The Effects of Affect on Study Abroad Students


  • Victor Savicki



Study abroad, Affect, Education abroad


By definition, study abroad students are faced with acculturative stress by virtue of encountering differences in assumptions, values, and expectations of daily living in their host culture. "Dynamic disequilibrium" may allow students to unfreeze their typical mindsets in order to encourage alternate points of view.  However, a somewhat unexamined question concerns the consequences for students when disequilibrium edges over into discontent, distress or dejection.  The current study examines the study abroad experience of students with different levels of affect as a result of their study abroad sojourn.  Students with less positive and more negative affect show higher problematic stress appraisals, more psychological symptoms and less satisfaction.  In addition they used their host culture language less, reported more difficulty in adapting to their host culture, and showed lower evaluation of their national identity.  Precursors to these outcomes are suggested.  A growing need to address affective issues is outlined.  Potential program design issues are mentioned to accommodate to lower affective responses.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Victor Savicki

Victor Savicki is Professor of Psychology, Emeritus, at Western Oregon University. His recent research has focused on stress, coping and adjustment in cross-cultural settings. He has participated in a variety of study abroad programs both as an instructor and a researcher.


Adlaf, E. M., Gliksman, L., Demers, A., & Newton-Taylor, B. (2001). The prevalence of elevated psychological distress among Canadian undergraduates: Findings from the 1998 Canadian campus survey. Journal of American College Health, 50, 67–72.

Beck, A. T. (1967). Depression: Clinical, Experimental and Theoretical Aspects. New York: Harper and Row.

Bennett, J. M. (2008). On becoming a global soul: A path to engagement on study abroad. In V. Savicki, (Ed). Developing Intercultural Competence and Transformation: Theory, Research, and Application in International Education. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Bennett, M. J. (1993). Towards ethnorelativism: A developmental model of intercultural sensitivity. In M. Paige (Ed.), Education for the intercultural experience (21-71). Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press. Inc.

Berry, J. W. (2005). Acculturation. In W. Friedlmeier, P. Chakkarath, & B. Schwarz (Eds.) Culture and Human Development (pp. 291-302). New York, NY: Psychology Press.

Commission on the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Fellowship Program (2005). Global competence and national needs: One million Americans studying abroad. Retrieved January 25, 2011 from

Deardorff, D. K. (2008). Intercultural competence: A definition, model, and implications for education abroad. In V. Savicki, (Ed). Developing Intercultural Competence and Transformation: Theory, Research, and Application in International Education (pp. 32-51). Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Derogatis, L. R. & Melisaratos, N. (1983). The brief symptom inventory: An introductory report. Psychological Medicine, 13, 595-605.

Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49, 71-75.

Engle, L. & Engle, J. (2003). Study abroad levels: Toward a classification of program types. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, IX, 1-20.

Ferguson, E. Matthews, G. & Cox, T. (1999). The appraisal of life events (ALE) scale: Reliability and validity. British Journal of Health Psychology. 4, 97-116.

Fossum, T.A., Weyant, S.A., Etter, L., Feldman Barrett, L. (1998, May). A short and simple alternative to long personality questionnaires. Presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Society, Washington, DC.

Frey, F. E. & Tropp, L. R. (2006). Being seen as individuals versus as group members: Extending research on metaperception to intergroup contexts. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 10, 265-280.

Gudykunst, W. B. (1995). Anxiety/uncertainty management (AUM) theory. In R. L. Wiseman (Ed.), Intercultural communication theory (pp. 8-58). Thousand Oaks CA: Sage.

Hoff, J. G. & Paige, R. M. (2008). A strategies-based approach to culture and language learning in education abroad programming. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, XVII, 89-105.

Izard, C. E. & Ackerman, B. P. (1998). Emotion and self-concepts across the life span. Annual Review of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 17, 1-6.

Joyce, B. R. (1984). Dynamic disequilibrium: The intelligence of growth. Theory into Practice, 23. 26-34.

