The Impact of Interracial Interactions on US Students Studying Abroad: an Exploratory Case Study


This project was an exploratory case study designed to help a reader better understand the experiences of US study abroad students in regard to interracial interactions, both among students in the US group and in relation to their host country. Academic research and experiential learning indicated literature addressing the intersection of issues created by the diversification of study abroad group membership and racial identity development does not currently exist.

Participant observation, focus group interviews and individual interviews were utilized as a means of discovering how such interactions impacted students’ overall judgment of their study abroad experiences. Primary findings showed that previous awareness about race and racial identity played a significant role in shaping the interactions. Results showed students’ judgments of their experiences were influenced by their interracial interactions, and in particular two major incidents occurred which specifically brought race into the forefront of students’ awareness. Specific themes of Self-Awareness of Racial Identity, Empowerment, Frustration and Cross-Cultural Lessons about Race emerged, along with the notions of “Personality vs. Race” and “Identity: US vs. Host”.

The researcher generated many ideas and developed tentative theories and conjectures for future studies. Recommendations were made for educators to help better understand the degree by which racial identity development plays a role in cross-cultural programs for US Americans. Recommendations also highlighted the importance of race education, both in SIT programs and in higher educational settings at large.


International and Comparative Education | Race and Ethnicity

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