Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Educational Leadership and Policy Studies
John H. Schuh
The purpose of this study is to gain an understanding of culture learning in study abroad through the perceptions of undergraduate students who studied abroad. The study is based in an interpretive qualitative research approach. Interviews were conducted with 13 undergraduate students who studied abroad in a variety of study abroad programs. What students shared about their perspectives on culture learning is situated within the context of their overall learning experience abroad, thus allowing for an understanding of the meaning of the study abroad experience for students. The study is framed by the theory of student involvement (Astin, 1985). This theoretical approach provides a means to understand how studying abroad is often a profound learning experience for students.
The findings and interpretations of the study are presented in two ways. First, six individual student case vignettes allow for understanding the study abroad experiences of students in the entire context of the experience. Each of the students in the case vignettes interprets the meaning of his or her experiences in a different way, demonstrating how the study abroad experience is highly individualized and can be impacted by events that are happenstance. Second, the results of comparative analysis across all 13 student cases are presented in accord with nine themes that emerged from the analysis. The themes reveal students' perspectives on their learning abroad. The themes also indicate patterns related to specific types of experiences and specific types of study abroad programs.
For the students in this study, culture learning was focused on perspectives, including an acknowledgement of differing perspectives and their own changing perspectives. When students' experiences were centered on the people of the host culture, they perceived their learning as occurring primarily in the context of their interactions with people. The study abroad experience was most profound when students made a connection to people in the host culture.
Christine Lynne Gemignani
Gemignani, Christine Lynne, "Understanding the study abroad experience of university students" (2009). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 10624.