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Intercultural competence development during study abroad

PhD ceremony:drs. M.H. van der Poel
When:July 09, 2020
Supervisor:prof. dr. S. (Sabine) Otten
Co-supervisor:dr. J.W.M. de Wit
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Behavioural and Social Sciences
Intercultural competence development during study abroad

In the present dissertation I explored if study abroad – defined as a form of educational mobility for earning credits at the home university and aimed at realizing objectives of internationalization of higher education – contributes to the development of intercultural competence. The research further included measuring if facilitation of cultural learning during study abroad leads to higher levels of intercultural competence after study abroad. 

In four consecutive empirical studies, and one meta-analysis, the different levels of intercultural competence prior to, and after study abroad were measured among 341 students randomly divided over an intervention- and a control group. The outcome was that students generally score low to average on intercultural competence after a five to six months episode of study abroad, also when facilitated in cultural learning during study abroad. However, the research does include indications that a more intensive intervention during study abroad may lead to significantly higher levels of intercultural competence. 

This study did not reveal a systematic relationship between personal characteristics and degrees of change of intercultural competence during study abroad. Further, this study did not reveal that students with supervisors who were trained in intercultural competence score higher levels of intercultural competence than students with untrained supervisors. 

Concerning the instrument used for measuring intercultural competence the conclusion is that for a more sophisticated understanding of one’s intercultural competence development, it is advisable to make use of qualitative data next to quantitative data; test scores alone may not be sufficiently informative.