Outcomes of Studying Abroad: What You See is What You Get

From the Chronicle of Higher Ed, researcher Mark Salisbury (12-16-11) is reported to find that there may be “other” [albeit none are discussed…) means to more cost effectively build student cross-cultural skills and intercultural competence than to study abroad. Really?  Most international educators I know understand that not all modes of overseas study are designed to equally impact “domains” of student intercultural competencies.

As I’ve written, campuses must design their international programs with desired learning outcomes in mind; you cannot simply provide an opportunity for a student to study in a classroom overseas and expect that this experience, by itself, will produce measurable changes in cultural awareness, linguistic competency, or a reduction in xenophobic views.

It’s a little like the man lost on a road somewhere in Maine who stops at a fork in the road to get directions. He asks someone he meets who simply says, “depends on where you want to go…”  Right. If campus administrators are not clear about outcomes they want to achieve in their study abroad programs, students will not get there on their own.

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