Publication Date

April 2018


Jill Morawski




English (United States)


Study abroad is a common aspect of the American undergraduate experience. Many scholars and higher education professionals see study abroad as a beneficial experience that develops students' abilities to understand the world. This study questions the extent to which students actually engage in foreign spaces when studying abroad, namely by investigating experiences of cultural immersion and the comfort and challenges that are associated with inhabiting foreign spaces. Considering the lack of racial minorities that are represented in study abroad experiences, this study also focuses on how Americans of color experience study abroad in comparison to their white peers. 15 American undergraduates, all of whom had recently returned from a study abroad experience, participated in semi-structured interviews for this study. Interviews were analyzed through deductive thematic analysis based of a technique outlined by scholars Braun and Clarke (2006). The analysis found that participants generally experienced little cultural immersion and faced a variety of challenges in unfamiliar spaces, and that students of color faced multiple race-related challenges. While these findings imply inevitable limitations to cultural immersion, they additionally present areas for study abroad programs to focus on in order to enhance cultural immersion in students' experiences. Findings also imply a necessity for improved diversity in study abroad programs in order to support students of color.



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