Degree Name

MA in International Education

First Advisor

Dr. Karla Giuliano Sarr


Higher education institutions often promote their study abroad programs as a way for their students to achieve intercultural competency, which is seen as an important skill to have as the world becomes more globalized. The belief is that study abroad programs will lead to a greater chance of students gaining intercultural competency by having a large amount of in-person interactions with others from different backgrounds. Authors such as Deardorff (2008) and Benet (2009) note that if a student has a high level of intercultural competency, they not only have the desire to interact with those of other cultural backgrounds, but they are also able to communicate effectively, shift their frame of reference and behave appropriately in intercultural situations. However, once the student goes abroad, the sending institution often does not know if the student is actually achieving this competency. This qualitative study sought to answer the question of how undergraduate students might develop intercultural competency while studying abroad, and what steps can be taken to increase students’ intercultural competency. This work also contributes to the field by including a number of students’ voices, an element that is often lacking in similar studies. Findings from interviews with 11 students and two staff members at a small, public college show that a number of factors such as cultural mentors, interaction with international and local students, and the type of courses students take abroad can lead to greater intercultural competency gain. The student’s development and motivation while abroad also impacted the level of intercultural competency the student achieved.


Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education | Education | Higher Education | International and Comparative Education