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  • Your study abroad experience has the great potential to bring about enduring transformations in your life.
  • The most effective programs to achieve these transformations are the ones that go beyond academic tourism and force students not just to go into another culture but to enter into this other culture and be part of this other culture (Berry , 2002).

Kikuyu Classmates I
Ngurumo Primary School, Kenya
Photograph by Ron Moffatt (in remembrance)

Ngurumo Primary School students, Kenya

Why Is It Important?

The world in which today's students will make choices and compose lives is:

  • one of disruption rather than certainty, and
  • one of interdependence rather than insularity.

To succeed in a chaotic environment, graduates will need to be

  • intellectually resilient,
  • cross-culturally and scientifically literate,
  • technologically adept,
  • ethically anchored, and
  • fully prepared for a future of continuous and cross-disciplinary learning

(College Learning for the New Global Century, 2007).

Therefore, the most important characteristic needed for the challenges of the 21st century "is the ability to deal with serious worldwide problems as a member of a worldwide society" (Parker, Ninomiya, and Cogan 1999, 125).

Your study abroad can give you the tools to face these challenges by helping you to develop cultural competencies as describe by The Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS)

  1. Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS)
  2. Intensity Factor Index
  3. Seven Components of Overseas Programs for Level Classification

Milton J. Bennett's Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS)

Denial Defense Minimization Acceptance Adaptation Integration
Ethnocentric Stages Ethnorelative Stages
  • People are not born interculturally competent; culture learning is a process that takes time and effort (like learning a language).
  • What is cultural competency and when do you know if you are competent in a host culture?
  • Milton Bennett’s DMIS is one way of looking at intercultural competency.
  • Bennett examines the attitudes and degrees of awareness toward cultural differences on a continuum.
  • As a person’s experience of cultural difference becomes more complex and sophisticated, the greater increase in intercultural competency.
  • Learn how to determine your level of intercultural sensitivity and facilitate activities to move you through the various stages.

Materials taken from Paige, Cohen, Kappler, Chi, Lassegard (2002). Maximizing Study Abroad. University of Minnesota.

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Which types of programs are more likely to move you along this continuum?

Assessing the Study Abroad Experience

Intensity Factor Index

  • The psychological intensity of your study abroad program will be impacted by the ten cross-cultural stress factors as per the Intensity Factor Index (Assessing the Study Abroad Experience using the Intensity Factor Index [pdf]).
  • The Intensity Factor Index is a tool for evaluation the psychological intensity of intercultural environments for students based on these 10 cross-cultural stress factors.
Factors Less Intenselower numbers indicate less intense, higher numbers indicate more intenseMore Intense
Overall Intensity Score ___________
Cultural Differences 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Ethnocentrism 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Language 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Cultural Immersion 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Cultural Isolation 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Prior Intercultural Experience 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Expectation 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Visibility/Invisibility 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Status 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Power and Control 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Sample of an Intensity Factor Index for an American student in the UK (pdf).

Developing countries the best bet for business students (pdf).

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Seven Components of Overseas Programs for Level Classification

Another way to analyze your study abroad program will be by the program components and levels or classification (pdf).

These seven components interact in various and complex ways and the different blends of these components constitute different levels (Engle & Engle, 2003, pp. 8-11).

Seven Components of Overseas Programs Level Classification
  1. Length of student sojourn
  2. Entry target-language competence
  3. Language used in course work
  4. Context of academic work
  5. Types of student housing
  6. Provisions for guided/structured cultural interaction and experiential learning
  7. Guided reflection on cultural experience
  • Level One: Study Tour
  • Level Two: Short-Term Study
  • Level Three: Cross-Cultural Contact Program
  • Level Four: Cross-Cultural Encounter Program
  • Level Five: Cross-Cultural Immersion Program
Program Components Level One: Study Tour Level Two: Short-Term Study Level Three: Cross-Cultural Contact Program Level Four: Cross-Cultural Encounter Program Level Five: Cross-Cultural Immersion Program
Duration Several days to a few weeks 3 to 8 weeks, summer programs Semester Semester to academic year Semester to academic year
Entry target-language competence Elementary to intermediate Elementary to intermediate Elementary to intermediate Pre-advance to advance Advance
Language used in course work English English and target-language English and target-language Predominately target-language Target-language in all curricular and extracurricular activities
Academic work context Home institution faculty In-house or institute for foreign students Student group or with other international students In house students group Local norms, partial or complete direct enrollment
Housing Collective Collective and/or home stay Collective, home stay visit, home stay rental Home stay rental or integration home stay Individual integration home stay
Provisions for cultural interaction, experiential learning None None None or limited Optional participation in occasional integration activities Required regular participation in cultural integration program, extensive direct cultural contact via service learning, work internship
Guided reflection on cultural experience None Orientation program Orientation program Orientation program, initial and ongoing Orientation program, mentoring, on-going orientation or course in cross-cultural perspectives, reflective writing and research

But intercultural competency or awareness of others is not and end in itself, "but rather the first step in the development of an intellectual process by which the students will be able to approach social and political problems" (Brewer, 2004, p. 10).

Therefore, CBA expects that graduates who study abroad should have the:

  • Ability to look at and approach problems as a member of a global society.
  • Ability to work with others in a cooperative way and to take responsibility for one's roles/duties within society.
  • Ability to understand, accept, appreciate, and tolerate cultural differences.
  • Capacity to think in a critical and systemic way.
  • Willingness to resolve conflict in a nonviolent manner.
  • Willingness and ability to participate in politics at local, national, and international levels.
  • Willingness to change one's lifestyle and consumption habits to protect the environment.
  • Ability to be sensitive toward and to defend human rights (e.g., rights of women, ethnic minorities). *

* Source: Parker, W. C., Ninomiya, A. & Cogan, J. (1999). Educating World Citizens: Toward Multinational Curriculum Development. American Educational Research Journal, 36 (2), 117-145.

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