Identifying Best Practices for a Successful Study Abroad Program

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0041735/00001

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Title: Identifying Best Practices for a Successful Study Abroad Program
Physical Description: 1 online resource (101 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Rodriguez, Mary
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2010


Subjects / Keywords: abroad, best, international, practices, study
Agricultural Education and Communication -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Agricultural Education and Communication thesis, M.S.
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theses   ( marcgt )
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Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: As times change, there is an increased push towards globalization. With this comes the need for students, who are the future work force, to have meaningful and culturally enriching experiences. Educational institutions are working diligently to meet the demands of globalization through internationalization of their curriculum and increased international opportunities for their students. This qualitative study examines the best practices for a successful study abroad program. This was done through the investigation of two cases. Both cases were study abroad programs hosted at the same university in a Latin American country. There were 17 participants as a part of the first case and 11 in the second case. Journals, reflective sessions, personal interviews, and the researcher s field notes were data collected for this study. Findings suggest that the study abroad programs positively affected the students. Accordingly, there were practices identified as essential for a successful program. These practices include different components for before, during, and after an experience. Students expressed the need for the program to be coordinated with best practices in mind to ensure an exceptional experience.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Mary Rodriguez.
Thesis: Thesis (M.S.)--University of Florida, 2010.
Local: Adviser: Roberts, Thomas Grady.

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Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2010
System ID: UFE0041735:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0041735/00001

Material Information

Title: Identifying Best Practices for a Successful Study Abroad Program
Physical Description: 1 online resource (101 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Rodriguez, Mary
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2010


Subjects / Keywords: abroad, best, international, practices, study
Agricultural Education and Communication -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Agricultural Education and Communication thesis, M.S.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: As times change, there is an increased push towards globalization. With this comes the need for students, who are the future work force, to have meaningful and culturally enriching experiences. Educational institutions are working diligently to meet the demands of globalization through internationalization of their curriculum and increased international opportunities for their students. This qualitative study examines the best practices for a successful study abroad program. This was done through the investigation of two cases. Both cases were study abroad programs hosted at the same university in a Latin American country. There were 17 participants as a part of the first case and 11 in the second case. Journals, reflective sessions, personal interviews, and the researcher s field notes were data collected for this study. Findings suggest that the study abroad programs positively affected the students. Accordingly, there were practices identified as essential for a successful program. These practices include different components for before, during, and after an experience. Students expressed the need for the program to be coordinated with best practices in mind to ensure an exceptional experience.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Mary Rodriguez.
Thesis: Thesis (M.S.)--University of Florida, 2010.
Local: Adviser: Roberts, Thomas Grady.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2010
System ID: UFE0041735:00001

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2 2010 Mary T. Rodriguez


3 To my Mom whose support during this endeavor never wavered. To my t hree beautiful siblings just to show you that you can do anything you set your mind to


4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS The idea to continue with a masters degree was not solely my own. Dr. T. Grady Roberts approached me to attend the University of Florida to continue working with him in a new capacity. Had it not been for the potential he saw in one of his undergraduate students I may not have had this opportunity. I thank him for taking a chance on me and guiding me down what has been an incredible journey. Leaving Texas to pursue a degree in a state far from home required the support of my family. I tha nk my parents, Patty and Tony Rodriguez, for encouraging me to pursue a new and exciting goal. Their words of encouragement and support allowed me to pursue this journey I thank my siblings my rock Amy, Anthony and Anamarie for their love, late night phone calls, and fantastic stories that often brought a much needed smile to my heart. My grandparents, Mario and Olga Townsend, whose enthusiasm and encouragement helped me to go the extra mile. Living in a new place was not always the easiest. Both new and old friends have made this experience one to remember. I would like to especially thank Ben, who helped me through a rough new year as I was finding where I belonged and who I wanted to become. I would like to also thank Kate Blackburn, for all the calls to make sure I was making it okay. It is always great to have someone who knows what its like. Thank you to my fellow graduate students, especially Lex Lamm, Rochelle Strickland, Tre Easterly, Karen Cannon, Dr Andr ew Thoron, Katie Abrams, and Melissa Mazurkewicz for all the I know what you means friendship, guidance, and support as we made our way through our programs. The faculty and staff were incredibly patient and willing to help and this could not have been done without their help. Thank you particularly to Dr. Tracy Irani, whom


5 served on my committee and served as an incredible mentor throughout my two years. Special recognition to Dr. Ed Osbo rne, Dr. Amy Harder, and Dr. Marta Hartmann whom I not only learned a great deal from, but made me feel that I have a lot to offer and a voice and opinions worth hearing. Once again, my thanks to my advisor, and head of committee, Dr. T. Grady Roberts. He has been instrumental in guiding, pushing, reining in, and encouraging me throughout this process. Dr. Roberts encouraged me to take chances that were often not the typical route for a masters student but fit my particular needs and desires. Were it not for him, my experience as a masters student would undoubtedl y not have been the same. A very special thank you to the participants of both courses. The time spent together allowed me to get to personally get to know 26 amazing indivi duals. Accordingly, the professors from each group made each experience very uniqu e not only for their students, but for me as well. Thank you to them for allowing the opportunity to work together. Lastly, but not least, I would like to thank God for putting these wonderful people, experiences, and challenges in my path. I can only hop e that my future endeavors wi ll be this rich and exciting!


6 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ...................................................................................................... 4 LIST OF FIGURES .............................................................................................................. 8 ABSTRACT .......................................................................................................................... 9 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................................ 10 Background ................................................................................................................. 10 Rationale ..................................................................................................................... 11 Statement of Research Question ............................................................................... 12 Statement of Purpose ................................................................................................. 12 Definition of Terms ...................................................................................................... 13 Limitations of Study .................................................................................................... 14 Basic Assumptions & Researcher Biases .................................................................. 14 Summary ..................................................................................................................... 15 2 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE ............................................................................... 16 Introduction ................................................................................................................. 16 Theoretical Framewor k ............................................................................................... 16 Grand Level Theory ............................................................................................. 16 Mid -Level Theory ................................................................................................. 17 Previous Research ............................................................................................... 19 Before ............................................................................................................ 19 During ............................................................................................................ 20 Af ter ................................................................................................................ 22 Summary ..................................................................................................................... 23 3 RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS .................................................................... 25 In troduction ................................................................................................................. 25 Rationale for Qualitative Approach ............................................................................ 25 The Case Study Choice ....................................................................................... 27 Subjectivity Statement ................................................................................................ 28 Description of Cases ................................................................................................... 30 Case 1 .................................................................................................................. 30 Case 2 .................................................................................................................. 33 Data Collection ............................................................................................................ 35 Data Analysis .............................................................................................................. 37 Trustworthiness and Transferability ........................................................................... 39 Summary ..................................................................................................................... 41


7 4 DATA FINDINGS ........................................................................................................ 42 Introduction ................................................................................................................. 42 Findings ....................................................................................................................... 42 Case 1 .................................................................................................................. 42 Before ............................................................................................................ 42 During ............................................................................................................ 44 After ................................................................................................................ 50 Case 2 .................................................................................................................. 51 Before ............................................................................................................ 51 During ............................................................................................................ 51 After ................................................................................................................ 52 Summary ..................................................................................................................... 53 5 DISCUSSION .............................................................................................................. 61 Introduction ................................................................................................................. 61 Conclusions ................................................................................................................ 61 Before ................................................................................................................... 61 During ................................................................................................................... 63 After ...................................................................................................................... 66 Implications ................................................................................................................. 67 Recommendations ...................................................................................................... 69 Conclusion .................................................................................................................. 69 APPENDIX A RESEARCHERS PERSONAL REFLECTIVE JOURNAL ........................................ 72 B FIELD NOTES AND RESEARCHERS PERSONAL NOTES CASE 2 .................... 83 C IRB APPROVAL FORMS ........................................................................................... 95 LIST OF REFERENCES ................................................................................................... 98 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .............................................................................................. 101


8 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 2 -1 A model for facilitating an international experience (Roberts & Jones 2009). ..... 24 4 -1 Participant 7 speaking with the farm owner, navigating through the language barrier. .................................................................................................................... 55 4 -2 Farm owner preparing a treat for her student guests on their farm visit. ............. 55 4 -3 Students learning about crop production. A) Students listening to the professor teach about pineapple production. B) Students engaged in planting the pineapple as the first step in the production process. .................................... 56 4 -4 Students in a classroom during one of several lectures. ...................................... 57 4 -5 Students with the children at their farm visits. ....................................................... 57 4 -6 Students listening to the tour guide at the coffee plantation and processing plant. ....................................................................................................................... 58 4 -7 Students enjoying their time off together as they explored their host location. ... 58 4 -8 Students during their reflection session. ............................................................... 59 4 -9 Students with the family during their community visit. .......................................... 59 4 -10 Students listening to an expert speak about sustainable practices pertaining to their area of study. ............................................................................................. 60 5 -1 A model for best practices for study abroad programs ......................................... 71


9 Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science IDENTIFYING BEST PRACTICES FOR A SUCCESSFUL STUDY ABROAD PROGRAM By Mary T. Rodriguez May 2010 Chair: T.Grady Roberts Major: Agricultural Education and Communication As times change, there is an increased push towards globalization. With this comes the need for students, who are the future work force, to have meaningful and culturally enriching experiences. Educational institutions are working diligently to meet the demands of globalization through internationalization of their curriculum and increased international opportunities for their students. This qualitative study examines the best practices for a successful study abroad program. This was done through the investigation of two cases. Both cases were study abroad programs hosted at the same university in a Latin American country. There were 17 participants as a part of the first case and 11 in the second case. Journals, reflective sessions, personal interviews, and the researchers field notes were data collected for this study. Findings suggest that the study abroad programs positively affected the students. Accordingly, there were practices identified as essential for a successful program. These practices include different components for before, during, and after an experience. Students expressed the need for the program to be coordinated with best practices in mind to ensure an exceptional experience.


10 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Background Globalization is not a new concept. It has been around for centuries beginning with the discovery and colonization of new continents. However in the past few decades, it has become a n important process that impacts everyone. Inda and Rosaldo (2006) define d globalization as spatial -temporal processes, operating on a global scale that rapidly cut across national boundaries, drawing more and more of the world into webs of interconnection, integrating and stretching cultures and communities across space and time, and compressing our spatial and temporal horizons (p. 12). Thr ough this definition, it is visible to see the challenges and opportunities facing various markets, politics, and now education. Companies and organizations in a variety of industries have found that they must be global to compete and survive in the new mi llennium. Bikson (1996) stated that being aware and having a profound understanding of global issues is extremely important in higher education so as to prepare students to be competitive in this global economy. It is the role of education to provide students with experiences that they can apply in a culturally diverse work place. Globalization is what is happening all around the world and internationalization is a universitys response. Knight (1994) described internationalization, in regards to higher education, as the process of integrating an international/ intercultural dimension into the teaching, research, and service functions of the institution (p.16). There are many forms through which internationalization of higher education and the academic communities can occur. The following are a few diverse examples : student and faculty exchanges, study abroad, internships or service learning in a foreign country,


11 globalized curricula, and offshore campuses. Jackson (2008) stated that among these options, an ever increasing number of universities are encouraging their undergraduates to participate in study abroad programs (p. 350). According to the Open Doors report on study abroad in 2006 07, there was an 8.2% increase from the year before, a 143% inc rease within the decade, and a 400% increase since 198586 (Bhandari & Chow, 2008) The s e statistics show that with the increasing emphasis on internationalization, students and educators recognize that an international experience is not only personally e nriching but also valuable in the increasingly competitive job market, where language and cultural skills can help an applicant stand out to prospective employers ( Bhandari & Chow, p.18). Being culturally aware can have impacts not only globally, but locally as well. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Report on Global Engagement (2006) provided the following data: immigrants now supply from 12% to 22% of the U.S. workforce in highly skilled occupations; foreign born workers make up 44% of the U.S. workforce in agriculture; and over 500,000 foreign students, researchers, and scientists attend or are employed by universities. These facts make clear that one does not even need to leave home to encounter cross -cultural issues. An incredibly diverse workforce reemphasizes the need for future employees to be well versed in global issues. Rationale There are many ways through which a person might gain global experiences. An increasingly popular method is study abroad. It can be a defining moment in a young person s life that continues to impact them for many years after the experience. Study abroad in a non-English speaking environment provides a valuable way for students to gain experiences they need to make progress in seeing how others live, work and learn


12 (Ack er & Scanes, 1998). However, not all experiences are equal (Dewey, 1938). With careful planning, a meaningful learning experience can occur. Statement of Research Question As diversity increases amongst the students seeking study abroad opportunities, th e number of programs available is also dramatically rising. Despite the increase in the number of programs, the amount of research pertaining to effective practices remains insufficient. There is literature giving detailed itineraries of different tour act ivities pros and cons on different in -country activities but they offered little to no guidance on what worked and what did not (Koernig, 2007). Upon further investigation of the literature, generally, an in depth discussion of the more tactile consider ations of planning and organizing a study aboard tour is absent (Koernig, 2007). This led to the research question: What are the best practices for conducting [ a n agricultural] study abroad program? Statement of Purpose The purpose of this study was to identify the best practices that should be implemented before, during, and after a study abroad experience. The purpose of this research is to add to the body of knowledge. The question itself and the data collected align themselves wit h the Nation al Research Agenda: Agricultural Education and Communication (Osborne, 2007) RPA #4 under Agricultural Education in University and Postsecondary Settings. The results of this study will add further to implement ing quality educational programs in agricultural and life sciences. In particular, because the study is focused on a study abroad experience, it will shed light to the importance of international experiences in agriculture. In a global world, there are very few profe ssions


13 that are isolated from the rest of the world. The need for students to have global knowledge is a must and this study will further that understanding. Definition of Terms In order for one to have a holistic representation of the study, there are t erms that should be defined. Experiential learning: The definition will be adopted from Roberts (2006): experiential learning begins with an initial focus of the learner, followed by an initial experience. After the experience, learners reflect on their observations, and then formulate generalizations. Using those generalizations, learners subsequently experience the phenomenon again, by testing the generalizations with experimentation. Following experimentation, learners further reflect and refine the generalizations, thus leading to further experimentation. The experiential learning process is on going in a spiral -like pattern (p. 22) Globalization: Inda and Rosaldo (2006) define this as : a spatial -temporal processes, operating on a global scale that r apidly cut across national boundaries, drawing more and more of the world into webs of interconnection, integrating and stretching cultures and communities across space and time, and compressing our spatial an d temporal horizons (p. 12) International experience : For this study, as defined by the researcher, this describes an experience that is based in another country with a culture different from the United States Internationalization: Knight (1994) defined internationalization, pertaining to higher education, as the process of integrating an international/ intercultural dimension into the teaching, research, and service functions of the institution (p.16). Short term study a broad programs : Jackson (2008) defines this as an international experience ranging from a week to 3 or 4 months (p. 350). Study Abroad : travel and study outside of ones home country. Either accompanied by coursework in the home country or academic work in the host country and where s tructured reflection is often an essential element.


