Pre-Departure Orientation: How It Affects Students’ Expectations Abroad

Degree Name

MA in International Education

First Advisor

David Shallenberger


Pre-departure orientation programming for students studying abroad is changing and developing to meet the needs of a wide variety of students participating in a vast range of programs around the world. This paper’s research focused on the experiences of students studying abroad on a private provider’s overseas programs, referred to in this paper as Study Abroad Program (SAP) and explored the question, “Can providing a one-on-one pre-departure orientation to SAP students studying abroad decrease the incidence of mismatched expectations of program participants and program realities?”

To address the incidences of misperceptions or false expectations students were having upon arrival overseas, SAP chose to implement a post-acceptance/pre-departure orientation conversation to better prepare students for their study abroad experience. Two groups of students were asked to respond to questions pertaining to their study abroad experience to learn from their perspective what is important to know in preparation for a semester overseas. To examine if there was an increase in matched expectations after having had the orientation, one group participated in a pre-departure orientation facilitated by SAP and the other did not.

There was not a significant difference between the two group’s responses, but the data did uncover important aspects of the student experience and what information is valued by students to prepare them for their sojourn abroad and better ways that it may be provided. This research has shown that US students have difficulty dealing with the unknown, and the best way to ease their anxiety is to provide them with practical logistical information. Thereby, when their primary needs are met they may be able to better grasp the more complex aspects of study abroad. The findings will serve as a resource to SAP as well as other program providers and study abroad professionals when designing a pre-departure orientation.


International and Comparative Education

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