Relationships between Study Abroad Goals, Personal Adjustment, Language Acquisition and Cultural Learning

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Mary Lou Bond, PhD, RN, CNE, ANEF, FAAN1
Dolores Aguilar, MSN, RN1
Harriet Guerrero, BA2
1School of Nursing, University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, TX
2Language Department, Cemanahuac Educational Community, Cuernavaca, Mexico

Learning Objective 1: The learner will be able to describe goals for and learning opportunities available in a cultural immersion experience in a foreign country.

Learning Objective 2: The learner will be able to translate the knowledge gained from cultural immmersion experiences into nursing practice, education and research.


This presentation will describe the relationships between Study Abroad goals, cultural awareness, personal adjustment, language acquisition/cultural learning, and implications for future professional practice of individuals from varied disciplines who participated in an intensive cultural immersion experience in Cuernavaca, Mexico.  Few studies have linked the learners’ goals for participating in study abroad and personal adjustments encountered to the achievement of cultural learning and anticipated use of the immersion experience in their professional and personal lives. 


A descriptive design was used to answer the research questions for sojourners who participated in culture and language study for periods of 2 to 8 weeks.  The Study Abroad Goals Scale (Kitsantas) was used to determine motives for study abroad.  Cultural awareness was measured by the Cultural Awareness Survey (Rew); personal adjustment was measured using the Social Situations Instrument (Furnham & Bochner).  The Post Study Abroad Survey (Carpenter) was administered on completion of study to determine how learners planned to use the knowledge gained during the  immersion experience.  Data were analyzed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences.  Descriptive statistics captured the characteristics of participants.


Seventy two participants have enrolled in the study to date.  No significant differences were found between study abroad goals, cultural awareness and personal adjustment based on length of stay.    No significant differences were found between cultural awareness, sensitivity, knowledge and cultural learning from entry to exit of the program.  Fifty-five participants showed language improvement with length of stay being statistically significant.  Emergent themes from open ended questions included perceived understanding of the culture and the ability to communicate better with Hispanic persons.


While  language acquisition increased, perceptions of increased  awareness and understanding of the culture were disparate. Ongoing data collection and analysis will inform study abroad  faculty of issues and expected outcomes in study abroad programs.