Undocumented Student Participation in Education Abroad: An Institutional Analysis


  • Paige E. Butler Middlebury Institute of International Studies
  • Meggan Madden George Washington University
  • Nickie Smith George Washington University




Institutional practices, Undocumented students, Study abroad, Education abroad, California, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals


This research explores institutional practices supporting undocumented student participation in U.S. education abroad at a California public research university. This institution successfully enrolled more than 40 undocumented students studying abroad between 2013 and 2016. Four university staff members, an immigration attorney, and eight undocumented students who successfully studied abroad were interviewed. During this time, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was in effect through federal Executive Order, providing some protections for certain eligible youth immigrants living without current legal status in the U.S.  DACA-approved students were eligible to formally access education abroad through a federal U.S. program known as Advance Parole from late 2012 through fall 2017, when the order was rescinded. All student participants studied abroad and interviews were conducted prior to the Fall 2017 Presidential Rescission of DACA and cessation of Advance Parole study abroad opportunities for DACA students. Findings demonstrate that undocumented students navigate study abroad with specific considerations for federal, state, and institutional policies, which may contradict or misalign with institutional practices and methods traditionally utilized to support study abroad students, thus further marginalizing this underrepresented population of students.  This research highlights promising practices supporting undocumented students in education abroad and the findings from these interviews inform international educators and allies how to better support underrepresented students on and off-campus, and suggests considerations for other marginalized student populations interested in education abroad.


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How to Cite

Butler, P. E., Madden, M., & Smith, N. (2018). Undocumented Student Participation in Education Abroad: An Institutional Analysis. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 30(2), 1–31. https://doi.org/10.36366/frontiers.v30i2.409