The Long-term Personal and Professional Impacts of Participating in Study Abroad Programs


  • Don DeGraaf
  • Cynthia Slagter
  • Kelly Larsen
  • Elisa Ditta



Study abroad, Civic engagement, Gender, Academic major, Short term, Long-term, Personal development, Professional development, Education abroad


This study investigates the impact of a semester abroad on students’ personal development through the lenses of gender, academic major, and length of time elapsed since study abroad experience.  Using quantitative data from an online survey of 354 alumni and qualitative data from interviews with 30 of those respondents, the study analyzed the self-reported impact of a semester abroad on alumni’s attitudes, professional goals, ongoing civic engagement, and multicultural/international interest. Although no statistically significant differences emerged in the impact of a semester abroad between male and female respondents, several differences did emerge in respondents based on their academic major and the length of time elapsed since their experience abroad.


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Author Biographies

Don DeGraaf

Don DeGraaf has served as Director of Off-Campus Programs at Calvin College since 2009, where he is also Professor of Kinesiology. He holds an M.A. from Indiana State University, and a Ph.D. from Oregon State University.

Cynthia Slagter

Cynthia Slagteris Associate Professor of Spanish at Calvin College. Her research interests include contemporary literature of Spain; cinema of Spain; the Camino de Santiago, language acquisition and immersion. She holds a Ph.D. from Indiana University.

Kelly Larsen

Kelly Larsenworks for the New Horizons Foundation in rural Romania where her role is to assist in the development and replication of informal education/youth and community development programs, which has spread across Romania and is now taking root in places as diverse as Honduras, Armenia, Moldova, the Dominican Republic, and the United States.

Elisa Ditta

Elisa Dittais Director of Communications at the Association for a More Just Society in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.


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How to Cite

DeGraaf, D., Slagter, C., Larsen, K., & Ditta, E. (2013). The Long-term Personal and Professional Impacts of Participating in Study Abroad Programs. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 23(1), 42–59.