14 Limitations of Study As with any research study, there are always limitations, especially when dealing with human beings. A significant limitation in this study arise s from the use of a case study as the research design. A c ase study is meant to be a descriptive study which Merriam (1998) said would be limited to describing the phenomenon rather than predicting future behavior (p. 41). An effect that immediately stands out is that of observer effect. The researcher will be observing the participants in natural settings. To lower this effect, the researcher spent time building trust amongst the participants and has been trained on when and how to take notes so that it is unobtrusive to the participants and their experiences. An additional limitation is that of time. The study abroad programs examined in this research were only three weeks in length. Given that study abroad programs can vary in length from one week to an entire semester abroad, differences may exist as a result of duration. Similarly, the amount of time spent with each student daily, could potentially not be long enough. Other limitations of a case study can be issues of credibility, trustworthiness, and transferability. To address these issues, the researcher employs different methods outlined in the methods section in Chapter 3 Basic Assumptions & Researcher Biases Basic assumptions that must be taken into consideration for this study are the following. The researcher is assuming that the participants are being as truthful and accurate in their rendition of their experiences in their journals. As a qualitative study, the researcher herself acted as the main instrument in collecting the data. As such, it is the duty of the researcher to present her biases at the beginning of the study. Merriam (1998) stated: Both the readers of the case study and the authors themselves need to


15 be aware of biases th at can affect the final product (p. 42). For the purpose of this particular study, the researcher defines her biases here. The researcher has an interest in the impacts of international experiences and how they affect stude nts. She is interested to see the cultural experiences, having had her own previous to the study. The researcher spent 6 months living, attending university, and traveling in Australia on her own. She is from a multicultural family and a first generation A merican, thus believing in the importance of understanding different cultures. Knowing these biases, allows for the study to be seen through the lens of the researcher. Summary Study abroad programs can be the capstone experience in an academic program. Dwyer & Peters (2004) stated: Few other experiences in life have proven to net such a positive and sustainable impact (p. 2 ). These experiences not only provide an extraordinary experience, but if planned and coordinated maintaining a student focus it can provide an irrepetible learning experience. This study is meant to identify those best practices to ensure that the study abroad program is student centered and allows the experience to be educationally valuable.


16 CHAPTER 2 REVIEW OF THE LITERATUR E Introduction Throughout Chapter 1 the argument for the need of internationalization throughout education was made. Due to the globalization of various markets worldwide, higher education institutions have begun to highly encourage their students and faculty to take opportunities to travel abroad. Study abroad programs are the most accessible and realistic opportunities for students throughout their college careers. This Ch apter presents an overview of the relevant literature and theory as it relates to study abroad programs. The Chapter focuses on literature that support and describe effective methodology for study abroad programs while presenting a relevant theoretical fra mework. Theoretical Framework There are a number of theories that can be applied to study abroad. Merriam (1998) described theory in a qualitative study as providing explanation and not necessarily predicting results as is often the case with quantitativ e research (p. 45). This study can be grounded in grand theory and mid-level theory both of which are described in detail below. Grand Level Theory Constructivism as defined by Crotty (1998) is the view that all knowledge, and therefore all meaningful reality as such, is contingent upon human practices, being constructed in and out of interaction between human beings and their world, and developed and transmitted within an essentially social context (p. 42). Doolittle & Camp (2009) further stated that co nstructivism acknowledges the learner's active role in the


17 personal creation of knowledge, the importance of experience (both individual and social) in this knowledge creation process, and the realization that the knowledge created will vary in its degree of validity as an accurate representation of reality (p. 6) There are several forms of constructivism. The two most appropriate for this setting are the radical and social constructivist approaches. R adical constructivism is concerned with the construc tion of mental structures, the position of cognitive constructivists, and the construction of personal meaning (Doolittle & Camp, 2009, p. 8) This form of constructivism gives more emphasis on the learner creating their own personal and coherent reality throughout the experience. The second form is social constructivism. This type of constructivism maintains the social nature of knowledge, and the belief that knowledge is the result of social interaction and language usage, and, thus, is a shared, rather than an individual, experience (Doolittle & Camp, p. 8). A balance between the two for this experience would be most appropriate since a student will be creating their own reality throughout, but also as part of a collective group. Study abroad exper iences should be grounded in a constructivist approach. The student should be presented with the information, but through their interactions and experiences abroad, construct their knowledge Constructiv ism allows the le arner to assume responsibility for his/her learning t hrough active engagement in the process By having more responsibility for their learning, students would feel more inclined to participate and make the most of t heir experience. Implementing the constructivist approach throughout the experience would be extremely valuable to the participant. Mid-Level Theory Study abroad programs are an ideal demonstration of experiential learning. Kolb (1984) one of the leading theorists for experiential learning defined it as: the process


18 whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Knowledge results from the combination of grasping and transf orming experience ( p. 41). Beard and Wilson (2006) further define d experiential learning as the sensemaking process of active engagement between the inner world of the person and the outer world of the environment (p 2). During a study abroad, the student is constantly engaged as a whole person: though ts, feelings, and physical activities. This active engagement is one of the basic components of experientia l learning (Beard & Wilson). Although there has been some research conducted pertaining to study abroad programs and student engagement, there lacks reference to the actual learning process. To address this lack of research, Roberts and Jones (2009) examined the relationship between study abroad experiences and experiential learnin g and created a theoretically -based experiential framework for international experiences based on cognitive scienc e (p.405). The authors developed a framework as a guide to experiential learning for international experiences (Figure 21). Their model was guided by the fact that num erous researchers have provided insight in to creating meaningful learning experiences (Roberts & Jones p. 405 ) yet they did not incorporate our knowledge of how the brain works. Their framework consists of combining Robert s (2006) experiential learning model and elements necessary for a successful international experience. The model is divided into three main events: before, during, and after an international experience. Each event has specific components meant to facilitate the learning process throughout the entire experience. Roberts and Jon es state d that implementing this framework should enhance learning and thus make graduates better prepared for a global society (p. 409).


19 Previous Research As stated previously, Roberts and Jones (2009) found it important to incorporate brainbased knowledge research into the experiential learning process. This section is will support their framework by incorporating previous research for the components each event: before, during, and after an international experience. Before There is much that is needed to prepare the student before they embark on a study abroad. McGowan (2007) stated that without the proper preparation and knowledge of what to expect when entering another country, one will not reap t he full benefits from such a program (p. 62). The outcomes of an international educational experience are highly dependent on the amount of preparation the participant received prior to traveling ( Tritz & Martin 1997). Not only should a student be prepar ed logistically but they should also be prepared for learning ( Roberts and Jones 2009). The first step to prepare a student for an international experience is preflection. Jones and Bjelland (2004) defined preflection as the process of being consciousl y aware of the expectations associated with the learning experience (p. 963) If a student is made aware of their expectations before hand, they are more likely to meet them throughout the experience and accordingly will be more in tune with their learning process. Students who are involved in facilitated preflection will be able to utilize the process of reflecting upon concrete learning experience in a greater degree than will those students who receive no preflection facilitation (Jones & Bjelland, p. 963). This method of preflection allows students to prepare for learning. By preparing learners in advance, they can be better prepared to interpret the plethora of data and focus on aspects most important for their learning (Roberts & Jones, 2009, p. 405).


20 Along with preflection and learner preparation, it is important to address a students emotional state. According to Maslows theory of the hierarchy of needs : a higher need will become active only if the lower needs are sufficiently satisfied (Hofstede, p. 53) If the student feels worried about or feels threatened by the experience, they will not be receptive to learning. Fear, an d other primary emotions, have an important impact on learning (Beard & Wilson, 2006, p. 177). By addressing a st udents emotions, they will able to focus on other aspects of their experience. As unique human beings, who we are, where we come from, our dispositions and exper iences, all play a significant role in making each experience we undergo unique to ourselves (Beard & Wilson, 2006, p. 21). Every learner being has previous experiences and knowledge that they call upon when learning something new. As cited in Beard and Wilson (p.21), each experience is influenced by t he unique past of the learner. Learners build their new knowledge upon existing knowledge, accordingly, it is important to be aware of a students previous experiences and stereotypes if any (Roberts & Jones 2009). Allowing students to use their background experiences to interact provided a posi tive learning environment (Wingenbach et al 2006, p.80). Within this reciprocative environment, the educator and the student can engage in shared goal setting for the experience. All of these components beforehand are geared to prepare the student to p rocess the plethora of stimuli they will encounter during their international experience. During As a student is engaged in their international experience, it is important to aid in the synthesis of information they are receiving. Reflection is a crucial part of experiential learning. Beard and Wilson (2006) contend that without reflection, the experience will


21 tend to merge with the background of all the stimulants that assail our senses (p. 20). The international setting could potentially be overpower ing to the student. To help the assimilation of new knowledge, at times guided reflection is necessary. Roberts and Jones (2009) said that with an overabundance of culturally and cognitively complex situations that occur in an international experience, l earners (especially novices) may need guided reflection (p. 407). G uided reflection can take be anywhere from directed journaling to group reflection sessions. Not all students will need this type of reflection so it is necessary to have a good balance of individual and guided reflection. With so much sensory rich information during a students experience, it is difficult not to get overwhelmed. Cognitive load theory purports that working memory is limited and that a persons senses can become overloaded to the point of negatively affecting learning (Sweller, 1988). Roberts & Jones (2009) stated that in order to help students combat an overwhelming of senses, educators can help learners focus on key aspects of the experience that are most relevant to achieving learning objectives (p. 407). It is key to help students gather the necessary information and not allow an overabundance of stimuli to detract from their experience. Roberts & Jones (2009) also stated that according to the type of experience, learners might be given more responsibility for their learning allowing them to create their own meaning from the experience. Self regulated learning refers to the process by whi ch learners personally activate and sustain cognitions, affects, and behaviors that are systematically oriented toward the attainment of learning goals (Schunk & Zimmerman, 2008, p. iiv) Schunk & Zimmerman (1994) found that allowing students to take part in self regulating their learning, also encouraged them to be more self


22 motivated. They also found that these students were also able to concentrate better in the face of distractions. Giving students respons ibility for their learning further allows for s tudents to construct their own knowledge. Inductive and problem -solving activities are other methods that enhance learning during an international experience (Roberts & Jones, 2009). These activities can help students build on their existing knowledge through the use of schema. Schema: is defined as a structure which allows problem solvers to recognize a problem state as belonging to a particular category of problem states that normally require particular moves. This means, in effect, that the problem sol ver knows that certain problem states can be grouped, at least in part, by their similarity and the similarity of the moves that can be made from those states (Sweller, 1988) These schema s allow students to relate their new knowledge with their existing k nowledge to make their learning more meaningful. Encouraging the building of schema encourages the student to see the experience in a different light, perhaps in a more applicable manner as well. After An international experience does not end with the students return to their home country. Everything seems to move so quickly during their stay, that at times, the reflection after their experience will help make certain connections and lead to realizations that perhaps they had not had the time to make duri ng the experience. By reflecting once again, they are able to somewhat relive their experience which can prove to be very beneficial to their learning process. This further reflection will continue the learning experience for the learner by keeping their attention to the experience for a longer amount of time (Roberts & Jones, 2009, p. 207). Not only is reflecting on the experience important, but also to ensure that the reflection connects back to the goals


23 established during preflection ( Roberts & Jones p. 407). Looking back the goals set at the beginning will refocus the student and help them make further forward progress towards those goals. A students awareness of their learning process, their goals and accomplishments, will likely encourage motivati on for further learning. Summary A study abroad experience aligns itself with the theory of constructivism in that the student is constructing his or her own knowledge throughout the experience. The students interpretations of their reality are profound ly affected by their background knowledge ( Wardlow & Scott, 2000). Accordingly, the experiential learning theory allows for the learner to consider what they know and begin formulate their know knowledge following the cycle. New knowledge comes from both attaining the experience and transforming it (Kolb, 1984). This experiential cycle is cyclical in nature and has been proven to be an effective method of instruction. Roberts and Jones (2009) applied the experiential learning model developed by Roberts (2006) to international experiences. They created a framework to allow for higher order learning to be facilitated throughout the experience thus enriching the learning experience. Their framework consi sted of three parts: before, during and after. Each part has various unique activities that will supplement that particular time during the experience. The one commonality shared throughout the entire process is reflection. Not only is it a vital part of experiential learning, but reflection also encourages a students introspection creating a more meaningful experience.


24 Preflection Learner P reparation Emotional S tate s (Safety/T hreats ) Pre existing K nowledge Shared G oal S etting Reflection Connect with P reflection Assess Progress Towards Goals Motivation for F uture L earning Reflection Guided R eflection (E xpert vs. N ovice) Learning is a P rocess Cognitive L oad/ O verload S elf R egulated L earning Inductive and P roblem Solving A ctivities Before an International Experience After an International Experience During an International Experience Experience: Initial or Experimentation Reflection Generalization Figure 21. A model for facilitating an international experience (Roberts & Jones 2009).


