Can study abroad lead to an ‘enlightened form of nationalism’?

“Can study abroad lead to an ‘enlightened form of nationalism’?”

by Ellie Bothwell via “THE

Group of young people

Higher graduate earnings, better marks and a greater understanding of students from different nations and backgrounds.

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”. . . . .

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The surprising effects of study abroad

“The surprising effects of study abroad”

by Calvert Jones via “The Washington Post”

Since Kant, liberal scholars of international relations have hypothesized that greater cross-border contact can be a powerful force for good. The idea is that such contact encourages a sense of shared international community, breaking down artificial barriers separating people into different nations and inhibiting their natural human affinities for one another. This intuitively appealing hypothesis has inspired several famous student exchange programs, which among other potential positive effects are expected to quell nationalist fervors and ward off international conflict.

Despite its ubiquity, this hypothesis has rarely been tested in a rigorous way. Does cross-border contact really foster a feeling of community? In a recent study, I used a natural experiment across a sample of American “study abroad” students at 11 colleges in New England, the Midwest and the South to carry out a unique test. The institutional structure of study abroad makes it well-suited for a natural experiment. Students are typically placed in foreign settings for either the fall or spring semester, with the winter break providing a valuable window during which a treatment group of students just returning from a semester abroad can be compared with a control group of students who are about to embark. Since all subjects are predisposed to participate, the design controls for self-selection, and the choice of which semester is a logistical one with no obvious implications. These are significant design improvements over earlier studies that did not control for self-selection or lacked a strong control group.

More than 500 students were surveyed on their feelings of international community, perceptions of foreign threat, and levels of nationalism and patriotism, as well as demographics and study abroad program characteristics. As expected, those returning from a semester abroad (the treatment group) were not significantly different either demographically or in terms of program choices from those about to take their semester abroad (the control group). For instance, they selected the same host countries in which to study abroad, especially Spain, France, Italy and the United Kingdom, and females outnumbered males in both groups. All this mirrors the general population of American study abroad students, who are majority female and tend to study abroad most in Western Europe.

First, I tested the core liberal hypothesis that cross-border contact promotes a sense of shared international community, or what political scientist Karl Deutsch called a “we-feeling” across cultural divides. Theorists define this in terms of warmth, shared understandings and values, and trust. Surprisingly, the hypothesis was not supported: None of the indicators for international community was higher on average for students returning from study abroad than for those yet to travel. In fact, those who had just returned from a semester abroad felt they had significantly fewer values in common and were more likely to say their understandings of key concepts were different from the people of their host country. None of this was sensitive to potential moderators like whether or not students opted to live with a host family. Given the intuitive plausibility of the liberal hypothesis, these results are striking.

How about threat perceptions? I asked students to rate how threatening they would consider their study abroad host country if it were to surpass the United States in terms of material power, such as economic growth or military expansion. In theory, cross-border contact should mitigate . . . .

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More Is Better: The Impact of Study Abroad Program Duration

“More Is Better: The Impact of Study Abroad Program Duration”

by Mary M. Dwyer via “Institute for International Education of Students

I n t r o d u c t i o n
Conventional wisdom in the study abroad field has held that more is better; that is,
the longer students study abroad the more significant the academic, cultural development
and personal growth benefits that accrue. The standard assumption is that meaningful
advancement in language learning and other academic disciplines using a
culture-specific pedagogy requires at least a full year of study abroad.
During the past 16 years, due to a variety of academic, social, college policy and
economic reasons, national study abroad enrollment trends have been moving toward
significantly fewer students studying abroad for a full year. Although the aggregate
number of students studying abroad has increased dramatically, a 232% increase from
1985-86 through 2001-02 (IIE, 2002), the data show a steady decline in the number
of students studying abroad for a full academic year. In 1985-86, for example, 17.7 %
of U.S. students studying abroad studied for a full year whereas in 2001-02 this
percentage had declined to 7.8%. Moreover, these same data show that the largest
enrollment growth since 1990 has occurred in programs that are less than one academic
quarter in length, growing from 36% of the total study abroad enrollments in 1985-
86 to 49% of such enrollments in 2001-02. Figure 1 illustrates the sharp decline in
full-year enrollments in Institute for the International Education of Students (IES)
programs across the decades, from 72% of those who studied with IES in the 1950s and
60s to only 20% in the 1990s.

