Academic journal article Education Research International

The Racialized Impact of Study Abroad on US Students' Subsequent Interracial Interactions

Academic journal article Education Research International

The Racialized Impact of Study Abroad on US Students' Subsequent Interracial Interactions

Article excerpt

Maria R. Lowe 1 and Reginald A. Byron 1 and Susan Mennicke 2

Academic Editor:Bernhard Schmidt-Hertha

1, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Southwestern University, 1001 E. University Avenue, Georgetown, TX 78626, USA 2, International Programs, Franklin and Marshall College, P.O. Box 3003, Lancaster, PA 17604, USA

Received 20 August 2014; Accepted 10 November 2014; 1 December 2014

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

1. Introduction

At the 2012 Association of International Education Administrators annual conference, experts in the field of education abroad discussed the challenges associated with increasing diversity in study abroad participation among students who attend colleges and universities in the United States [1]. Whereas study abroad participation has grown significantly among American undergraduate students in general over recent decades, there are still specific groups that are notably underrepresented, including students of color (note: we use the terms students of color and racial and ethnic minorities interchangeably to denote African American, Asian American, Latino/a, and Native American students) [1, 2]. In 2011, the US undergraduate population consisted of 32% students of color at private universities and 37% at public institutions [3]. However, they represented only 22% of students who studied abroad outside the United States [4]. For many educators, this discrepancy is troubling and should serve as a motivating force for American universities to find constructive ways to diversify study abroad participation [1, 5]. Understanding how race is related to students' study abroad experiences and their views upon their return to their home institution would help to facilitate this goal.

Recent research calls into question any prior speculation that white students and students of color in the US intend to or ultimately participate in study abroad because of the same human, financial, institutional, and cultural capital factors [2, 5, 6]. It may similarly be the case that there are racialized patterns in the experiences and outcomes of education abroad for American students. Yet, while some studies have noted that students of color benefit from study abroad experiences (see [7]), little is presently known about the racialized experiences of students while abroad and when they return to their universities. Using a mixed methods approach, the current paper serves as a case study and explores whether students of color and white students attending a university in the Southern United States have similar experiences when studying abroad and whether these experiences, in turn, affect their attitudes and behaviors related to diversity, particularly racial diversity, when they return to their home campus.

Background. Although extensive research on education abroad, curriculum integration, and the internationalization of higher education has been conducted by scholars around the world, few studies have been conducted by researchers outside the US on the intersection of race and education abroad. This dearth of scholarship is likely due to the fact that the term "race" is rarely utilized outside of North America. Consequently, the use of race as a category of inquiry may be unique to the United States. Even so, because student engagement in international higher education is on the rise globally and interaction with intellectual and cultural difference is among the prime motivators for this increasingly internationalized approach among universities around the world, the current study may be of interest to scholars both within and outside the United States.

Much of the literature that examines the effects of studying abroad on US students' openness to diversity focuses on issues such as intercultural and international diversity. …

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