Publication Date

2002

Abstract

Since the 1950s, after World War II ended, the development discourse has engaged in discussions of various theories, models and perspectives that have tried to explain the course of events in history as they relate to development. Over the years, international education has been involved in development research in order to meet the needs of an ever-changing globalized world and have opened up doors to cross-cultural understanding through study abroad. Exposure to another culture can lead to a comparison of the host culture and their own culture that can result in self-reflection, greater cultural awareness and sensitivity and a desire for increased global understanding. Through cultural immersion, participants can learn about the host culture's various forms of government, systems of education and healthcare, values and lifestyles. As a result, participants are exposed to development issues and how development has affected, both positively and negatively, the host culture and country of study, regardless of whether or not the focus of the study abroad program is development. Recognizing that there are assumptions about development that participants bring abroad with them, this research looks at the effect that study abroad may or may not have on the development perspectives of the participants. The survey, administered to undergraduates attending U.S. higher educational institutions, asked both closed and open-ended questions that addressed the possible influence of certain components of the study abroad program such as homestay and language learning on the participants and the effect the study abroad experience may or may not have on their perspective on development. The focus was on one study abroad organization, SIT Study Abroad. SIT's semester abroad programs, in their diverse locations around the world, offer students an opportunity to really immerse themselves in another culture through homestays and intensive language study while undertaking a rigorous academic course load. Literature review looked at studies of the effects of study abroad on its participants as well as development theories, models and various development perspectives introduced as the global development trend has changed and as our government's economic and political goals have shifted. The qualitative data collected from the surveys demonstrated the impact that the study abroad experience had on the participants' overall education, career choices, future plans, understanding of global issues and perspectives on development. If their perspectives on development issues relevant to their country of study, as seen in their qualitative responses, are indicative of the type of influence they may have on the field of international education and the future of global relations, then study abroad has had a positive impact on their perspectives on development. This can then lead to positive contributions, by former study abroad participants, to the continued development discourse.

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