While the benefits of full-year study abroad are strongly embraced by study
abroad professionals, there is a dearth of quantitative research supporting a correlation
with positive outcomes. Resources are available which measure the number of students
who study abroad by term lengths, most notably the Institute for International
Education’s (IIE) Open Doors. Descriptive articles have been written about the benefits of
studying for a full year over shorter term lengths. Numerous studies (i.e.: Barnhart &
Groth, 1987; Carsello & Creaser, 1976; Flack, 1976; Hensley & Sell, 1979; IsabelliGarcia,
2003; James, 1976; Kuh & Kauffman, 1985; Marion, 1980; McEvoy, 1986;
Morgan, 1972, 1975; Pfnister, 1972; Salter & Tefer, 1975; Stauffer, 1973) investigate
the effects of studying abroad on a variety of student values, academic competencies
and interests. None of these studies attempted to measure longitudinal impact; most
had relatively small sample sizes, and reported inconsistent findings. Also, sustainability
of results was not addressed in these studies.
A search of the literature netted nine other empirical studies that correlated
length of study with longitudinal outcome measures (Akande & Slawson, 2000;
Biligmeier & Forman, 1975; Dwyer, 2004, 2004; Dwyer & Peters, 2004; Nash, 1976;
Ruhter McMillan & Opem, 2004; Steinberg, 2002). Six of these nine studies were
conducted by researchers at IES, who sampled from the same alumni population.
S t u d y D e s i g n
This study, conducted by IES in late 2002, was designed to measure the longitudinal
correlations between specific program features—language study, housing choice,
duration of study, enrollment in foreign university courses, participation in an internship or field study, among others—and a variety of student outcomes. A 54-year-old,
not-for-profit, academic consortium, IES regularly conducts formative and summative
evaluations of its programs, surveying students both during and immediately after
their study abroad experiences. This longitudinal study was undertaken with the
intent of comparing end of academic term evaluation results with longitudinal results.
Only through such a retrospective longitudinal study could the sustainability of
results, the effects of program design, and the impact of shifts in student participation
patterns be assessed.
For a variety of reasons, this study presents unique merits. First, the IES alumni
pool provided an opportunity to draw upon 50 years of data. IES estimates that it has
educated over 45,000 students. Second, the size of the pool of study abroad alumni to
survey (17,000: available, current addresses) was much larger than most college or
universities’ study abroad enrollments during the same 50 year period. Third, the
range of types of programs and locations was useful for statistical analyses and comparisons
across educational models and cultures. Throughout the 50 years, IES has offered
25 programs located in 14 countries, in multiple academic study abroad models, from
“island” programs to hybrid to direct enrollment and full immersion. Similarly, the
housing arrangements for students represented the full spectrum of opportunities from
dormitories to home stays to apartments.
The number of years of data, the number of different locations, the variety of
academic models and housing arrangements used, and the size of the alumni pool
allowed IES to isolate and assess the longitudinal impact of specific program components
for large enough sample sizes to make the results statistically valid and reliable.
Few other organizations have the sustained history of programming necessary to replicate
these study features.
In 1997, IES established the IES Model Assessment Program (The IES MAP®), a
set of guidelines for developing and assessing study abroad programs by using these
categories: student learning environment, intercultural development, resources required
for academic and student support, and program administration and development. The
end of term student satisfaction survey, a 2000 pilot survey, as well as the 2002 survey
for this study, were designed using the categories of the IES MAP®.
In 1999, a pilot study was conducted with a limited sampling of 10% (2100)
of the IES alumni population (Akande & Slawson, 2000). This survey achieved a
response rate of 44% (707 respondents), after factoring in the undeliverable surveys
due to outdated addresses. There were many responses to a number of open-ended
questions asking respondents to characterize the impact of study abroad on their lives.
These data were used to expand and refine the questions used in the retrospective
longitudinal 2002 survey.

The 2002 survey consisted of 28 questions, many of which had numerous
sub-questions. The questions were divided into 3 types: basic demographics, impact of
key study abroad elements, and impact of study abroad on select behaviors, attitudes and
specific achievements. The survey results are reported across five areas: general findings,
academic attainment, intercultural development, career impact and personal growth.
Within each category respondents answered between four and seven questions
asking them to rate, on a 5-point Likert scale, the impact of their study abroad experience
on a specific developmental measure. Several other questions asked respondents to
provide information on specific behaviors since studying abroad, such as the frequency
with which they used a foreign language, whether or not they had worked or
volunteered in an international capacity since studying abroad, and the highest academic
degree they had obtained.
The survey was sent to 17,000 alumni who studied with IES for varying term
lengths between the academic years of 1950-51 and 1999-00. More recent alumni
were not surveyed because less time had elapsed since their study abroad experience,
making sustainability of impact difficult to assess.
An overall 25% response rate (3723 of the 14,800 alumni current addresses) was
achieved. The 1980s and 90s produced large response rates of 40% and 41%, respectively.
The survey was disseminated by U.S. mail only once because the response rate and
the sample size were large enough to make generalizations. Conducting the study with
an on-line survey would have been much less expensive and it would have allowed for
repeated requests to be made more easily. However, it was assumed that using an electronic
survey would have resulted in significantly lower response rates from the classes of
alumni who studied abroad between 1950 and 1970. . . .

 

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