Laroche, M., Pons, F., & Richard, M. (2009). The role of language in ethnic identity measurement: A multitrait-multimethod approach to construct validation. The Journal of Social Psychology, 149, 513-539.

Lazarus, R. S. (1999). Stress and emotion: A new synthesis. NY: Springer Publishing.

Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping. New York: Springer.

Lazarus, R. S. & Smith, C. (1988). Knowledge and appraisal in the cognition-emotion relationships. Cognition and Emotion, 2, 281-300.

Lewin, T. (2011). Record level of stress found in college freshmen. New York Times [Electronic version]. Retrieved January 27, 2011 from

Marcia, J. (1980). Identity in adolescence. In J. Addison (ed.). Handbook of adolescent psychology (pp. 159-187). NY: Wiley.

Matsumoto, D., LeRoux, J. A., Iwamoto, M., Choi, J. W., Rogers, D., Tatani, H., & Uchida, H. (2003). The robustness of the Intercultural Adjustment Potential Scale (ICAPS): The search for a universal psychological engine of adjustment. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 27, 543-56.

Meyer-Lee, E. & Evans, J. (2008, May). New tools for intercultural outcomes learning assessment In D. Deardorff (Chair) Assessment toolbox for international educators. Symposium presented at the NAFSA Annual Conference, Washington, DC.
Phinney, J. S. (1992). The Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure: A new scale for use with adolescents and young adults from diverse groups. Journal of Adolescent Research, 7, 156-176.

Phinney, J. S. & Devich-Navarro, M. (1997). Variations in bicultural identification among African American and Mexican American adolescents. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 7, 3-32.

Savicki, V. (2010). Implications of early sociocultural adaptation for study abroad students. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad XIX, 205-223.

Savicki, V. (in press). The psychology of student learning abroad. In M. Vande Berg, R. M. Paige, & K. Lou, Education Abroad for the Learner: Theory, Research, Design, & Training. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Savicki, V. & Cooley, E. (in press) American identity in study abroad students: Contrasts and changes. Journal of College Student Development.

Savicki, V., Cooley, E., & Donnelly, R. (2008). Acculturative stress, appraisal, coping and intercultural adjustment. In V.
Savicki, (Ed.). Developing Intercultural Competence and Transformation: Theory, Research, and Application in International Education (pp. 173-192). Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Selby, R. (2008). Designing transformation in international education. In V. Savicki, (Ed). Developing Intercultural Competence and Transformation: Theory, Research, and Application in International Education (pp. 1-10). Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Positive psychology, positive prevention, and positive therapy. In C. R. Snyder & S. J. Lopez. Handbook of Positive Psychology, pp 3-12. New York: Oxford University Press.

Tuccitto, D. E., Giacobbi, P. R., & Leite, W. L. (2010). The internal structure of positive and negative affect: A confirmatory factor analysis of the PANAS. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 70, 125-141.

Ward, C. (2001). The A, B, Cs of acculturation. In D. Matsumoto (Ed.), Handbook of Culture and Psychology. (pp. 411-446). NY: Oxford University Press.

Ward, C., Bochner, S., & Furnham, A. (2001). The Psychology of Culture Shock 2nd Ed. London: Routledge.

Ward, C. & Kennedy, A. (1999). The measurement of sociocultural adaptation. International Journal of Intercultural Relations 23. 659-677.

Watson, D, Clark L.A., Tellegen, A, (1988). Development and validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect: The PANAS scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 1063-1070.

Zautra, A. J., Potter, P. T., & Reich, J. W. (1998). The independence of affects is context-dependent: An integrative model of the relationship between positive and negative affect. Annual Review of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 17, 75-103.

Zevon, M. A., & Tellegen, A. (1982). The structure of mood change: An idiographic/nomothetic analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 43, 111-122.




How to Cite

Savicki, V. (2013). The Effects of Affect on Study Abroad Students. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 22(1), 131–147.

Most read articles by the same author(s)