25 CHAPTER 3 RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS Introduction There are many avenues through which social research may be conducted. Merriam (1998) referred to three different research orientations: positiv ist, interpretive, and critical. Positivist research is characterized by knowledge gained through scientific and experimental research [which] is objective and quantifiable (Merriam, p. 4). In contrast, interpretive, or qualitative, research builds abstractions, concepts, hypothesis, or theories rather than tests existing theory (Merriam, p. 7 ). Another major distinction is that p ositivist research requires the researcher to be objective as he or she engages in an unbiased investigation of research questions using the scientific method (De Lay, 2008, p. 49). As is the nature with qualitativ e research, the researcher: is responsive to the context and he or she can adapt techniques to the circumstances (Merriam, p. 7). Therefore it is near impossible for the researcher to remain completely objective. Considering the aforementioned, a qualit ative approach was identified to be the most appropriate methodology for this study. Here, the researcher will make the case to support the choice of qualitative research. Research er biases, details of the research design, data collection and analysi s will be presented. Trustworthiness and transferability of the study are also discuss ed Rationale for Qualitative Approach The purpose of this study was to identify the best practices of study abroad programs before, during, and after the experience through an in depth investigation of two different programs. Qualitative research is further defined by Merriam (1998) through Pa tton (1985):


26 [Qualitative research] is an effort to understand situations in their uniqueness as part of a particular context and the interactions there. This understanding is an end in itself, so that it is not attempting to predict what may happen in the future necessarily, but to understand the nature of that setting what it means for participants to be in that setting, what their lives are like, whats going on for them, what their meanings are, what the world looks like in that particular setting and in the analysis to be able to communicate that faithfully to others who are interested in that setting . The analysis strives f or depth of understanding. (p.1) Most important to qualitative research is to understand the phenomenon from the participants perspectives, not the researchers (Merriam 1998 ). Since a qualitative study focuses on process, meaning and understanding, the product is highly descriptive (Merriam). This study uses words and pictures rather than numbers to convey the findings from the research. To further support the researchers descriptions, data in the form of participants own words and direct citations from documents will be included (Merriam ). As a final characteristic of a qualitative study is fieldwork. The researcher was cl osely tied to the groups being studied, allowing her to become intimately familiar with the phenomenon being studied (Merriam, 1998, p. 7). Only a qualitative methodology would permit such involvement from the researcher. Having this access to the partic ipants allowed the researcher to make her own observations in the natural setting adding yet another perspective to the phenomenon. Due to the unique involvement of the researcher in the study, grounded theory and case study methodologies were chosen Grou nded t heory as a qualitative method is unique in that its end result is a theory that emerges from, or is grounded in, the data (Merriam, p.17). As mentioned in the theoretical framework section, Roberts and Jones (2009) designed a framework for intern ational experiences based on the experiential learning theory. Through this study,


27 the researcher investigated to determine whether the findings supported or led to further development of Roberts and Jones (2009) framework. The Case Study Choice Merriam ( 1998) stated that A case study design is employed to gain an indepth understanding of the situation and meaning for those involved. The interest [of the study] is in the process rather than outcomes, in context rather than a specific variable, in discovery rather than confirmation (p. 19). Case studies have special features that also made it a practicable option. A case study is particularistic, descriptive, and heuristic. It is particularistic in that it focuses on a particular situation or phenomenon; descriptive in that the end product is a rich thick description of the phenomenon; and heuristic because it illuminates the readers understanding of the phenomenon (Merriam). All three characteristics were goals of this particular study therefore matching this methodology. The researcher felt that in order for there to be a holistic view of the phenomenon, being as close to the subjects of interest was ideal. Case studies allow the researcher to get as close as possible to the subjects through direct observation whereas other methods such as surveys would not permit it (Merriam, 1998 ). Lastly, Merriam supported that case studies are a suitable design if [the researcher is] interested in process (p. 33) Study abroad programs have a process. The ones in q uestion in this study are the processes before, during, and after the experience. Case studies help understand processes of the phenomenon under study. As with any research methodology, there are certain limitations. Because the researcher is the primary i nstrument of data collection, quali tative case studies are limited by the sensitivity and integrity of the investigator (Merriam, p. 42). In lieu of this, both the readers of the


28 case study and the researcher herself need to be aware of biases that might affect the study. The researcher will, to the best of her ability, identify her biases for the reader. Subjectivity Statement The more objective a study can be the better. This is the challenge with qualitative research. The subjectivity statement is provided so that all related experiences of the researcher are presented and made clear This ensures that the reader can critically examine the truthfulness of the research as being as free of bias as possible. In turn this will also contribute to the tru stworthiness and transferability of the research study. The subjectivity statement as stated in the researchers own words, is as f ollows: My interest in study abroad programs has a solid root in my ethnic background. I am a first generation American. My mother and her family came from Colombia in the late 1970s to the United States. Since then, my mother and many of her siblings have yet to return to their country. Similarly, my father is from Nicaragua and also came to the United States in the 1970s. A lthough, he has had the opportunity to return sever al times to his home country since his immigration. My parents have done a fair job in teaching my siblings and I about their cutlure but as with many immigrated families, their true identity has faded thr oughout the years and the amount of culture that my younger siblings received from my parent s is much less than that which I received growing up. This phenomenon within my family has set the stage for my desire to travel and learn more about not only my parents cutlures but others as well. During high school, I was chosen to go on an ambassador program to Australia and New Zealand in 2002. This was my first experience abroad. Although it was not to one of the my parents respective countries, I was excited and willing to go. This program had an intensive 3 month preparation period before departure. The group got


29 to know each other, the teachers chaperoning, and basics about the cultures we were to visit. The program leaders helped with everything from the process of obtianing passports and visas to aquiring any shots needed pre departure. Not to mention we were also advised about preparation, what to pack, and any safety and health considerations when traveling abroad. This not only prepared the group, but also helped easy any concerns we had about the trip. The trip was much better having been prepared in that manner. In 2006, as an undergraduate, I had the opportunity to take another study abroad. I was much more independent as I was 21 years ol d. My undergraduate program had not had many, if any, students travel abroad. Therefore, there was not a structured program that met my particular needs. I did several hours of research on universities and created my own program with the help of the study abroad coordinator at my home university. I had a strong desire to see agricultural practices in another part of the world. This time, I was on my own. There was no predeparture orientation much less an onsite orientation. Preparing myself to live and stu dy in another country without any guidance was somewhat daunting. I felt that I craved somewhat more guidance to prepare me as I had had before. Although, this did dramatically increase my sense of independence. Since my own study abroad experience, I hav e been a strong advocate of international experiences. I have encouraged as many people as possbile to embark on their own experience. Being a student in the C ollege of Agricultural and Life Sciences, has let me see the value of international experiences i n agriculture. This college has the least number of students engaging in international experiences than any other college.


30 Accordingly, my background in Agricultural Education, has also given me the opportunity to learn about many learning theories, experi ential learning theory being the most pertinent to study abroad experiences. This led me to be increasingly interested in planning study abroad programs to meet the various needs to learners throughout their experience. I feel that if students have the rig ht preparation, support throughout, and follow up pertaining to their experience, then it could potentially be one of few capstone experience s that helps them become more global individuals.This desire to coordinate study abroad programs lead to my involvement in the two cases involved in this study. Through my own reflection I have been able to identify how all of my life and educational experiences have shaped how I view study abroad programs. My own personal experiences have developed my strong desires t o seek the best practices for study abroad programs. I truly believe that the fully coordinated program in 2002 helped me to be ready for that particular experience but also inadvertantly helped me embark on my own in 2006. Description of Cases As a qualitative study, it is important to understand the populations in the study. Two cases were selected for this study. They had different structure and expectations, yet had some similarities. Both cases were study abroad programs studying at the same host university for the same amount of time. They also had mostly undergraduate students with a few graduate students. Further details of each case are presented below Case 1 The first case was comprised of seventeen participants recruited to take part in this study abroad from four different North American universities. Of the participants,


31 eleven were female and six were male, ranging in age from 20 to 27 years of age. Thirteen of the participants were sophomore junior and senior undergraduate students and f our of the participants were graduate students. The students represented a variety of educational majors including: Agricultural Business (2) Agricultural Education (2) Animal Sciences (2) Biology (2) Economics (2) Plant Medicine (2) Biochemistry Environmental Science Environmental and Natural Resources Engineering Horticulture Mathematic s There were also two lead professors from different universities working closely with the students during their study abroad. At this point, it is important to outline the role of the researcher in this case study. In case studies, observation of the participants is an important part of the research (Merriam, 1998). For this specific case, the researcher was the teaching assistant/ researcher. Merriam defined an observer as participant as the researcher observing and interacting closely enough with members to establish an insiders identity (p. 101). In this role, the researcher was able to get to know the students on a very personal level. Her teaching assis tant responsibilities also allowed her to observe the students in all aspects of their study abroad experience. Due to the role of the researcher during this case, she was involved prior to the beginning of the course. According to McGowan (2007), initial preparation is essential in making an international experience successful and satisfying for the students. Calling


32 upon prior experiences and supporting research, the researcher coordinated four presessions for the group prior to departure. Due to the four different universities, presessions were set up through Poly -C om technology. Most students were able to join the greater group virtually, if not in person. Tritz and Martin (1997) acknowledged criteria for study abroad programs. Of these te n, five were identified for the pre ses sions: expectations, culture preparation, identifying perceptions, communica tions, and keeping an open mind. In addition to these, the researcher also presented a lecture on reflection and how to keep a journal, which was a signi ficant component of the research. During the international experience, the students were asked to keep a journal not only for research purposes, but also as a fundamental part of the course. This journal was private to the individual, required for everyda y, and served as a personal reflection of the days activities, etc. The researcher also held five guided reflection sessions. Here the researcher guided students to think about the information gathered and make connections. The students also took this tim e to air any concerns or feelings they had as the course progressed. The students spent three weeks in the Latin American country. Not one of the students had been to that particular country, many had never been to Latin America, and several were embarking on an international journey for the first time. This set the stage for the study abroad experience. The goals of this case were to give the students a solid interdisciplinary view of sustainable agriculture and entrepreneurship in the tropi cs. The students were engaged in various acti vities to learn more about topics such as crop production, Latin American reality, and entrepreneurship. Students also had short lectures and activities on plant medicine soil sciences, and sustainability.


33 T he students engaged in several activities to enhance the learning experience. They had lab activities outdoors at various farms and at times also worked in the lab facilities on campus. The students main project was to work in groups with a few select far ms to develop a project to show what the farms are implementing as ecotourism presently and then create a plan to show improvement for their system. Additionally, students had exposure to several cultural activities such as hiking an active volcano, zip lining visiting a museum, touring a coffee plantation and cotton fields, visiting hot springs and two beach trips. For this group, the students were housed in three houses. The houses were on the host universitys campus situated within the faculty hous ing area. The eleven females were split into two houses located near one another with the lead female professor as chaperone in one house and the researcher herself as the chaperone in the other. The six males were housed in a house a few streets away from the ladies with the lead male instructor as the chaperone in their house. There were two to three students per room in the houses. Case 2 The second case within this study came to the same host university a few weeks after the first. This course consisted of eleven students, four males and seven females. They were all from the same North American university and were accompanied by one professor. There was also one professor from the host university that served as a guest lecturer for specific topics. The stu dents ages ranged from 20 to 2 6 years of age. All participants were part of the forestry and natural resource management program at their home university.


34 As with the first case, it is important to detail the researchers role with this group. Unlike the first group, the researcher did not interact with the students prior to their experience She became the onsite program coordinator within two weeks before their arrival to the host university. The researcher was given the course outline and was asked to coordinate all aspects of the course during their three weeks study abroad. She met the students upon arrival at the airport in the host country. Although the researcher planned the course, she spent most of the time ensuring that activities were on sch edule while ensuring that the professor and students had everything they needed. She was able to get to know the students well, but due to the lack of constant interaction, she was not as intimate with this group as with the first case She was viewed more as an outside coordinator than as an integral part of the study abroad program. Due to the researchers late involvement, t he lead professor for the course conducted his own pre-sessions focusing on: c ourse costs, liability issues, proper clothing, course activities, cultural issues, and expectations. Students were not required to keep a reflective journal, however a s a course assignment, the stu dents did keep a photo journal. This journal mostly recounted that days activities with little to no reflection At the end of the program, the researcher did conduct a reflective session to receive feedback about the course in general. As with the previous course, due to busy schedules and so forth, there was no post -trip reflection or follow up. Many of these students had had some level of previous international experiences with only three venturing out of the United States for the first time. The goals for this program were very different from the first case. This groups focus was forestry in the


35 tropics. They were interested to see how f orestry in the tropics functioned to be able to compare and contrast it to practices in the United States. The professor also integrated components of the host university by enlisting the students to take part in community projects and student work days. T his group was also given the option to take structured Spanish lessons in the afternoons. Similar to the previous case, the students were split into two houses located within the faculty housing section on campus The females were in one house and the male s were housed in a house close by. Due to the number of females as part of this course and that they only had a male chaperone; they did not have a chaperone in their house. The male students on the other hand, had the researcher herself as the chaperone i n their house. The lead professor and his wife were given their own house. Data Collection A qualitative study, as opposed to a quantitative study, is emergent and has the potential for change (Merriam 1998). Having this in mind, the researcher began wit h the data from the first case but then was given an opportunity to also include the second case. As a qualitative study, the researcher identified three main sources of data: observations, interviews and documents. The data collection process as for eith er case is described in detail below. For case 1, the researcher had access to the participants all day throughout every day of the experience. Merriam (1998) stated that observation is useful in many ways, one being that the participant observer sees t hings firsthand and uses his or her own knowledge and expertise in interpreting what is observed rather than relying upon once removed accounts from interviews [or journals] (p. 96). Accordingly, the researcher took field notes. What is written down or m echanically recorded from a period of


36 observation becomes the raw data from which a studys findings eventually emerge (Merriam, p. 104). These field notes were as detailed as pos sible and were taken every day. The researcher also carried a digital camera to capture data in the form of photos. Based on the researchers observations, key individuals were identified for semi structured interview s As a semi -structured interview, Merriam (1998) stated this format allows the researcher to respond to the situation at hand, to the emerging worldview of the respondent, and to new ideas on the topic (p. 74). It was chosen in order to clarify an observation reflec ted in the field notes while also having the freedom to explore other topics of interest revealed in the interview. Lastly, the researcher collected daily journal entries from each of the students through means of a wiki p age. Klien, Lawver, and Davis (20 07) emphasized that journals offer accurate perspectives of participants at a specific time, eliminating any change of perspective due to post phenomenon experiences (p. 101 ). Access to the students personal journals was given to the researcher. Merriam (1998) gave support for using all three methods of data collection: [Observation] offers a firsthand account of the situation under study and, when combined with interviewing and document analysis, allows for a holistic interpretation of the phenomenon being investigated (p. 111). As with any qualitative study, the researcher must be prepared for a certain sense of ambiguity. Merriam (1998) further explained this tolerance of ambiguity: throughout the research process from designing the study to data collection, to data analysis there are no set procedures or protocol that can be followed step by step (p. 20).


