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Short-term study abroad experiences have been found to increase cross-cultural awareness and overall student growth and decrease ethnocentrism, though studies are lacking. The benefits of short-term experiences may only surface through qualitative measures, not quantitative. The goals of this study were to assess the impact of a short-term study abroad experience on students’ ethnocentrism and views of meaning in life. Six undergraduate students from Portland, Oregon, studied in Cape Town, South Africa, in the spring of 2012, and participated in this study. They took a 3-credit course, Global Perspectives on Psychology, as well as completed 3 credits of practicum through volunteering with local social service agencies and hospitals. Part of the program also included visiting local museums and other sites of interest in the Cape. Students’ ethnocentricity and views of meaning in life were measured before and after this experience. Additionally, qualitative data were gathered through open-ended questions at baseline and follow-up. Data were analyzed for significant differences between pre- and post-surveys via paired t-tests. A thematic analysis of the qualitative data also was completed. Results showed that there were no significant differences in pre- and postmeasurements in the total scores on the measures, though two individual items showed significant differences pre and post. With a small sample size, significant differences are challenging to find statistically. However, qualitative data indicated considerable change from baseline to follow-up. Students’ ability to understand other cultures was improved, gains in global understanding were reported, studying had a considerable impact on learning, and an increased desire to create change in the world was endorsed. Short-term study abroad experiences offer several benefits to undergraduate students. Such experiences seem to have an important place in undergraduate psychology programs, both with regard to applying knowledge and broadening perspectives.


Poster Information.

Mueller, E. Making it Real: The Impact of a Short-Term Study Abroad Experience on Students’ Ethnocentricity & Views of Meaning in Life. Presented at the American Psychological Association Conference, Honolulu, Hawaii, August, 2013.


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