The Impact of non-traditional students on the learning environment and group dynamics in summer study abroad programs
This research project was designed to study the influence of non-traditional, or older, students on traditional students during University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's (UWM) summer study abroad programs. Non-traditional students do not have a large presence in many study abroad programs, but their participation in UWM's summer programs was significant and worthy of study. In addition, limited research currently exists surrounding the field of non-traditional students in study abroad. Case studies in the form of surveys as well as in-depth personal interviews were utilized to evaluate the influence that non-traditional students had on the learning environment and group dynamics in UWM summer study abroad programs. Findings showed that students' opinions are altered after participating in programs with individuals from diverse age groups. Despite having preconceived notions or very little experience with other age groups in an academic setting, both traditional and non-traditional students gained appreciation for particular qualities of the other age group. The faculty leaders, traditional students and non-traditional students collectively agreed that the sharing of multiple and diverse viewpoints was one of the most valuable components of participating in a program comprised by varied age groups. The research also illustrates how age prejudices and biases were broken down after completion of the programs. Further research on the theme of lifelong learning and study abroad would be beneficial to the field of international education as this could broaden the limited studies on non-traditional students in this field.