Publication Date

2005

Abstract

The role of Student Services for U.S. undergraduates abroad deserves as much attention as that on home campuses. Using the literature on Student Services in the U.S. context and on transitions abroad as a conceptual base, this multiple-site case study encompasses data collected from eight Program Representatives and twenty-eight students during the Spring 2005 semester at three U.S.-based, undergraduate consortium programs in Japan. This research was conducted in an attempt to explore elements of intercultural guidance and support that Program Representatives and students felt are effective in serving students studying abroad in the Japanese context. A qualitative approach including semi-structured interviews, online surveys, on-site observations, and document analysis revealed that students' greatest challenges in Japan include language use, feelings of "otherness," friendship expectations versus realities, and the strict organizational nature of Japanese culture. It was discovered that program staff can greatly help students by making connections in the community and providing information for daily living, organizing events and making introductions to encourage the formation of same-age friendships, and making the availability of personal advising or counseling known to students. In particular, providing students with a choice of support staff members to approach, a proactive style, and the presence of at least one U.S. American who is aware of current U.S. undergraduate student trends and needs was noted as important. Unique aspects of each program seemed to indicate that student housing determines which areas the Student Services emphasis is placed. Furthermore, it was found that student expectations of program staff and student levels of initiative have changed during recent years. It is considered that Student Services received on home campuses may influence expectations of those while abroad. Therefore, while this research is mainly aimed at instrumental use among study abroad professionals in Japan, it may also be of interest to Student Services practitioners and Study Abroad Advisors on U.S. campuses. The paper concludes with an appendix of innovative student support practices currently being implemented by the three programs, as well as ideas for the future.

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