37 Having an appreciation for the fact that the st udy had the potential to change, the researcher was able to add this case to the study. The d ata collection for case 2 was dissimilar due to the difference in the researchers role with this group. The researcher was not able to take detailed field notes due to the nature of her responsibility as program coordinator. However, the researcher kept a personal journal to detail her observations. The students created a photo journal to which she was given access upon completion of the program. Both cases were somewhat similar in their data collection although due to the researchers roles and program g oals different data was available for the researchers use. Denzin and Lincoln (1995) stated that in order to develop an intertwined set of data to give a better perception of the phenomenon, various methods should be implemented. Merriam (1998) further c orroborated stating that the use of triangulation in a qualitative study would allow for a holistic understanding of the situation Accordingly, the researcher used student journals, her own field notes and personal journal, along with personal interviews and reflection sessions. This use of triangulation allowed the researcher to see the phenomena from a number of different views. Data Analysis Merriam (1998) stated that data collection and analysis is a simultaneous a ctivity in qualitative research . Analysis begins with the first interview, the first observation, the firs t document read (p. 151). With this in mind, the researcher engaged herself in rudimentary data analysis throughout the experience. This allowed her to identify students to interview based on researcher field notes, guide conversations during the reflection sessions, and to further investigate interesting leads. It is important to mention


38 here once again, that this study is not meant to be a comparison, rather an examination and descri ption of either case. For the first case, the researcher attempted to transcribe the reflection sessions as soon after the event as possible, that way again, she would be engaged in the analysis process throughout. At the end of the experience, she then transcribed her field notes, personal journals, and compiled student journals into a reader friendly format. Some system to keep track of and organize all data should be identified early (Merriam, 1998). For this study, the qualitative data analysis tool c alled Weft QDA was chosen. All of the transcribed data were then entered into the data analysis program. For case 1, the researcher had all the data at one time. This was not the reality with case 2. This case was added later in the study and as such did not allow for the researcher to conduct simultaneous data analysis. Here, the researcher began by transcribing her field notes and personal journal. The student journals from case 2 were also transcribed and entered into Weft QDA a short period after the experience. Throughout the experience, the researcher kept track of her data collection and analysis methods through an audit trail. Merriam (1998) further explained how this done: In order for an audit trail to take place, the investigator must describe how data were collecte d how categories were derived, and how decisions were made throughout the inquiry (p. 207). There are several reasons fo r which this is done, one being enhancing the studys trustworthiness which will be discussed further below. Acc ording to the audit trail, the researcher began by reading the student journals, field notes, researcher personal journal, and reflection notes from case 1. She made notes ab out interesting passages from the data. Afterwards, the researcher began to group together notes that


39 had commonalities and began to form categories. Upon creation of the categories, the researcher went through the data again and categorized more passages. She did this with case 1 only at this point. It is important to note that as the researcher was categorizing data, more separate categories and sub-categories also arose. This allowed for further classification of information. As stated previously, much o f the data for case 2 came at the conclusion of the experience The researcher began by reading through the field notes and her personal journal, making notes throughout. As a result of the primary analysis of case 1, there was a good basis of categories already identified. The researcher used these categories for the data on hand. Onc e again, a few new categories emerged due to the difference between the cases. When the student journals were released to the researcher, she read through them and then began the same process of analysis with the categories. At this point, very few new cat egories emerged. With a plethora of data, many categories were identified. Here, it was necessary to condense the list and recognize themes. The researcher began to study further what the data was presenting. The data spoke volumes about the organization of study abroad programs and very little of the original research questions. Due to the nature of the qualitative study, the researcher was able to accommodate and identi fy new objectives for the study The researcher began to group the categories into overarching themes that matched the newly identified objective. These new objectives allowed the research er to identify three themes that were present within most sets of data. Trustworthiness and Transferability As a qualitative study, trustworthiness and transferability play an important role to establish credibility for the study. Trustworthiness in a qua litative study is defined as


40 being the reliability of a qualitative study; the extent to which data and findings would be similar if the study were replicated (Ary, Jacobs, Razavieh, & So r ensen, 2006 p.509). Guba (1981) recommended specific strategies b e used to attain trustworthiness such as peer debriefing, prolonged engagement and persistent observation, audit trails and member checks. C haracteristics of the investigator were also important: being responsive and adaptable to changing circumstances, h olistic, having processional immediacy, sensitivity, and ability for clarification and summarization (Guba, 1981). The researcher stove to maintain these characteristics throughout the study knowing that increasing trustworthiness for a qualitative study i s of the utmost importance. Of the above mentioned, the researcher for this study, began with persistent observation which she accomplished through observation every moment she was with the groups. She kept an audit trail which provided a mechanism by which others can determine how decisions were made and the uniqueness of the situation (Ary et al., 2006, p. 509). The audit trail would allow an independent party to examine the study and attest to the dependability of the researchers procedures and deter mine whether the findings were grounded in the data collected (Ary et al., p. 509). Accordingly, as the researcher made decisions and recorded the process, she also made member checks as often as possible. Member checks are defined by Merriam (1998) as ta king data and tentative interpretations back to the people from whom they were derived an asking them if the results were plausible (p. 204). Transferability is the degree to which the findings of a qualitative study can be applied or generalized to othe r contexts or to other groups (Ary et al., 2006, p. 507). In order to increase transferability of this study, the researcher provided a thick, rich,


41 detailed description of the context and participants so that potential users could make judgment about sim ilarity (Ary et al., p. 507). Transferability of this study was also enhanced through the inclusion of another case. Two cases with similar findings would allow for further application to other similar settings and contexts. Summary This investigation was best suited as qualitative case studies and as such has developed a very rich description of the phenomenon, context, and findings. It is important to know the research biases in order to understand the context through which the data collection instrument the researcher herself, viewed the data. In order to build a holistic view of the experiences, the researcher made sure to give a very thorough description of the cases for the reader. The data collection and analysis were done carefully and were fully d ocumented here. All of the above mentioned were done strive to have a high level of trustworthiness and transferability with the study. Now, with all the methodology outlined, the findings will be presented.


42 CHAPTER 4 DATA FINDINGS Introduction This Ch apter features a thorough description of the experiences with study abroad programs from each case. The data has been organized into before, during, and after the study abroad experience. Due to the difference in data collected, case s 1 and 2 will be prese nted separately and then connections between the two will be shown Findings Case 1 The findings for case one are presented here. They are divided into before, during, and after the experience. Before Carey (2002) stated that good preparation is essent ial in making an international experience successful. Both cases had some sort of pre trip preparation from their home universities before departure. Students perceptions of their pre -sessions varied greatly. This was in part due to varying degrees of com fort with international travel. Preparation beforehand can help ease student worries such as these expressed by this student: I have never left th e country before and I don't know what to expect Where am I living? Do I need more money ? Do I have my passp ort ? These questions race through my mind even though I am staring at my passport. I don't understand it. I am normally very independen t. (Participant 10) As previously stated, this case had four pre -sessions geared toward helping the students The first p re -session dealt with expectations where they were given both course expectations and overall program expectations. They were receptive to these expectations although felt specially that the course syllabus left much ambiguity in terms


43 of course assignment s. Student introductions were also made to begin to establish a sense of comfort with whom they would be traveling. The second pre-session was dedicated to discussing how to reflect using a journal and identifying perceptions. The students discussed the value to having a journal and how to use it as tool for self -regulated reflection. Some students were looking forward to have a journal to look back on, while others remained skeptical of its purpose. When identifying perceptions, the students were asked what they thought their hos t country would be like. Many students believed that it would be underdeveloped in most parts with poverty prevalent in most of the country (Participants 6, 8, 10, & 13) Part of perceptions is to address concerns as well. Some students expressed concern with personal safety, food availability, and water safety (Participants 9 & 12) These concerns were voiced mainly from students that had never visited a Latin American country or that were about to leave the United States for the first time. The third pre-session addressed cultural awareness focusing on specifics about their host country and intercultural communication. The students were very excited to learn about their host country and expressed appreciation for having a base understanding of the country they would visit. During this session, students also learned more about their host university. As a whole, student s were excited at the end of this session. One student stated that she was even more excited now that she was learning more about the cultures of both the host country and at the host university (P articipant 9) T hree students also expressed their concerns for not being at all familiar with the language (participants 3, 9, & 10) One said that she would have liked to learn more Spanish before leaving (participant 9)


44 The last pre-session was dedicated to travelers tips and setting big picture goals. During this session, the students expressed concern with what to pack and bring. One student asked what specific clothing was required (P articipant 12) Concerns were addressed by providing a packing list. Setting goals is an important part of preparation. Many students stated that their main goal was to learn as much as possible about their host country (P articipants 7, 8, 9, & 11) Very few students stated main goals pertaining to the course in general. During The students had a variety to opinions to express about their trip. In the first case, the following themes emerged from the data: language barriers, cultural differences, course structure, and reflection. Language. The first theme that was evident amongst most participants was their thoughts about languag e and culture within their host country. Many did not come with any Spanish background. Some of the students expressed concerns about this when faced with challenges of communication. One of the students expressed: The language barrier made things a little difficult, but I was able to piece most things together from the other students It is easier to communicate when you are trying to get something accomplished th an when you are just explaining . You really create a special bond with someone after working with them and experiencing their everyday life, even if you dont speak the same language. (P articipant 1) She found she was able to make better connections despite the language barrier through active interaction wi th the other person. Other students found the language barrier to affect their learning experience (P articipants 4 & 15) One student expressed that she felt that perhaps her dissatisfaction with a selective part of the course was perhaps in part due to the fact that some of the information was lost in translation


45 (P articipant 7) This same student also made an interesting connection between language and culture by saying that her host farms owner did not speak their (the students) language both literally and culturally (participant 7) The students had to work hard to be able to communicate their thoughts at times. This is well illustrated through Figure 41. Here the student is listening intently and taking notes. Culture. Cultural differences can sometimes be very evident and other times, very subtle. Accordingly, some students can be sensitive to cultural differences, while others may not be. A few of the differences expressed by students was the pace of life being much slower, relaxing/ tak ing things in stride, Latin America being a culture of food, sense of community, open and inviting individuals, gender roles, and the different views of socioeconomic status. Students felt the pace of life slow the moment they arrived in Latin America (Pa rticipants 3, 9, & 16) There was no rush about anything. This is something that a few struggled with, but most became accustomed by the end of the trip. Throughout the trip, they viewed first hand that they needed to relax and accept what was happening de spite that it might have been different than originally planned. The students were amazed that when visiting someones home in Latin America, they almost always had food prepared in honor of their guests (Participants 4 & 13) Latin Americans sense of community was evident throughout the students involvement in farm projects, community visits, and even on campus itself. The farm and community visits also demonstrated their willingness to open their homes and invite strangers to learn their way of life. F igure 4 -2 illustrates the owner of one of the farms cooking a treat for her visiting students.


