Studying abroad is a meaningful educational opportunity, based on experiential learning theory (Kolb, 1984), that can have long-lasting positive impacts on students academically, personally, and professionally (Dwyer, 2004a, 2004b; Kitsantis and Meyers, 2001; VanDerZanden et al., 2007; Williams, 2005). Many programs’ goals are to increase global engagement and awareness, and even short-term experiences can raise cross-cultural sensitivity (Anderson et al., 2006). Universities aim to prepare their students for effective professional and personal roles in culturally diverse global communities and to live in a complex, interconnected world (Hovland, 2014; Iowa State University, 2009). Studying abroad helps students to meet learning outcome requirements in international perspectives, which are common at most colleges and universities.
Study abroad programs include short-term study tours, longer-term immersion experiences, semester abroad, and bilateral programs. Bilateral study abroad programs—in which student groups from two countries exchange visits—are relatively uncommon but provide opportunities to deepen cultural and technical learning. For example, faculty and students host study abroad participants in their respective country, and later travel to their visitors’ country. We developed such a bilateral exchange between ISU and the UCR. The “Intercambio” (“exchange,” in English), a travel exchange program between ISU and UCR, has supported reciprocal visits by student groups annually since 1999. These 10- to 12-d-long tours focus on how crops are produced, managed, and marketed, as well as how insect pests and diseases are managed in Iowa and Costa Rica, whereas students experience a foreign country, language, and culture.
Despite evidence that short-term study abroad trips provide substantial value to students (Institute of International Education, 2015), they are sometimes perceived as “tourism” with minimal impact on student learning outcomes. We investigated whether students derive meaningful, durable benefits from short-term travel experiences and whether reciprocal exchanges enhance the value of such trips for students. In this article, we address these issues from participants on both sides of the Intercambio experience, using results of a survey of students who participated between 1999 and 2014. We also summarize how the Intercambio was developed and has been sustained, in hopes of inspiring others to develop such exchanges. The objective of the research was to determine students’ opinions of impact on their international perspectives, future education and career goals, and agriculture production knowledge due to participation in the Intercambio experience.
Anderson, P.H., Lawton, L., Rexeisen, R.J. & Hubbard, A.C. 2006 Short-term study abroad and intercultural sensitivity: A pilot study Intl. J. Intercult. Relat. 30 457 469
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Hovland, K. 2014 Global learning: Defining, designing, demonstrating. 13 June 2017. <http://www.aacu.org/globallearning>
Institute of International Education 2015 Open doors report on international education exchange. 15 Feb. 2016. <http://www.iie.org/Research-and-Publications/Open-Doors/Data/US-Study-Abroad/Duration-of-Study-Abroad>
Iowa State University 2009 Office of the Registrar U.S. diversity/international requirement guidelines. 16 Feb. 2016. <http://www.registrar.iastate.edu/students/div-ip-guide>
Kitsantis, A. & Meyers, J. 2001 Studying abroad: Does it enhance college student cross-cultural awareness? 11 Aug. 2017. <http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED456648.pdf>
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VanDerZanden, A.M., Haynes, C., Nonnecke, G.R. & Martin, R. 2007 Attitudes and perceptions of participants in a horticulture study abroad course at Iowa State University HortTechnology 17 128 132
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