Domestic race relations, particularly between Black and White Americans, continues to be an unresolved issue in this country. A parallel analysis informs us that increasing numbers of college students are choosing to study abroad, an experience proven to be one of intense introspection and personal growth. This study aims to show that White undergraduates who have substantive intercultural experiences with difference via participation in study abroad programs may develop positive racial identities and intercultural competence during and after education abroad. A powerful outcome is the potential of study abroad participants to move toward alleviating racial disparities and racism in America.
The design is a sequential mixed methods design using quantitative and qualitative methods. The research questions are: 1) To what extent do White students' intercultural and racial orientations change as a result of having studied abroad? 2) How do White students articulate their intercultural competence development and racial attitude development as a result of having studied abroad? 3) Are the changes in a student's intercultural and racial orientations related? and 4) To what extent do White students perceive a change in their intercultural competence and racial identity? The population are students from a large, Midwestern university who studied abroad for the spring 2008 semester.
The hypothesized connections between intercultural competence (Bennett, M., 1993) and White Racial Consciousness (Rowe et al., 1994; LaFleur et al., 2002) also appear in the empirical findings. Further, data from qualitative interviews indicate that White students can articulate intercultural competence more easily than racial awareness; reasons for this difference are discussed.
Limitations of this study include the low response rate; and the variations in cultural difference that the students in the sample interact with during their study abroad experiences. Policy implications and research recommendations are offered.