46 Gender. A few other differences observed were those of gender roles. Through their interaction with rural farmers, students in case one saw gender roles in Latin America clearly demonstrated. In accordance with these gender roles, the some students found themselves migrate towards the same roles (Participants 7 &15) Lastly, the students felt a significant difference between their American cultures and the Latin c ulture when it came to the disparity of wealth displayed through different socioeconomic statuses (Researchers field notes, June 2 ) They visited two very different groups of farmers as part of their study abroad experience. Students made comments about t he familys living situations but realized that those families felt blessed with what they had and were relatively happy with their homes (Participants 4, 6, & 9) All of the cultural differences expressed above gave students the opportunity to see a culture through varying degrees giving them a deeper understanding than would have been difficult to relate having read it solely out of a text. Learning Activities. The following is related more towards logistical and educational considerations for the cours e. The first was a consensus amongst the students about the amount of time spent in the classroom (Researchers field notes, June 8) Every student expressed that too much time was spent in the classroom. One student stated: I think that there should be a lot less emphasis on time spent in the classroom and more emphasis on experiential learning (P articipant 2) Accordingly, the group as a whole expressed the following during a reflection session: There has been too much lecture. We sit in a classroom al l day. Its hot and miserable. This course was supposed to be experiential learning. When are you going to experience? (R esearcher s field notes May 28 ). Another student made his own suggestion: My


47 suggestion is, more time outside interac ting with nativ es or students. I enjoyed the sciences in the classroom but I feel that a good amount of time was wasted in class (P articipant 16) Figure 4-3 illustrates the students working outside during a lesson on crop production. This shows how a lesson can be incorporated in a hands on manner out of the classroom. Students found that they valued hands on experiences more than being in the classroom. One student stated: The hands on experiences that we get from this course are much better ways to learn than sitting in the classroom. I understand that parts of the learning need to occur in the classroom, but I enjoy getting the chance to apply our knowledge in the field. (P articipant 7) Several students found that learning through experience was highly valuable. They also enjoyed the experience more when they were involved in the learning. I think it was really good to get out into the field and actually see what we had been talking about in class. Most of this trip has done a good job getting us to learn through ex perience. It's incredible how effective this is (P articipant 1) Figure 4 -4 shows students in the classroom as part of several lecture sessions throughout their experience. Throughout the course, the professor planned of campus activities to add to their learning experience. There were farm visits, tours, and fun activities. The students felt that their farm visits were able to give them a view of the culture that they were not able to see sitting in a classroom. Students made comments such as: [the farm visit] I feel gave us a good chance to not only study but actually be in the shoes of the people we are studying (P articipant 8) This experience was completely eye opening. It has to be my favorite part by far (P articipant 10) and Each person was exc itedly discussing their farm visit from that day, and all that they had heard and learned about. They had all


48 experienced different things, but all felt that they learned much (P articipant 14) Figure 4 -5 exemplifies the students excitement over their fa rm visits. They not only worked with the families but also created bonds with them. The students also had extracurricular tours of various farming activities. On this, the students had varying opinions. Some students felt that the farm tours were a valuable experience: It was amazing to see how coffee is grown, and I wish that we had been given more of an opportunity earlier in this trip to actually see the landscape and farms in this country (P articipant 2) I loved the coffee plantation. I thought it w as so amazing that we were able to see a different aspect of the industry (P articipant 7) and We then headed to the tilapia farm, which I really enjoyed (P articipant 13) Other students felt that the farm visits were not as useful. A few students commented that they liked the farm visits but did not see the value in going because they were not able to either see how it tied into the overall course or because they were just observers and not practitioners at the visited farms ( Researchers field notes, J une 8 ). When it came to the fun activities, students main comments pertained to coordination and timing. Nearly all students made commentary on having to wait long periods of time for events due to poor coordination (Researchers field notes, June 8) Fig ure 4 6 shows students at a farm tour of a coffee plantation. Here students were just observers. Lastly, having to do with program considerations, the students valued the time they had to themselves. Students felt that the free time they had was a good to get to know the other people on the trip and spend time with each other. One student commented saying: The hour or so of free time at the end of the evening is nice because it allows us to unwind from the day and to also get to know our fellow students


49 w ithout being in a big group all the time (P articipant 3) Several students commented that they truly enjoyed time on their own to relax, explore, and catch up on work (P articipants 9, 11, 13 & 14) Several students agree with the following suggestion s : would have been nice to perhaps have class in the morning and then free time in the afternoons. More balance and structure on a day by day basis. It would be better than a whole day of lecture and then a whole day of work outside (Researchers field note s, June 8). During the student s free time, they were able to spend time with their fellow participants and explore their surroundings. Figure 4-7 shows the students spending their time off together at a location they discovered on the host campus. Reflect ion. Moving on from program considerations, students also made comments about the reflection sessions. Most of the comments were positive comments pertaining to reflection. Tonight was our first reflection session. I found this to be a very powerful tool in solidifying our ideas and opinions on the course. It was a chance for us to "tell it like it is" and I also found it to be an informal way to get know each other better. I am excited to have more of these as the days go by (P articipant 15) Another student commented saying: It was interesting to hear the other students opinions of our time here. It helped me to think about things in a new way and even helped to strengthen my ideas when I heard others present conflicting arguments (P articipant 1) Stud ents also made comments saying that without the guided reflections they may not have had the opportunity to speak to anyone about the topics at hand (Researchers field notes, May 22 ). This particular student spoke about her experience saying: I was forced to reevaluate my stance on a number of issues based on other students comments, but thats good because it forces me to keep my mind open


50 (P articipant 9) Figure 48 shows students during their reflective session. Students were courteous and open to what their classmates had to say. The reflection sessions also served as catharsis for some students about their feelings. A lot of negative energy was released as people spoke of the complaints, disappointments about the program so far, and solutions were discussed. It was a much needed release and I believe things will improve because of it (P articipant 9) Students felt that the reflection sessions were not only a way to synthesize the information they were learning, but also it is a good way to communicate our concerns and solutions about the program (P articipant 9) After D ata pertaining to after the experience was very scarce. Although some students did comment on their thoughts on how this experience has changed their ideas for future personal plans. One student wrote the following after he arrived home: First of all I want to say that my life has changed. Im still not sure everything has sunk in. My motivation has peaked. I feel like I should strive to be more aware of reality. I have been trying to tell everyone I know about what went on but I cannot use enough good adjectives. Hopefully I will be able to continue reflecting on the experience and elaborate to others. I thi nk everyone that went on the trip bonded like family almost. The sweating was my favoritethere is nothing more fulfilling to me than being tired at the end of the day. On this trip I was tired at the end of every day, and I think that says enough . Overa ll I am excited about my next adventure, and I can only hope it is an equally good learning experience! (Participant 16) Another student expressed his interest for further travel: I retained and grew my interest for traveling. Going [abroad] showed me that I want to keep traveling and seeing more things. There is so much out there, and I want to see at least a few parts of it (P articipant 14) Another student expressed his desire through this study abroad to acquire information and ideas to bring them bac k to his university and start planning


51 future projects (P articipant 5) An additional student in case one said: I think it allowed us to engage in a way that most tourists never have the chance to. I met a lot of good people and engaged in many activities that will be with me for a lifetime (P articipant 16). Case 2 The findings for case two are presented similarly here. Following the previous structure, findings are divided into before, during, and after the experience. Before The students in the second case received three pre-sessions that included course costs, liability issues, prop er clothing, course activities, and cultural issues and expectations. These were led by the instructor. Many of the students in this group had traveled abroad to varying extents. One of the students expressed that she felt better having these sessions with the professor beforehand because it made her feel more comfortable ( P articipant 18) During The students in this group were overall very pleased with their study abroad experience. Pertaining to the courses daily structure the students found it to be a good balance between class time and free time (Researchers field note s July 2 ). They enjoyed having the afternoons to themselves. They also felt that the two hours in the classroom and then the other two outside provided them with the opportunity to see the course content in the unique topical context. A ccordingly, the students made positive comments about their extracurricular activities such as the community visits and language exchange dinners with local students. Students described their experiences as the bes t dinner we had great company (P articipant 24) and helpin g the local


52 community was not what I anticipated (P articipant 19) One student described her exp erience with the community as one of the best experiences I had on our trip (P articipant 23) Students felt that these greatly activities enhanced their ex perience. Figure 49 illustrates the students as they interacted with their community visits. Learning Activities This group had many off campus activities, several of which were made to enhance student understanding of their topic in the humid tropics. Students felt that the field trip was just about the most informing day we had all trip (P articipant 19) Another stated: t he coolest part of the day was when a [local] forester took us out into some dense forests where t hey perform selective logging. We were able to see some awesome wildlife and plant life relatively deep in the jungle (P articipant 25) The students also had a few days to see what else their host country had to offer. One student described their extracurricular activities as probably the most exhilarating and eventful days of the whole trip (P articipant 19) Students were involved in several trips one of which was hosted by a company that demonstrated the practices they were learning in class. Figure 4-10 shows the students engaged during their field trip. After In the second case, a student expressed a new career interest: This learning experience inspired me to possibly pursue a career that would help these types of nations improve their current states (P articipant 25) Similarly, another student stated that he began to think of ways an American could get involved in international work (P articipant 27) Participant 19 stated that the study abroad program was the best experience I have ever had in my life The experiences of students in both cases one


53 and two expressed how it was a unique experience that changed them in one way or another. Summary This study has presented two very different cases. Each case is unique therefore the purpose of this research is to help the reader synthesize the data provided. With this in mind, although they were both very different cases, there were some similarities. Students appreciated and felt more comfortable with a varying degree of preparation before departure. Overall, the students felt that they were more prepared due to their pre departure sessions. The pre -sessions for both groups were similar in context although time spent on each topic area varied. Both groups received information about the course, clothing considerations, cultural awareness and course expectations prior to departure. The information provided to both groups helped them mentally, emotionally, and physically prepare for their international experiences. During the experience the students synthesized an incredible amount o f information. There were several different themes that emerged in the first case. They were: language, culture, gender, learning activities, and reflection. Language and culture were two themes that the students experienced through their time interacting with different people on the trip. Students were able to see the different gender roles present in the Latin American culture. The students also gave insight into the coordination of their experience. Themes of learning activities and reflection were ident ified. Both the first and the second case presented considerations for the structure of the study abroad course. Students in both cases felt that preparation was key to a successful program. Accordingly, timeliness and communication were also emphasized. T he importance and value of reflection were presented during the experience.


54 Reflection allowed the students to process the information further and helped them consider different points of view from their classmates. Finally, after the experience, the students from both cases felt that the study abroad programs made a difference in their lives. The students began to think about their futures involving international work, a desire for further travel, and stated that the study abroad program was one of the be st experiences of their lives. Students made commentary not only for their own purposes, but in hopes for the betterment of future programs. Overall, both cases presented many considerations to best practices for study abroad programs.


55 Figure 41. Participant 7 speaking with the farm owner, navigating through the language barrier. ( photo by Mary Rodriguez) Figure 42. Farm owner preparing a treat for her student guests on their farm visit. (photo by Mary Rodriguez)


56 A) B) Figure 43. Students learning about crop production. A) Students listening to the professor teach about pineapple production. B) Students engaged in planting the pineapple as the first step in the production process. (photo s by Mary Rodriguez)


57 Figure 44. Students in a classroom during one of several lectures. ( photo by Mary Rodriguez) Figure 45. Students wi th the children at their farm visits. ( photo by Mary Rodriguez)


58 Figure 46. Students listening to the tour guide at the coffee plantation and processing plant. (photo by Mary Rodriguez) Figure 47. Students enjoying their time off together as they explored their host location. ( photo by Mary Rodriguez)


59 Figure 48. Students during their reflection session. (photo by Mary Rodriguez) Figure 49. Students with the family during their community visit. ( photo by Mary Rodriguez)


60 Figure 410. Students listening to an expert speak about sustainable practices pertaining to their area of study. ( photo by Mary Rodriguez)


61 CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION Introduction The current study posed the question: What are the best practices before, during, and after for a successful study abroad program? The participants in this study were students from several universities around the United S tates. They all participated in two separate three week study abroad program s and were hosted by the same university in a Latin American country. Even though the cases were two very distinct programs, there were similarities which made them successful experiences. This Chapter will discuss conclusions from the study and relate them with existing literature on study abroad programs. Implications and recommendations for research and practice will also be presented. Conclusions Study abro ad programs are very dynamic experiences. Upon careful analysis of both cases, the researcher identified several themes which emerged within the data. Activities before, during, and after were identified within each case. Many of these themes coordinated nicely with Roberts and Jones (2009) model for facilitating an international experience (F igure 2-1). The students emphasized different aspects of this model according to their experiences. Each student in the study placed high value on study abroad programs upon completion of their programs. Before Based on the data collected, the best practices before are: addressing concerns about safety, cultural considerations, travel preparation, identifying preexisting knowledge and preflection. To begin, a student must feel comfortable before further


62 learning can be addressed. Beard and Wilson ( 2006) found that some primary emotions such as fear can have an important impact on learning. Accordingly, Wingenbach et al. (2006) found that students were unwilling to participate in international experiences because of barriers such as: safety concerns, lack of cultural knowledge, communication barriers, and fear of the unknown to name a few. To address these fears, pre-sessions geared towards particular topics can greatly reduce a students worries about embarking on a study abroad Both cases did this to varying degrees. Addressing concerns about safety and cultural considerations early can greatly enhance a students ability to learn before departur e and upon arrival in the foreign country. Tritz and Martin (1997) stated that with experience, a new country or new situation is handled better because psychologically one is better prepared (p. 52). Giving the students an overview of cultural practices and how they might be encountered will h elp identify potential cultural shock that could be a factor feeding their fear. According to McGowan (2007), preparation aids students with cross -cultural adjustments and makes experiencing another culture more enjoyable resulting in a more rewarding stu dy abroad program (p. 65). Further preparation should also include traveler tips. Students tend to worry excessively about what to bring and have a tendency to over pack for their study abroad experience (McGowan, 2007). A packing list specific to their p rogram can be tremendously helpful. Having this in hand will further allow students to concentrate on other aspects of their study abroad preparation. The previous topics were geared towards the emotional and physical needs of the learners prior to their study abroad experience. Roberts and Jones (2009) stated that educators should make sure students have sufficient details about the experience and


63 its potential application to reduce anxiety and stress while at the same time increasing excitement and foc us (p. 406). To help enhance their focus, preflection is an important part. Neither the first nor the second case included this in their preparation for the students. Accordingly, identifying perceptions and preexisting knowledge is just as valuable. In the first case, both of the above were addressed with the students. Tritz and Martin (1997) stated perceptions will vary with each indiv idual and how we view the world it is important to identify perceptions of people from ones host country as well as h a ve a sense of self awareness by knowing what perceptions one had of the country one will be in it is important that each student going abroad is cognizant of various wor ld views and attitudes. (p. 53) The first case indentified students perceptions of the culture they were to visit and addressed those within the pre-sessions. Similarly, preexisting knowledge is important to address because as stated by Roberts and Jones (2009), all new knowledge builds o f f of existing knowledge (p. 406). Knowing the s tudents previous knowledge allows for the educator to address misconceptions and to build a solid base for the new knowledge they will gain through their experience. During While the students are in country, they will have an overwhelming amount of st imuli to sort through. It is the educators duty to help the students through the process of sorting through and making connections. The data collected presented t he following best practices during a study abroad: course structure, community involvement, e xtracurricular activities, and reflection. These themes were present in both cases although they varied in intensity within each one. To begin, the most important best


