Studying abroad while in college is regarded as a life-changing experience, both personally and academically, for program participants. By electing to go abroad, students enhance their worldly perspective, gain a more in-depth understanding of other cultures, participate in language immersion, and expand their maturity levels. While the popularity of international education continues to grow, the call for evidentiary support proving positive learning outcomes is a major aspect of today’s higher education. The call for a higher level of transparency assessing these learning outcomes results in an increase in topic-specific research related to international education. The true effectiveness of specific programs is now under constant scrutiny (Gray, Murdock, & Stebbins, 2002).
Research concentrating on the effects and educational outcomes of studying abroad claims numerous positive end results. Specifically, the areas of cognitive, affective, and cultural development have seen positive trends in regards to international education (Hadis, 2005). According to Ryan & Twibell, students who studied abroad had measurable growth and learning outside of the classroom (2000), while Carlson & Widaman found studying abroad to correlate with enhanced international perspectives, political concerns on a global scale, and cross-cultural interests (1988). Upon their return, American alumni of study abroad programs continuously report that their identities as American have been reformed in both positive and vital ways (Carlson & Widaman, 1988).
In regard to the expectations and demographic information pertaining to study abroad program participants, Goldstein and Kim’s 2006 longitudinal study identified variable to predict future program participation. According to the study, noticeable differences between program participants and students who elected to remain at their home university were present. The study abroad alumni, upon returning from abroad, showed greater concern for completing their major, a higher interest in learning another language, and modify global opinions (Goldstein & Kim, 2006). Spiering and Erickson’s 2006 research utilizes diffusion of innovation theory as a framework to understand why some students elect to study abroad while others do not. Predictions made regarding future participants included the need to increase job marketability, a desire to increase one’s global perspective, and the development of a deeper interest in the well-being of other (Spiering & Erickson, 2006). While many students study abroad, a majority does not. The perceived benefits of international education are outweighed by student financing and schedules, while difficulty in transferring credits, delayed graduation dates, and no prior knowledge of a foreign language continue to decrease the amount of student participation (Spiering & Erickson, 2006).
A major aspect of research related to international education examines the experiences of collegians upon their...