The benefits of study-abroad programmes have long been cited, so I was surprised to discover the results of a recent study, which found that students that spent time studying abroad were no more likely to have a feeling of “shared international community” compared with those who had enrolled on a programme but had not yet departed.
In fact, according to the survey of 571 US study-abroad students, those who had already been overseas said that they felt they had significantly fewer values in common with the people in their host country.
However, despite seeming to challenge the theory that overseas study helps improve international relations, the research from Calvert Jones, assistant professor of political science at the University of Maryland, provides a reassuring conclusion.
Professor Jones argues that while students returning from studying abroad are more “nationalistic”, they are also more tolerant and less prone to viewing other countries as threatening. She says that this means theorists of international community “would be right about the main effect, but wrong about the mechanism”. . . . .