64 practice for an educator is to prepare the course structure to give the students the mos t interactive experience possible. During the study abroad, the student is looking to experience their course content in the environment in which they find themselves. The educator should ensure that their course allows for this. In the first case, student s felt that they were spending too much time in the classroom and not enough experiencing. Similarly the students stated that they valued hands on experiences more than knowledge gained in a classroom setting. Beard and Wilson (2006) emphasized the need to link the mind and the body. Both case one and case two show that the students felt they learned better and more when working one on one with the topic at hand. Involving the student in their learning experience will produce better results. Course structure also includes planned down time for the students. In the first case, the students did not have much time for themselves although when they were given some time, they enjoyed building the relationships amongst their fellow classmates, having time to work on course assignments, exploring their environment. In both the first and the second cases, students commented that they were glad for time off scheduled course activities Accordingly, three weeks of an intense study abroad experience can create a s evere fatigue in the students. According to Maslow (1943), sleep and rest are physiological needs that must be met. He further stated If all the needs are unsatisfied, and the organism is then dominated by the physiological needs, all other needs may beco me simply non existent or be pushed into the background (p. 373) The students need to have this down time in order to recover from the days


65 activities, synthesize what they have experiences thus far, and prepare themselves for further learning. Involving oneself in the community in their host country is an excellent way to enhance cultural awareness and to allow students to make further connections with their location. Students in both cases one and two not only enjoyed their interactions with lo cal families but also felt that they were able to experience another part of their host country that they may not have otherwise. Additionally, students appreciate their interactions with students from the host university. McGowan (2007) encouraged student s to make friends with host country students and spend time with them. Engaging on a personal basis allows students learn more about the culture and have the experience of sharing their own with others. Extracurricular activities can enhance learning by adding a different dimension to the experience. Utilizing local resources to teach the course topics is an excellent way to show the students application first hand. Case two did an excellent job of including different dynamics to the program by implementing field trips with corporations utilizing methods discussed in class. The students were able to learn about it and then see it being implemented. Students felt that they learned much more through these activities. Similarly, the first case made several tri ps to different operations pertaining to the course topic. Trips and extracurricular activities should be well planned and run smoothly. Several students expressed frustration at poorly planned activities and felt strongly against wasting time waiting. La stly but most importantly, the best practice for a study abroad program is the inclusion of reflection during the experience. Roberts and Jones (2009) emphasized


66 reflection as a necessary part of an international experience. This is not only beneficial for the student but also for the instructors and the program itself. Including the students in decision making for activities within the course will make them feel more a part of the process. As illustrated through the data with the first case, students valued their guided reflection time. It was used not only as an exchange of ideas but also a time to express their thoughts and emotions about a number of issues. Both cases also implemented personal journaling although with different methodology. However the j ournaling is manifested, it allows students to reflect on their experiences and synthesize their inputs further. After As indicated earlier, the data collection protocol provided little data about after an experience. De spite the lack of data, there are two best practices that should be implemented after a study abroad experience: reflection and motivating students for further learning. It was evident in both cases that reflection after the experience was needed. At the end of the experience, ideally, the students would have had another reflective session after a few weeks. Unfortunately, this was not the case and there was no follow up for either case. It might take a student to remove himself or herself from the experience to see how his or her life has changed. This post reflection would have allowed students to explore how the experience changed them and what they had learned after being able to reflect on the experience as a whole. Accordingly, throughout the data of both cases, students found that th ey had increased motivation to learn more about other cultures, to travel again, and even had peaked career interests. Dwyer and Peters (2004) found that the long term impact of study abroad on a students personal, professional, and academic life [is] t hat study


67 abroad positively and unequivocally influences the career path, world view, and self confidence of students (p. 56). Motivating students for further learning would help students see where these new thoughts and desires might take them. Implicat ions As a result of the data, many implications related to study abroad programs rise to the surface. There are many studies demonstrating the many benefits of students participation in study abroad programs. Yet, there is a lack of literature supporting the best practices for study abroad programs. The present study added the perspective of agricultural programs to the spectrum of research on the phenomenon. Despite this addition, this study can only represent these two very specific groups of students. To further confirm the studys findings, further research should be conduc ted to replicate the study in similar and dissimilar context s Study abroad has become a national issue. In this global world, every aspect of todays life feels the effects from around the world. The United States government has taken note and is determined to better prepare its future work force. In June 2009, the House of Representatives approved an act called the Paul Simon S tudy Abroad Foundation A ct which is a visionary bi ll to address today's need for more Americans to know more about the rest of the world as a basic part of their undergraduate education. By numbers ranging from 77 percent to more than 90 percent, Americans believe that it is important for their children t o learn other languages, study abroad, attend a college where they can interact with international students, learn about other countries and cultures, and generally be prepared for a global age, according to a national survey conducted by Lake Research Par tners and the Tarrance Group. (NAFSA, 2009, p.1 )


68 With initiatives from the government and within universities themselves, it is important to establish best practices for the study abroad programs that will be giving students these experiences. There are many different studies that further understanding of study abroad programs. In order to widen the lens of the study, programs of different lengths, locations, and areas of study within agriculture could be explored. Studies could be conducted usi ng quantitative methodology for the data to be comparable. Accordingly, a tool to measure the effectiveness of various study abroad practices would also be helpful to quantify usefulness of each. Furt hermore, Colleges of Agricultural and Life Sciences are in need of further research to attract more of its students to study abroad. In a study conducted by Open Doors (2009), students in agricultural studies only accounted for 1.2% of the 262,416 students that studied abroad in 2007/ 2008. I n order this sector of the university to internationalize, it first needs to encourage its students to involve themselves in international experiences. Irani, Place, Lundy, and Friedel (2004) identified students perceptions and levels of interest for international opportuni tie s for students in the colleges of a griculture. In their study, they found that students had very good perceptions of international involvement and demonstrated interest in taking advantage of many of the international opportunities. There is a disparity between students desires to participate in international activities and students acting upon those desires and engaging. The experiential learning cycle was identified as the leading framework for study abroad programs. Roberts and Jones (2009) model was presented as a possible


69 framework for study abroad programs. Further research is needed to corroborate their framework. Conducting studies using quantitative methods for comparison and qualitative methods such as content analysis of journals and focus gr oups could prove effective as additional supporting literature. Recommendations There is much research that needs to be conducted in the area of study abroad programs and the colleges of agricultural sciences. Much research has been conducted to detail th e importance of study abroad programs. The need is to r esearch and find out more about motivation of students to study abroad and how to overcome the barriers identified by previous research should be conducted. As stated in this study, the colleges of agr iculture and life sciences have one of the lowest rates for students to study abroad. It would be beneficial to universities to investigate how to be best meet the needs of their students and encourage their travel abroad. As pertaining to the findings of this research, i t is recommended that educators facilitating study abroad programs take into consideration the best practices illustrated in this study In order to better describe the best practices, the researcher has devel oped a model (figure 51). In this model, the researcher illustrated the three stages of a study abroad program: before, during, and after. In conjunction with the data collected and the literature she detailed the best practices for each stage. This is by no means meant to be a complete guide to best practices all though it can potentially serve as a starting point when coordinating a study abroad program. Conclusion Education, amongst many other facets of the United States, finds itself needing to internationalize to meet the global demands of todays world. Johnson and Mulholland


70 (2006) commented that if U.S. leadership is crucial for the world, then the United Stat es must understand the world. Today, our country is woefully unprepared to do that (p. 6). In order to meet this demand for better prepared leaders and graduates, universities are encouraging students to engage in international activities, study abroad being one of several options. In a statement by Judith McHale, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs as captured in the Open D oors Report (2009), she said: Today more than ever before, study abroad can help our students to underst and our interconnected world and to participate productively in the global economy (p.1). Study abroad has been identified as a highly effective method of acquiring global knowledge. The study abroad experience starts before the students depart for the ir host country and continues well after the student returns for the program. Understanding this, educators facilitating study abroad programs should incorporate the experiential learning theory into the experience as the student is constantly experiencing and learning. In lieu of the above, t he study at hand found best practices for study abroad programs through information given from participants on two separate international experiences. Using student journals, researcher field notes, reflection sessions, and personal interviews, the researcher built the study on t hree different stages: before, during, and after. Similar themes were identified and used to create a model ( F igure 51) to depict the best practices for each stage. Study abroad programs should be coordinated with the student in mind. Doing so would incorporate best practices to enhance student learning and engagement throughout the experience.


71 Figure 51 A model for best practices for study abroad program s Before Pre sessions safety concerns identifying perceptions increasing cultural awareness logistical preparation Preflection During Course structure experiential learning cycle hands on activities off campus activities cultural interactions scheduled down time Reflection guided group reflection individual journaling After Post Reflection individual journaling Motivation for future learning guided group discussion


72 APPENDIX A R ESEARCHERS PERSONAL REFLECTIVE JOURNAL May 20 Students arrived today! I am very excited to get to know them all! I hope that they get to really enjoy this experience. We are headed back to the host university. We took them all to their houses and gave them time to settle in. We all walked together to the cafeteria and chatted to get to know each other. They were all so excited to be here! Once in the cafeteria, the students all stuck together and seemed to be happy here and finally sitting down to dinner. We had a quick get to know you session. I was hoping that there would have been some activities to get the students comfortable with each other but the professors didnt really plan it out well. The professors that had arrived earlier had spent the day getting all the last minute things ready. What a l ong day! I am getting really anxious to get started. May 21 First full day with the students! We started off with an orientation session with the provost of the host university and with the head of international programs. They both spoke about how the un iversity was very special and that we were to conduct ourselves as professionals while on the campus. Each professor also gave a brief introduction about themselves and what their role would be in the course. It was exciting to see all the different things they would be learning throughout the course. I also told them about the research I was conducting and asked for IRB signatures to make sure it was all okay. We were all getting a bit restless just sitting there so we quickly took a break and got ready to take a campus tour. We met our tour guides and split into three different groups. Our tour guide took us all over campus and then we all loaded onto the bus and


73 went to see the farms. We went to the dairy, beef, and pig production farm. Students were all pretty impressed. There was a lot to see and not enough time. At this point, we all got together and went to have lunch. After lunch, we had our first lesson with a host university faculty member. We started by harvesting heart of palm which was in itself really hard work for such a little bit! Many of the students got right out there and tried it! I took pictures while they tried it. The professor had a great way of teaching us. We were meant to see the entire process from start to finish which was really neat anyways. So, the first step was to plant. We began by planting pineapple. Every one of the students got involved! The professors mostly stayed in the shade, although some did come and try it out. We them moved to harvest the pineapples that were ready on another lot. YUM! It was fun to see all the smiles and sticky faces! We also worked with jam, and with sweet potatoes. The students demonstrated great team work! We all came back to the campus just in time for dinner. We didnt get to shower or change so we managed the best we could. After dinner, the professors had created a set of seminars to let the students know what they were doing at their home universities. Only three host university students came. I found out later that a group of students had j umped into the pool with all of their clothes on! Well, after that, we all went back to the houses what a long day. We were all thoroughly exhausted. May 22 One of the professors gave his lecture on organic agriculture. It went pretty well, he is a capt ivating lecturer. We then headed out to see the organic farm on the campus to learn a little more about what we had just spoken about. I really enjoyed seeing the organic farm and saw that the students were very interested and asked lot of questions.


74 Altho ugh, there was a small group of students that stuck with one of the lead professors and mainly asked him questions and not the other professor. I saw that this group enjoyed this one on one interaction as opposed to more of a tour guide setting. Good to no te. After lunch, we had more lectures by two other professors. The first lecture was very interesting and she did a great job to include the students in the discussion. Although, there was way too much information given to the students. The next lecture wa s not as captivating. You could see students in the room were getting upset about what she was saying and were getting irritated. Then, poor guys, I knew they must have been tired, but we took a short break and then had the first reflective session. It wen t great! Everyone was really attentive and gave great opinions. I feel that it was really valuable for them to see what others were thinking and feeling. I cant wait to see how the others go! Finally, time to go back to the houses. May 23 What a long, l ong day. We started the day early with the first farm visit. I was hoping to stay with the professors so that I could get to see the students interacting with all the farms. This was not the case. I had to stay with a group of students because the farmer w as not there, only the farm hand, and he didnt speak a word of English and was very shy. No worries though. The guy was very shy and didnt say very much and really, neither did the students. Slowly though, both started to open up and ask questions. The f arm was beautiful. It was nothing like we had expected. I thought that we were going to see more of a ranch style farm where this one was an ecotourism farm. It had been in the works for two years with only the farmer and his farm hand working it. It looke d great yet there were a few places that still needed a b it of work.


