
  • 33.3% of this cohort dropped out by the 4th year compared to only 6.0% of those who studied abroad.
How is a study abroad experience assessed? What are the positive, neutral, and/or negative outcomes? What tools are used and how effective are they?

Rethinking the Bottom Line for Internationalization: What Are Students Learning?
Chronicle of Higher Education article (March 21, 2013)
For many, if not most, institutions, “success” in internationalization is a bit of a numbers game. It is defined by the number of students going abroad, the number of international students and the amount of revenue they generate, and the number of campuses abroad or courses offered with an international focus.
But what do these numbers mean for student learning?  Thus, the key question for higher-education institutions is how the overwhelming majority of students who do not go abroad will learn about the world and develop the intercultural skills they will need as citizens and workers. To address this question, institutions will need to be very clear about what knowledge, attitude, and skills students must learn, where and how they will acquire them, and what constitutes evidence of such learning.

The Georgetown Consortium Project: Interventions for Student Learning Abroad (2009)
Georgetown University’s Office of International Programs, together with partner institutions, designed a large-scale, multi-year study of U.S. student learning abroad with three primary goals in mind. At the most basic level, the study aimed to document target language, intercultural, and disciplinary learning of U.S. students who enrolled in many types of study abroad programs and to compare their learning to that of control group stu¬dents at several U.S. campuses. At another and more complex level, the study also sought to identify the extent to which a relationship existed between student learning, specific program components (e.g., duration of program, type of housing) and learner characteristics (e.g., gender, prior study abroad experience, the amount of tar¬get language completed prior to departure).

Assessing Progress in Global Learning and Development of Students with Education Abroad Experiences
The 2009 research reported here is based on the research question: Do students enrolled and engaged in education abroad express changes and growth in their self reports of their global learning and development? More specifically, do stu¬dents change their self reports on cognitive, intrapersonal, and interpersonal domains of global learning and development from the beginning to the end of their semester-long education abroad? In what domains are the influences of education abroad most and least evident?

Students’ Self-Reported Changes in Intercultural Knowledge and Competence Associated with Three Undergraduate Science Experiences
To assess the value of an international research experience for under¬graduates this 2009 research report examined the impact of two international programs on their respective participants and compared these to the gains achieved by students participating in research on their home campus. This study is guided by four questions:

  • What were the primary motivators for students to participate in the summer programs included in this study? What disciplinary gains did students report?
  • What personal gains did students report?
  • What changes in students’ cultural awareness are associated with participation?
Career Readiness & the Global Marketplace
What are the career advantages to studying abroad and the national and/or global benefits of student mobility?

Educating Students for Success in the Global Economy: A Public Opinion Survey on the Importance of International Education 
In November 2010, on the eve of the midterm elections, a NAFSA-commissioned survey polled a broad cross-section of Americans on their views about the value of international education—particularly the issues of foreign language learning, study abroad, and the recruitment of talent to fuel excellence in higher education. By strong margins, Americans were clear: international education is critically important. Without it, the graduates of the future will be at a disadvantage in their careers and will find themselves lacking the skills to thrive in the global workplace.

Study Abroad and Career Paths of Business Students
Frontiers:The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, Fall 2008
“Business graduates are no longer competing with just the 450,000 other American business graduates each year, or even with the approximately two million American university graduates each year, but they are now competing with millions of graduates worldwide. Business students not only need to gain international experience, they also need to effectively market these experiences to potential employers.” The key questions researched in this study include:

  • Were alumni career interests, plans, and job searches affected by studying abroad in college?
  • Was alumni career preparation and development affected by studying abroad in college?
  • Did study abroad alumni use their undergraduate international experience during the job search process?

Current Trends in U.S. Study Abroad & the Impact of Strategic Diversity Initiatives
“This May 2007 IIE White Paper represents the first of the Institute’s new policy research series on Meeting America’s Global Education Challenge. It assesses current trends in study abroad in the United States, …. and includes an analysis of existing strategic funding initiatives such as the Gilman, Boren and Freeman-ASIA Scholarships, showing how resource allocation can influence the diversity of participants, geographic destinations, field of study and length of study.”

