This mixed-method study examined the impact that international community service experiences have had on college students’ academic learning, cultural understanding, global interest, and sense of global citizenship after studying abroad through programs hosted by Bridgewater State University (BSU). Survey questionnaires were distributed to 427 BSU students who participated in university-sponsored international travel in the past 3 years. A total of 80 students returned completed surveys, and 10 respondents volunteered to participate in face-to-face interviews to elaborate on their experience abroad. Survey results show that 63% of respondents did not have a service component in their travel program, and 74% of those respondents indicated a desire to have done service while abroad. Statistically significant differences were found between the responses of students who did community service while abroad and those who did not with regard to acquisition of cultural knowledge and an inclination toward global citizenship. Interviews reveal that community service experiences create memorable interactions that offer travelers first-hand insight into a foreign country’s culture and social problems. The results provide means for the evaluation of current travel programs and grounds for the potential development of an international service-learning program at BSU.
Nikki Sauber is a senior majoring in Sociology with a concentration in Global Studies. This research was undertaken in the summer of 2011 as an Adrian Tinsley Program Summer Grant project and was mentored by Dr. Jing Tan of the Social Work department. Her work was presented at the 2012 National Conference on Undergraduate Research.
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