75 The students seemed to get into the farm and asked great questions and really enjoyed walking all over and seeing some really neat plants and critters! Afterwards, we loaded the bus and headed down to pick everyone else up. We went back to have lunch and then went out to the ethno botanical garden for another lecture on medicinal plants. This went well. The professor gave the students a more active role and gave them each a plant to learn about then teach the class about it. They were also able to taste, smell, and see some great plants! They really loved this. We gave the students the opportunity to relax, go home, and shower. The day was nowhere near over. They all arrived at dinner very nicely dressed. Some however, were a little more scandalously dressed. So, after being stared at all through dinner, we went to meet our dance instructors! They were to host university students. This was great fun! All the professors also got moving! Af ter a while, we all loaded into the bus and headed out for a dance to a place nearby. At first, our group of students kept to themselves, but as the evening went on, they danced with others too. We stayed a while, but left all together not too late. The ni ght however, did not end there for me. One of the girls had a little too much to drink and had to be taken to the emergency room. By the time we got back with her, it was near 6 am the next morning. May 24 I left today to go to Puerto Rico. I was complet ely exhausted. It was a crazy long night. I hope the students have a good few days and the gal that got sick learns her lesson and feels better too. May 28


76 Finally got back to Costa Rica! I met the students at lunch time at a mall in the capital city. It was good to see them. We headed to the center of town to visit a museum of gold. We were late and the guide was not in a good mood at all. Were not often on time for anything. The museum was nice but the tour got a little long towards the end. Afterwards we left to go back to the host university. The students said they had a lot to tell me. That they did. We got back for dinner and then had a reflection session. Phew! They had a lot to complain about. While I was gone, theyd had a lot of lectures and we re tired of sitting in a classroom. After hearing all of their concerns, I mentioned perhaps that it was not just the course that was not going well, but their attitudes as well. Many agreed and all said they would work on it. I went to speak with the two lead professors about some of their concerns in hopes that it would be fixed so that they could all have a bit more fun. May 29 Lectures, lunch, lab. Nothing exciting today. I spent most of my day in the office working with one of the professors on bu dgeting things. The students were not overly excited about their day either. They had lectures on entomology and plant diseases today. Interesting topics but again, a lot of information. They used the lab to look at some specimens they collected. I check ed in on them, and they were not all engaged. The day was long and a bit boring. May 30 What a great day today. Started off early with work experience. Here, the students were split into different groups and matched with a group of host university student s. They went to a few different farms around the campus. I went to all the areas


77 and took video of each of them working and explaining what and why they were doing. Most of them seemed to have enjoyed this. Afterwards, it was back out to the farms. We dropped everyone off and I once again stayed with the group from the first visit. This time, the students came prepared to give the farmer some suggestions about what they thought might be of help to him. The farmer was very attentive and appreciative of their suggestions. The students did a great job. We invited the farmer to the university for the following week to see the student presentations and to have dinner with everyone. We all got together at one of the farms and had lunch. Then, we took a 45 min hike to a waterfall on her property. One of the students had difficulty doing the hike so I gladly stayed behind with her. It was amazing when we arrived. Everyone was having a great time swimming and jumping off rocks into the water. This lead to more student climbing all the way up the waterfall and jumping from up there! None of the professors said anything. It was really making me nervous. Finally, what I thought might happen, happened. One of the girls jumped off and landed wrong and hurt herself. The guys made a makeshift stretcher from rope, bamboo and their t shirts. They showed an incredible amount of strength and team work. Thank goodness for such a great group. The ambulance arrived at the farm and took her to the hospital to make sure she was alright Another trip to the hospital, not fun. I stayed with the students and two of the professors went with her. Long day. May 31 Beach! Finally. We went to the beach with the whole group. It was a bit dirty so not many students bathed, but had a good time no netheless. They students got to do a


78 little shopping for souvenirs and ate where ever they pleased. It was interesting to see the dynamics of the groups after sometime together. June 1 Today, they had a lot of time in the classroom. They did go out and do some nitrate testing but I am not sure the group as a whole were engaged during the discussion of what they did. The best part of the day was the afternoon. I had spoken to one of the English teachers at the university and arranged a coffee session for th e students to speak to other students learning English. Everyone was so engaged!! Great to see it! I asked a few what they had thought and many really enjoyed it! It was great to see the interaction. They did mention however that they wish this would have happened earlier. Cant wait to hear what else they think. I had a great talk with one of our students on the walk back. It was neat to hear what he was thinking when talking to the Latin American student. June 2 After a lecture first thing in the morning, we got on the road for a coffee tour. It was a really long drive and am personally not sure it was completely worth it. We got there around lunch time. We all ate outside and met the guy who was to give us the tour. He was not the most engaging speaker and it was difficult for me to even pay attention. We then got to walk around a bit. The lead professor asked him to show us his plants, which was not something on his agenda. He obliged but almost seemed taken aback by the request. Weird. We then saw a sh ort video of the plantation and toured an old coffee plant. We headed off after shopping in their gift shop. The reflection session tonight went well. They all reiterated that they enjoyed the activity with the


79 students but again, felt it would have been n ice to have at the beginning to have known some students earlier. June 3 Presentations today. The students had the morning to work on their presentations. They call came down very nicely dressed. The farmers arrived and the presentations went well. I feel that the famers were a little unclear about why they were there and what they were seeing. Some of the presentations were very well put together and others seemed unorganized. Although there was one that used some humor to get the audiences attention. I am on the fence about this one. I think it was clever, but they used American references and comments that the farmers were not aware of and did not understand. It made the class laugh, but it made the farmers uncomfortable. Another issue was that of translation. T he lead professor had a student translate and I really felt this was not appropriate. Mainly because he interjected his own opinions and commentary into others presentations. He also omitted things and did not represent the presentations clearly I think that this could have been avoided had someone who was not invested in the projects as the translator. The students gave the farmers a few great pictures of themselves and their farms with a few little tokens. Then, we all went to dinner in the ca feteria. The groups sat with their farmers and attempted conversation. I really enjoyed watching a particular student and the farmer he had worked with. Both were very engaged in conversation through the whole meal! June 4 Today were the Latin American r eality presentations. They went sell but you could tell that the students did not put in as much effort as they could have. The


80 conversations from the presentations were decent. Many of the students had not been able to sufficiently research their topic and many questions were left unanswered. It was a long and not too exciting day. We had them do a peer assessment but felt that it was not done well. June 5 We left the host university today. It was bitter sweet. Many of the students said that they were ready to go but others expressed they wished they had had more time there. With all our bags packed, we headed to a local professors dairy farm. He, however, was not able to be there and so his brother showed us around. The students seemed fairly engaged at the beginning but then lost interest quickly. We then thanked the family and went to a nearby tilapia farm. This was very different from what we had seen before. We toured their operation and ate fresh tilapia for lunch. After lunch, we left to the volc ano area to spend a few days. It was pouring rain and we had to stay at a restaurant for a while until we were able to cross a bridge to get to our hotel. June 6 We started late this morning with a volcano hike lead by a shaman from a native tribe. The w hole group the help of two other guides took a long 6 hour hike! It was supposed to have been a light hike. It was very hard for some and slightly difficult for most. I once again ended up staying with one of the students that could not make the hike. I di dnt mind this at all. Someone needed to stay and we just enjoyed our time together. The scenery was amazing! We finished the hike late, of course, and then went straight to a zip line company for a quick lunch and a canopy tour. We were not able to


81 do the whole tour because we were so late. This timing is getting a little silly. Were nearly always late. All went back to the hotel exhausted after a long hard day. June 7 We went into the nearest town for the students to do a little shopping then went back to the canopy location for them to see the butterfly and frogs. Then, we made our way to our next location. We arrived at our hotel with some time before having to get re ady for dinner. Dinner went well and that evening we had a session with another researcher for the grant project. The students were a bit unresponsive to her. Guess they were tired too. June 8 We headed out this morning to meeting with a cotton breeding company. I was very curious to hear what people thought about this operation. There were a lot of preconceived notions about this particular company. The fields were a lot smaller than what I was expecting. There were only women working that day in the fie lds which raised a lot of questions from the group. Some students were interested in hearing the talk about the company while others were a bit distracted. We walked into the fields to get a closer look at what the ladies were doing. It was interesting to see who and how many of the students went and actually engaged in speaking with the ladies or just getting closer to see. Afterwards, we had lunch and went to their lab facilities to take a tour there. The students seemed to somewhat enjoy this whereas oth ers, again, seemed very disconnected. Went back to the hotel and had the last reflection session before leaving to dinner. This went well and I got some great feedback. The people from the cotton breeding company came to dinner with us where one of the pro fessors


82 recapped the days activities. One student later expressed his frustration that those guests had to sit through the presentation and that he saw no point to having them there. June 9 We left for the last location of the trip. This was again not w ithout problems. We arrived late at the location. The students went straight to work on their last presentations and had a final session with the researcher. This was not received well as they felt that they did not have anything to say to her and were tir ed of talking about the trip for research. Well, we packed them up and went to the beach were we had an amazing cookout and a really nice time with everyone! Came back to the ranch where we were staying and presented their final presentations. It was a great way to end the trip. The students gave their thanks to the faculty and staff and vice versa. There were definitely a few tears going around. The guys had to stay at a hotel nearby while the girls stayed on the ranch in a dorm style room. We stayed up late chatting and said goodbye to everyone. Some of the students had to leave super early so I made sure they got up and were ready when it was their turn to leave. June 10 Thats it. The last day. We had breakfast with the last students. They were all pretty quiet. WE dropped them off at the airport and said goodbye to them all. It was sad to see them go. Time just flew by. Great experiences, great times, great people.


83 APPENDIX B F IELD N OTES AND R ESEARCHERS PERSONAL N OTES CASE 2 June 15 26 I have been working hard to get ready for Case 2 I have had the assistance of The administrative assistant but have been in charge of making sure that everything is ready! It has been a great responsibility. Although, I must say t hat its been a little difficult at times to work with some of the people here at the host university There is never any rush to do anything you ask. Many people are hard to reach and then when you ask them about something, you have to keep reminding them through emails, calls, even personal visits to get what you need to have done, done. It can be a bit ridiculous at times. No one knows who I am and I think that that also has something to do with it. It seems that people will do things faster for you if t hey know who you are. Frustrating I see why it is important to have someone that knows the University and can communicate well and efficiently with them. I have to dedicate all day for some tasks that would otherwise be done in a few hours at most. Is it perhaps their sense of time? I had only TWO weeks to plan and have everything ready. Some days I felt as though I would not have time, but it has all come together It has been good to know how things work though. I have a better understanding for the syst em here at the host university I am really looking forward to meeting the students. The professor seemed to be excited to have someone here helping him. From the beginning, he has been easy going as far as demands go. I have been in communication with him nearly every day and he is quick to respond which makes my life easier. There are some things that I needed to change in the schedule to be able to accommodate what they wanted to do and to make sure to work with the professor here. That has been another hardship. The


84 professor here is not willing to make a commitment but he wants to be involved it is a little frustrating. He is a nice man and I feel will be invaluable to the class but it would be nice to have more of a solid commitment for his involvement. A few more days and they arrive. There are still things that need to be finalized. No worries, I feel that I am, for the most part, ready. June 28 Case 2 arrived today! What a day I was so excited. I rode there early in the morning to make sure we w e re on time. I was there with a host university sign hoping to gather everyone with no problems for the most part; it was fine the students all seemed excited to be there and to get moving. We waited nearly an hour after our meeting time for two of the st udents who finally arrived. I made sure everyone was fed, and then we headed to the host university I spoke with t he professor and h is wife the whole way there. I can tell that t he professor is very laid back and casual about everything nice to know. I split up the boys and the girls into separate houses and gave t he professor and h is wife house 26 at the end. I shared the house with the boys. They were all excited to get there! They were completely impressed with the houses. We set a time to meet to walk to dinner. The group has odd dynamics as some do not know each other at all and others very well. We went into the cafeteria and they were all a bit nervous. I let a few of them go ahead of me and they all found a place to sit and sat together. After dinner, I told them what time and where to be in the morning. I am getting really excited! June 29


85 Today was a good day went too fast. We started off the morning with wake up calls and sleepy fa ces. Therere not used to waking up this early. They will be! We had an orientation with t he director of international programs It was nice to hear his perspective of the university. It was also more intimate since there were fewer students in this group. We then headed to a computer lab to have the class introduction with t he professor and to talk about a few things that I had planned. Because there was some flexibility in the schedule, I was able to talk him into a few things that were not planned for th e trip. We talked about it and decided to add a day in the community and a work day with the students. There were also some options about the trip off campus that they could chose, so I presented them and will wait to see what they decide. I spoke to a fri end of mine, Jack and set it up for him to give the students a tour of the campus unfortunately, he didnt have enough time, nor did we have transportation available to take a complete tour including all the farms and such. The students got to have the a fternoon off while I worked on completing the cours e schedule and working with the host university professor. Tonight, they had their first Spanish lesson with Alicia She is really sweet and everyone was active and participated throughout the class. I had to leave during the lesson but I did get to hear them practicing questions with her. Dinner was fine, they all sat together, nothing new. I told them the schedule for the next day as far as where and what time to start and I went home to do work. Great fi rst day. June 30 The morning was supposed to start with a lecture in the computer lab, but the host university professor came and found the class and took them to another room to give


86 them an unplanned lecture and then out to the field. We did have a bus ready at 10, but the host university professor told the guy to wait until he was ready it took a while. This was really frustrating because I had transportation booked and rooms reser ved. This is something I need to get used to. It turned out to be great though. The professor is incredibly flexible and appreciates the help from the host university professor no matter if it changes things up. This is really good. The students enjoyed th e host university professor which is also really good. They had their Spanish lessons that night. Alicia decided that the group was better suited to be split into two groups, so starting Wednesday, they were going to split up. This evening, I coordinated a casual meeting with an English teacher to invite our students and her second year English student to have dinner and chat. We reserved the private dining room. It was nice, not too many the host university students came at first, but then a few came in a little later. They were all talking! It was great to see them all interacting. There were a few girls that came in and didnt talk much, but for the most part, there were real conversations going on. The case 2 students really seemed to like this. July 1 This was the day to go out into the community. I made sure that the cafeteria packed their lunches and a bag of rice, beans, coffee and sugar for the farmers whose houses they were going to visit. There was a student that was not feeling well so h is wife s tayed with her and the rest of the students including t he professor and I got up at 5AM to get ready. The students were all put into pairs and then paired up with a host university student that spoke some English. We all loaded the buses, waited around


87 alm ost an hour, had a few stops, and then finally made it to the farmers houses around 8AM! The professor and I were sent to a famers house with two other students. The famers name was Tom He was really nice and gave us a tour of his place. The professor had a lot of questions since he knew mostly about forestry and not agriculture. It was great to spend time with the farmer. We did a little bit of work, but he was mostly interested in talking to us and showing us him place. Apparently, this farmer is one that works the students the most they commented that this was the easiest day theyd had their whole semester! Tom s wife had cooked us lunch and left it there for us to reheat and eat when we were ready. It was great to sit around the table and share a m eal with the students and the farmer. I translated the whole time I was there, but even through the translation, t he professor and Tom were able to have decent conversation. On the bus, everyone was a bit tired, the host university and case 2 students alik e. When we got back, everyone went back to the houses to relax. I went to the office to work. Everyone came back up to campus for their hour of Spanish and dinner. July 2 Today was another full day. We got ready and met up in front of the library to leave f or the field trip with a forestry company A representative from the company came to the host university and we all went on a host university bus to the field trip. This was really good. It had three different stops on the way. The weather was not fabulous but for the most part held up for us. The guide had great English and was able to communicate and answer the questions really well. We had a great lunch and then ended up on our last stop. I had NO idea we were going to hike into the forest! I was comple tely embarrassed because as the coordinator, I should have known and


88 prepared everyone. Well, everyone really understood and enjoyed the hike nonetheless. It was pretty great! We all got back pretty tired. I went back to the office to do work and to get ot her events ready. The students were on their own for the rest of the afternoon until dinner. July 3 This morning went well, with a lecture by t he professor The afternoon was good with the host university professor who was ready to take them on a field tr ip. I was not able to go, so I stayed and worked. I heard later that it went really well. I am glad to know that the host university professor has been such a great hit with the students. Again after their afternoon, they had free time to themselves. Thi ngs are coming together really well. Even though there are still a few things that need to be finalized, it is nice to know that most of it is taken care of. July 4 To the beach we go! We all got ready and left at a decent time in the morning. Although there was a little confusion about when the bus should be there and I had to track it down. No worries though, we left and headed to the beach. It was raining when we got there and not really that great. We let the students have a look around and then headed to another beach. We did a little shopping and had lunch. Then we went to see another beach. This was awesome! The rain had stopped and we got to see some great sights. We stayed there as long as we could then left back to the host university When we got there, the professor and his wife bought everyone pizza and we had a nice time eating and chatting there at their house. That night, we all went out for a night of dancing.


