Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Effects of Searching, Faith, and Time on the Presence of Calling in International Service Learning Returnees

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Effects of Searching, Faith, and Time on the Presence of Calling in International Service Learning Returnees

Article excerpt

International service-learning (ISL) blends academic instruction and community-based service within an international context (Crabtree, 2008). Students work with local organizations to serve their host community, engage culturally, and learn about a life that is quite different from their own (Grusky, 2000). ISL goals are broad, incorporating global learning outcomes (e.g., global awareness, civic mindedness), academic learning objectives, and psychosocial growth. Short-term mission programs add an additional dimension to ISL experiences in that the program is motivated by faith commitments and spiritual faith formation is intentionally woven into the program goals and activities. Increasingly, researchers have evaluated returnee outcomes from the wide array of international immersion learning (IIL) programs. Research results have been mixed, with reports of positive, negative, and neutral effects in global learning and psychosocial domains (for a review see Bikos, Yamamoto, Dykhouse, & Sallee, 2016). Additionally, qualitative inquiry (Bikos et al., 2013; Yamamoto et al., 2012) has suggested that exploring a calling can be a motivation for (or a result of) student engagement in ISL programs. We believe that a better understanding of the contributors to presence of calling and its trajectory may guide ISL program development to facilitate postprogram growth and mitigate negative outcomes. Consequently, our quantitative analysis of data from a longitudinal dataset of faith-based ISL returnees further explored presence of calling as a function of searching for calling, strength of faith, and change over time (from pre-departure through six months re-entry). We begin our paper by highlighting the relevance of the calling construct to ISL returnees.

Psychosocial Changes in IIL/ISL Returnees

Researchers have documented a spectrum of personal changes experienced by IIL returnees ranging from general personal growth (Walling et al., 2006) to specific changes such as openness, curiosity (Koch, Ross, Wendell, & AleksandrovaHowell, 2014), and greater confidence in navigating novel situations (Braskamp & Engberg, 2011). Not all psychosocial outcomes resulting from IIL are positive and not all students experience IIL in the same way. Researchers have reported higher levels of distress, specifically during re-entry (Moore, Van Jones, & Austin, 1978; Sussman, 2000; Wielkiewicz & Turkowski, 2010). Feelings of sadness, isolation, and disconnectedness were especially true for a group of returnees from a short-term mission (Walling et al., 2006).

A few researchers have investigated variables related to career development and IIL/ISL returnees. For example, Wielkiewicz and Turkowski (2010) reported that sojourning students engaged in values clarification and reported a greater sense of independence. Mills, Bersamina, and Plante (2007) reported that the vocational identity of ISL participants was somewhat stronger at re-entry than a non-traveling comparison group (p < .10). However, at a four-month follow-up, significant differences disappeared. Using qualitative data from a longitudinal investigation of IIL students, Bikos and colleagues (2013; Yamamoto et al., 2012) reported that vocational and educational development was, in part, motivation for participating in the IIL. At re-entry, some students reported that the IIL experience helped clarify and solidify personal goals. Others, however, reported that career plans felt disrupted-they were struggling with issues of career and major choice as well as faith and calling.

Various models of culture shock (Copeland & Griggs, 1985; Lysgaard, 1955; O'Berg, 1954; Pusch, 1998; Torbiorn, 1982; Young, 2014) have long been popular for explaining the range of emotions experienced on the sojourn and during re-entry. However, there is limited empirical evidence of the phenomena. In these few studies, participants experienced difficulties at the beginning of the sojourn (Ward, Okura, Kennedy, & Kojima, 1998) or upon re-entry (Walling et al. …

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