Experiential learning

In addition to extra-and co-curricular activities, a number of programs offer service-learning, international internships, and research opportunities, which are intended to help students hone their academic and professional skills while also becoming more immersed in a local culture. There has been an increasing drive to offer options that are aligned to industry needs, incorporating practice-based learning and authentic types of assessment linked to professional fields (Marijuan & Sanz, 2018). While such opportunities may be offered on their own, as a standalone option, others are being woven into more traditional education abroad programs alongside coursework.

Service-Learning-. Service as a component of education abroad has been explored for its potential to contribute to students’ learning and a host community’s wellbeing and development (McBride & Mlyn, 2011). Numerous studies have found evidence that overseas service-learning contributes to students’ linguistic skills (Curtin, Martins, Schwartz-Barcott, DiMaria, & Ogando, 2013; Sherraden, Lough, & Bopp, 2013), as well as intercultural sensitivity and tolerance (Paige & Vande Berg, 2012). Spenader and Retka’s (2015) investigation across different education abroad groups reveals, for example, that the students who made the greatest gains in intercultural competence were those who had completed a service activity as part of their education abroad program. The language environment and housing arrangements were also factors yet not predictors of significant growth.

In addition to what students gain, a few authors remind us of the importance of setting up service-learning experiences that benefit those being served (Jacoby, 2015). Doing so involves carefully considering, “the complex intended and unintended consequences of our work with and in host communities” (Crabtree, 2013, p. 61), as in the drain on local community resources (Lough, McBride, Sherraden, & O’Hara, 2011). By not following recommendations from these and other related studies, there is a very real concern that service-learning activities might be reinforcing bad practices, doing more harm than good (Hartman, 2016).

International Internships-. An unprecedented range of opportunities now exists for students to engage in international internships as part of their university studies, both as a way of giving students additional international experiences, yet also in setting students on a path towards employment (Deakin, 2013). As with domestic pre-professional opportunities, students interning abroad have been found to display increased disciplinary knowledge, a deeper understanding of particular professional fields and prospects for future career pathways (He & Qin, 2017; Wu, 2017), a greater understanding of the importance of global issues for their academic trajectories and future careers (Gates, 2014), and a positive effect on students’ language skills and inter-cultural development (Marijuan & Sanz, 2018).

Despite the apparent gains. Van Mol (2017) notes in a wide-ranging study of European employers that not all employers necessarily value study abroad or international internships in the hiring process, with great variations by country’ and type of skills sought. This finding suggests that international educators need to do a better job of helping students articulate the skills that they’ gain while abroad for employers, as well as to ensure that internships are organized in ways that lead to maximum student outcomes. Moreover, success largely depends on the extent to which an international work experience is integrated within a student’s academic degree and involves considerations of whether and how academic credit is awarded, the level of home university support and mentoring, and the role in which university partners and internship supervisors play in student development (Gates, 2014; Bullock, Gould, Hejmadi, & Lock, 2009).

Research: With more institutions of higher education wanting to prepare students for post-graduate studies and in providing a pre-professional experience, overseas research opportunities have become increasingly popular. In addition to more general education abroad-related outcomes, students conducting research abroad are expected to gain disciplinary knowledge and diagnostic skills.

To test these expectations, a recent study set on a short-term, faculty-directed program in China found that research activities did permit economics students to gain critical analytical and data collection expertise, along with closer connections with mentors and a greater awareness of international affairs (Shostya & Morreale, 2017). Barkin (2016) adds that a research component within an education abroad experience can improve program quality, by overcoming the limitations that come with reduced immersion on a faculty-directed program. Other studies find that undergraduate research helps students cultivate a notion of global citizenship, by' developing learning tied to civic engagement (Streitwieser, 2009), provided that they receive the needed support and oversight to conduct well designed and responsible research that goes through the proper regulatory' channels. To this end, students should be encouraged to share results with locals, for feedback on their findings as well as to ensure that their work benefits the host society.

Further investigation needs to be undertaken to gauge which models are most effective, as with comparative studies examining the length of internship abroad, type of support, effectiveness of an associated academic component, and requirements around language for participants. Even in chapters that describe the positive aspects of in-country fieldwork activities (Oguro, 2016), additional testing will help to back up assumptions.

Student support services

In addition to the other program components outlined above are the program features designed not only to provide needed student support yet also to aid in the attainment of learning outcomes. These services begin before students leave their home country, with advising and pre-departure orientations, and continue through the sojourn until students return home with reentry' activities.

Threaded throughout these activities is a sense that students gain more through mentorship and a series of interventions before, during, and after their sojourn rather than by only completing a program abroad. It has long been argued that students will automatically become more interculturally competent simply by being in a new culture (e.g. Brown, 2009; Vande Berg et al., 2009; Volet & Ang, 1998). A range of interventions is possible to maximize the learning afforded by education abroad programs. The extent to which this occurs varies extensively on the degree to which a given program is embedded within the student’s course of study. While it has been raised in the literature focused on students’ intercultural development outcomes (Bathurst & La Brack, 2012; Jackson & Oguro, 2018), existing research remains mostly in the form of case studies rather than large-scale comparisons between intervention types. Developments in online technologies have more recently opened up opportunities for further options for education abroad (Giovanangeli, Oguro, & Harbon, 2018; Lee, 2018), however the field still needs to interrogate these interventions extensively to determine connections to specific student learning outcomes. It is also important to note that while all students may benefit from mentoring programs, Yao and Mwangi (2017) add that a support system is expressly critical for those who have traditionally been underrepresented in education abroad and may feel out of place overseas, including students of color and first-generation students (See also Barclay-Hamir & Gozik (2018) for an overview of diversity' and inclusion efforts over the past several decades).

Much of the work on support services has focused on packaged programming targeted primarily at U.S. students, which includes coursework, housing, activities, and support services. In other countries, students have been expected to be more independent, without the same level of assistance. That said, more research in this area is being undertaken in other regions, as in Europe with the recently completed Erasmus+ higher education impact study (European Commission, 2019), as well as the work of Perez-Encinas and Rodríguez-Pomeda (2018), both of which argue for improved student sendees. Less attention in these studies is paid to mentorship and interventions, and instead there is an interest in improving support around admissions, living costs, housing, technology, and banking matters. A few recent studies in European institutions (e.g. Ballo, Mathies, & Weimer, 2020; Nilsson, 2020), complement this work by examining international student integration theory' and practices.

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