Enlightened travelers?: cultural attitudes, cultural competency and study abroad

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In this study the impact of outside the classroom activities and experiences of study abroad participants on cultural attitude change and perceived cultural competence was investigated. Motives to participate, expectations

In this study the impact of outside the classroom activities and experiences of study abroad participants on cultural attitude change and perceived cultural competence was investigated. Motives to participate, expectations and outcomes of study abroad programs were also explored. The study used a mixed methods approach and was conducted in three parts including an exploratory sequential component followed by a concurrent embedded component. The exploratory sequential component included a photo elicitation project, the results of which contributed both to the results of the study and the development of the questionnaire used in the concurrent embedded component. The concurrent embedded component used a pre and post-test survey design and included a qualitative writing exercise with select participants between the completion of their pre and post-test questionnaires. The results suggest that study abroad participation does result in changes in both participants' cultural attitudes and cultural competency. It was hypothesized that length of time abroad and the cultural distance of the host country would have an influence on the change in cultural attitudes and cultural competency. As found in previous research, length of time abroad was not found to be a major contributing factor to this change when considering the results of the pre and post-test survey. However, the results of the qualitative studies resulted in many questions about the impact of length abroad. Participants in longer-term programs discussed changes in their cultural attitudes in a more complex way than short-term participants. Longer-term participants expressed changes in their cultural competency differently as well, though not in a way that it can be conclusively said they were more culturally competent. The reverse was the case for cultural distance. Cultural distance was a factor in the changes in cultural competency, however not in cultural attitudes when considering the results of the quantitative component. The qualitative results seem to bring up more questions. While shorter-term participants discussed cultural competency differently than longer-term participants, surprisingly the short-term programs had a higher percentage of participants studying in countries with large cultural distance than did long-term programs.