89 July 5 The FAT. Everyone got to sleep in a little which was great. I told them to meet me when they were ready for lunch and I would give them their meal tickets. I volunteered at the USA stand to work for a while. The students came around noon to get their tickets and have a look around. It was really neat! I also got to walk around and see what all there was. The stands the students had built were great! So neat! It seemed everyone had a good time. Although some of th e students decided they wanted to go swimming even though the gate was locked. They got caught and I was reprimanded for this. NOT FUN. Everyone was a little hungry that night, so the girls decided to make banana pancakes. They hung out but I went to bed. Exhausting week! July 6 Today was a full day with the host university Professor I was not there for any of it since I needed to make reservations and confirm the trip that we were about to go on. Since the groups were split up, they had Spanish at different times. The next time I saw everyone was at dinner. Long day of planning. So far so good! July 7 This morning, t he professor gave his presentation and told them about their final project. Then I came and told them about the trip we were about to take and what they needed to pack. Everyone, including myself was excited. I have started to feel sick; I hope that it goes away soon. A few of the other students are feeling the same way. I have sent from some medicine, lets hope it helps. July 8


90 We left early this morning to start our trek to t he cloud forest We took another intern that just needed a ride to the capital city so we dropped her off and headed on through. It took us nearly 6 hours. Long drive. We had packed lunches, so we ate on the bus and just kept on going. I was feeling even worse than I had been and slept most of the way, just waking up to give directions and ensure we were headed in the right direction. The cloud forest was pretty confusing and it took us a while to find the place we were h eading to. We finally arrived and to be honest, I was not thoroughly impressed with the place. But, it turned out to be amazing! So nice! We let everyone pick their rooms and then headed into town before dinner. We all had a little snack, got more medicine, and then went back. We had an awesome dinner and I went to bed. Many of the students stayed up and played cards. By the way, I did not bring a sweater warm enough for the cool night climate. Good thing to know for future trips. July 9 We had breakfast e arly and then headed out to take a hike. This was a busy day. We hiked in the morning, around the property, which I was not able to finish due to being really, really sick. Then we went to find the suspension bridge walk. This was alright. I was really hop ing to see more animals and birds but it was still good. Then we headed back into the town for a little while to kill some time before the night hike. I was really excited but completely disappointed. There were too many people and we only say three diffe rent night animals. It was very crowded and too touristy. We went back for a late dinner and off to bed again! July 10


91 We left early again for the volcano area. We first went to the national park to hike the 1990 -something eruption. This was actually reall y neat! It started pouring hard when we trying to leave. We were all soaked! We waited in the bus for everyone and checked into the hotel in town. We all free time until dinner so they got to walk around the town and I headed to relax for a little while. F inally starting to feel better! We all met again for dinner and went to another hotel for a great dinner. By the time we got back, some of the students wanted to go dancing, so we got ready and headed out to the disco. I told them that they could go, only if they would be ready to get up at 6 AM!! There were not a lot of people there at the beginning but then it got more crowded. We didnt stay out to late and took a bus back in. It was a late night. July 11 We woke up early and got ready to go rappelling and zip lining. Not everyone was excited to wake up early. Well, we got everyone together and we were able to get there on time. There were a few that were not feeling great, but they sucked it up and did it anyways. It was a lot of fun. Although, on the rappel, the professor got hit by a rock and got the wind knocked out of him. That was the not best. We finished the tour, saw the indigenous village and then headed on horseback to the reception again. We ran to the hotel to pick up all the bags and then cam e back to the canopy to see the butterflies, frogs and to play in a nearby river. The students had a great time jumping off the rope swing! It started to rain and we were going to head to the hot springs but it was not possible. We went to the observatory lodge, everyone got settled, had dinner together, and then relaxed. July 12


92 Everyone had a relaxed morning, breakfast at the hotel, hiking if they wanted to, and then we ate lunch and left back to the host university The students were disappointed that they were not able to go to the hot springs, but there was not enough time. No matter how much I tried to plan into the trip, there seems to always be something that changes or that cannot happen. Its all about being flexible. July 13 This day was lectur e for the students, Spanish lessons, and then another dinner with some students. For me, it was working all day and making sure to have the rest of the week worked out. This time for dinner, there were a few more students that came. It was still a nice tim e. The case 2 students went to the game room with the students after dinner. It was great to see them interacting. This group in general seemed to get more comfortable with the host university students earlier and easier. July 14th This was supposed to be a day for their presentations, but t he professor decided to take out the trip to another university since the students had not had too much time to work on their presentations and since he still had some material to cover. This worked out well since it al so ended up being cheaper, no transportation needed. They just had lecture today and their last Spanish lessons tonight. July 15 Today did not go as I had hoped. It was to be their work experience day. They were going to be split into at least two different groups for two different work experiences. Well, one professor changed his schedule at the last minute and all the students went to one together. The idea was for them to work with the host university


93 students. Apparently, there were not any the host un iversity students there not too sure why. This was really disappointing to them and to me. I now know that it is best to go to the professor that is to receive the students and ensure that they know the point of the activity. Also, a few of the students e xpressed that they would have liked to have worked somewhere else. I think that another good idea is to perhaps have a signup sheet of different work areas that are willing to accommodate few students and allow them to choose where they would like to work. That way, they are more spread out and they are happy working where they wanted to. Well, despite it not going as planned, it was not that bad. July 16 Today were their presentations. I was disappointed that I could not be there to listen, but I had a lot of work waiting for me. I needed to make sure everything was paid for and complete since they only had a day left! July 17th Today was their final exam. They had a little while of lecture first and then the exam. It seems to have gone well. I know they were not too worried. Some even went out partying the night before. Crazy kids! I had a little wrap up session with them and had them fill out course evaluations. It was great to hear what they thought went well and what could have been improved. July 18 We all woke up very early and packed up the van, everyone had some breakfast and headed off to the airport. It was sad to see everyone leaving. It went by way to fast! I felt that I was not able to get as close to this group as my other one, but I think th at it is


94 because of the role I had and the time that I had to spend doing all of the logistics ensuring everything was taken care of. I really enjoyed getting to know all of the students and the experience I have had with coordinating a trip. Glad that everything turned out well for the most part and that everyone is leaving happy!








98 LIST OF REFERENCES Acker, D.G., & Scanes, C.G. (1998). A case for globalizing U.S. colleges of agriculture. Journal of International Agricultural Extension Education, 5 (1), 59-62. Ary, D., Jacobs, L.C., Razavieh, A., & Sorensen, C. (2006). Introduction to research in education (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thompson Higher Education. Bhandari R. & Chow, P. (2008 ). Open Doors 2008: Report on International Educational Exchange Institute of International Education, 1823. Beard, C., & Wilson, J.P. (2006). Experiential learning: A best practice handbook for educators and trainers (2nd ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Kogan Page. Bikson, T. K. (1996). Educating a globally prepared workforce Liberal Education, 82(2), 1 -9. Retrieved September 30, 2009, from the Academic Search Premier database. Carey, H.A. (2002). How to prepare for international development work. Journal of International Agricultural and Extension Education, 9 (1), 101108. Crotty, M. (1998 ). The foundations of social research: Meaning and perspective in the research process Lo ndon: Sage Publications. De Lay, A.M. (2008 ). The essence of secondary agricultural teachers experiences with teacher collaboration Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Florida, Gainesville. Denzin, D. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (1994). Handbook of qu alitative research. California: Sage. Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and education. New York: Simon and Schuster. Doolittle, P. E., & Camp, W. G. (1999). Constructivism: The career and technical education perspective. Journal of Vocational and Technical Educ ation, 16(1). Retrieved May 5, 2008 from: http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/JVTE/v16n1/doolittle.html Dwyer, M. M., & Peters, C.K. (2004). The benefits of study abroad. Transitions Abroad Retrieved January 11, 2010, from http://www.transitionsabroad.com /publications/magazine/0403/benefits_study_abr oad.shtml. Guba, E. G. (1981). Criteria for assessing the trustworthiness of naturalistic inquiries. Educational Communication and Technology Journal, 29(2), 7591. Hofstede G. (1980). Motivation, leadership, and organization: Do American theories apply abroad? Organizational Dynamics, 9 (1), pp. 4263.


99 Inda, Jonathan X., & Rosaldo, Renato. (2008). The Anthropology of globalization. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Irani, T. A., Place, N. T., Lundy, L., & Friedel, C. (2004). Experience, perceptions, and likelihood of participating in international opportunities among College of Agriculture and Life Science students. AIAEE: Proceedings of the 20th Annual Conference 273 -283. Jackson, J. (2008). Globalization internationalization, and short -term stays abroad. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 32 (4), 249358. Johnson, V.C., & Mulholland, J (2006). Open doors, secure borders: Advantages of education abroad for public policy International Educa tor 4 7. Jones, B.L., & Bjelland, D. (2004) International experiential learning in agriculture. AIAEE 2004: Proceedings of the 20th Annual Conference, 20 963 -964. Klein, C., Lawver, D., & Davis, C. (2007). Community -based ecotourism design studio in the Yucatan PeninsulaEnhancing study abroad through the inclusion of a service -learning component. Proceedings of the 23rd annual meeting 198208. Knight, J. (1994 ). Internationalization: Elements and checkpoints. Ottawa: Canadian Bureau for International Education. Koernig, S. K. (2007). Planning, organizing, and conducting a 2week study abroad trip for undergraduate students: Guidelines for First -Time Faculty. Journal of Marketing Education, 29 210 217. Kolb, D.A. (1984). Experiential Learning Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Maslow, A.H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370 396. McGowan, M. (2007). Benefits and preparation for an international study abroad experience: A students perspective. Journal of International Agricultural Extension Education, 14(2), 61 67. Merriam, S.B. (1998). Qualitative research and case study applications in education San Francisco, CA: Jossey -Bass. NAFSA: Association of International Educators. (2003). Securing Americas future: Gl obal education for a global age. Report of the Strategic Task Force on Education Abroad. Washington, DC. Osborne, E. W. (Ed.) (n.d.). National research agenda: Agricultural education and communication, 2007 -2010 Gainesville: University of Florida, Departm ent of Agricultural Education and Communication.

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100 Roberts, T.G. & Jones, B. L. (2009). A brain -based, experiential learning framework to guide international experiences AIAEE 2009: Proceedings of the 25th Annual Meeting, 404-411. Roberts, T. G. (2006). A philosophical examination of experiential learning theory for agricultural educators Journal of Agricultural Education, 4 (1), 17 29. Schunk, D. H., & Zimmerman, B. J. (Eds.). (1994). Self regulation of learning and performance. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Schunk, D. H., & Zimmerman, B. J. (Eds.). (2008). Motivation and self -regulated learning: Theory, research and applications New York, NY: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Sweller, J. (1998). Cognitive load during problem solving: Effects on learning. Cognitive Science, 12, 257285. Tritz, J. A., & Martin, R.A. (1997). The collegiate international experience: Criteria for successful experience abroad programs. Journal of International Agricultural and Extension Education, 4(2), 4955. U.S. Chamber of Commerce. ( 2006). G lobal e ngagement: How Americans can win and p rosper in the worldwide economy Washington, D C: James W. Robinson. Wardlo w, G. W., & Scott, F. (2000). Beliefs about a constructivist model for teaching compared with traditional teaching methods among teacher education students. Proceedings of the 27th Annual National Agricultural Education Research Conference 626 -637. Wingen bach, G.J., Chmielewski, N., Smith, J., Pia, M., & Hamilton, W.T. (2006). Barriers to international experiential participation. Journal of International Agricultural and Extension Education, 11(1), 79-89.

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101 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Mary Rodriguez was f irst exposed to agricultural sciences as a sophomore at Texas A&M University. She completed a year and a half at Blinn Community College wherefrom she transferred to Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. Here, Mary took every opportunity to search for the right area of study, finding the department of Agricultural leadership, Education, and Com munication to be what she had been searching for. She strove to become an agriculturalist while also learning to become a teacher. As part of her program of study, she completed a semester of student teaching. While student teaching, she taught 5 different courses, helped coach CDE teams, and assisted students with their livestock projects. This experience was invaluable as it taught her about herself a s a teacher and heightened her desires to work closely with students as they learned about agriculture. While at Texas A&M University, she was recruited by her advisor to pursue a masters degree at the University of Florida. Throughout the two years here, she has had many opportunities to seek how agricultural education can be applied in an international context. Mary is currently at the University of Florida completing her program for a masters in Agricultural Education and Communication with an emphasi s in international education and looks forward to applying the skills she has acquired in an international agricultural setting.