Impact of Education Abroad on Career Development 
American Institute for Foreign Study, 2007
“An exceptionally diverse group of international educators … discuss the impact of education abroad on student career development and go beyond their intuitive belief that study abroad helps a students’ job search and point out what specific transferable skills a student gains from an overseas experience. Language competency and specific business skills gained at an internship abroad are some examples, but there are others.

  • How do we guide the student in presenting the intangible or “soft” benefits to future employers?
  • How do we get American businesses to recognize these skills and thus begin to look for students with study abroad experience?”

American Public: International Education is Key to Preparing Next Generation 
This survey (2006) identifies resounding support for educational exchanges, study abroad, and foreign language learning. Key findings:

  • 90% believe it is ‘important’ or ‘very important’ to prepare future generations of Americans for a global society;
  • 92% agree that knowledge of other languages will give future generations a competitive advantage in career opportunities;
  • 77% feel it is important for future generations to participate in study abroad programs in college;
  • 86% believe it is important for their children and grandchildren to attend a college where they can interact with and get to know students from other countries;
  • 94% feel it is important for future generations to have knowledge of other countries and cultures.

Educating Students for Success in the Global Economy: A Public Opinion Survey on the Importance of International Education 
This 2006 report from the Committee for Economic Development (CED) asserts that the lack of Americans educated in foreign languages and cultures is hampering efforts to counter terrorist threats, and warns the United States will become less competitive in the global economy because of a shortage of strong foreign language and international studies programs.

Are Young Americans Unprepared for the Global Future?
The National Geographic Society and Roper Public Affairs have released their 2006 report assessing the geographic literacy of American young adults. This report reveals a serious lack of geographic knowledge among Americans between the ages of 18 and 24. Moreover, it concludes that this lack of knowledge will leave America unprepared for an increasingly global future.

Annotated Bibliography for Education Abroad Practitioners
In an era of increasing accountability within U.S. higher education, it is strategically important that education abroad professionals not view research and scholarship as a burden or an addition to an already demanding workload. Rather, we must recognize that at a minimum, our professional success is closely tied to our ability to effectively identify, access, and utilize research and scholarship to inform our collective practice.

It is important for education abroad scholar-practitioners to challenge untested claims and avoid casual assumptions about the potential value and impact of education abroad.

The following is a brief list of some of the major knowledge areas within contemporary education abroad and a listing of books, book chapters and/or articles that provide foundational reading within each area. Familiarity with this essential reading will provide insight into the existing research and scholarship that informs our practice.

This document was researched and prepared by Tony Ogden, PhD
Executive Director of Education Abroad and Exchanges
Michigan State University

The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad
Frontiers is a biannual peer-reviewed research journal focused on the field of study abroad. There are occasional special editions that have focused on topics including: ‘Study Abroad and the City’, ‘Undergraduate Research Abroad’, ‘Assessment of Study Abroad Learning’, and ‘Perspectives on Area Studies and Study Abroad’. Click here to access current and past volumes.
Toward a Research Agenda for US Education Abroad

This paper provides SIOs with a concise overview of research in the area of U.S. education abroad. Beginning with a brief discussion of the changing role of U.S. higher education and the ever-increasing momentum toward assessing and documenting outcomes, it then looks at the major trends in contemporary education abroad research and provides an overview of the major methodological and design challenges. Brief attention is given to the major theoretical models that have traditionally informed education abroad research and conceptual frameworks from related disciplines that may further extend education abroad research. Commonly used instruments are discussed in context of measuring outcomes. Some notable gaps in the existing research and needed directions are also discussed and a preliminary research agenda is proposed. The document concludes with a brief discussion of the major publication venues for research on education abroad. Appended to the paper is a list of key terminology and related definitions.

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