This study examined the broader impact that study abroad programs have on students' cross-cultural skills and global understanding and the role that students' goals for participating in study abroad programs play on the development of these outcomes. Two hundred and thirty two (N=232) study-abroad college students were queried regarding their cross-cultural skills prior to and at completion of the program. A factor analysis of the Study Abroad Goals Scale (SAGS) revealed three factors that students report for joining study abroad programs (1) to enhance their cross-cultural skills, (2) to become more proficient in the subject matter and (3) to socialize. The results showed that overall students' cross-cultural skills and global understanding improved; but students' goals to study abroad influenced the magnitude of these outcomes. Namely, only the first factor (cross-cultural competence) significantly predicted students' global understanding and cross-cultural skills. Based on these findings, specific recommendations are provided to university officials and policy makers involved in study abroad programs.
Study abroad programs, defined as all educational programs that take place outside the geographical boundaries of the country of origin, have increasingly gained popularity and interest in the last few years (Carlson, Bum, Useem & Yachimowicz, 1991; NAFSA, Association of International Educators). In fact, over the past four years enrollment has increased by 45 percent. According to the Association of International Educators, in 1999-2000 academic year, 129,770 students from the United States studied abroad. This sizable and increasing involvement leads to questions of impact. What are the effects of studying abroad? Does studying abroad enhance students' global understanding and cross-cultural skills? In attempting to answer these questions, numerous research studies, have reported that overall study abroad programs contribute to students' cross-cultural development (Carlson & Widman, 1988; Sell, 1983). However, no studies have examined whether mediating factors such as student's goals for attending a study abroad program contribute to the enhancement of their cross-cultural skills. This study, therefore, examines the influence of students' goals on these expected outcomes of the study abroad programs.
Several studies focusing on study abroad outcomes have provided evidence that study abroad programs enhance students' worldview (Carlson & Widman, 1988), global perspective (McCabe, 1994), cross-cultural effectiveness (Kitsantas & Meyers, 2002), interest in travel, art., foreign languages, history, and architecture (Carsello & Creaser, 1976), and increase reflective thought, self reliance, self confidence and personal well being (Kuh & Kaufman, 1984). For example, a study by Carlson and Widaman (1988) queried 450 students participating in a study abroad program regarding their perspective on global issues and cross-cultural understanding at the onset and at the conclusion of their study abroad experience. Using a questionnaire, the students were asked to think retrospectively and indicate their positions. The students were then asked to respond to a parallel set of items with their current perspective. This method allowed the researchers to assess the students' change in global perspective and worldview. The researchers found that participation in study abroad programs provided student sojourners with an opportunity to view the world from completely new and different perspectives....
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