Improving Outreach Activities — Mentoring Youth in a Structured Skills-Based Development Program Increases Personal Growth of College Students Studying Abroad


  • Lily Z. Zhao University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Katherine E. Keil University of Washington
  • Brittany L. Flittner University of Washington
  • Samantha D. Farquhar East Carolina University
  • Edward H. Allison WorldFish



outreach, service-learning, program design, marine conservation


As study abroad education becomes increasingly common, so does the need to understand how different outreach opportunities alter the study abroad experience. To determine how outreach program design links to perceptions of personal growth, we surveyed 72 college students who participated in different youth outreach activities while studying abroad. Being a mentor in a sequenced, active, focused, and explicit (SAFE) youth outreach program increased the probability of perceived personal growth in college students by 27% relative to unstructured outreach activities in the same location. Thus, we suggest the SAFE framework be considered when designing youth outreach activities. Additionally, 44% of respondents considered outreach options as a factor when selecting a study abroad program. Combined, these findings provide an incentive for study abroad organizations to invest in structured youth outreach opportunities for their clientele—in what may be a triple-win opportunity for study abroad organizations, their students, and youth in host country locations.

Abstract in Spanish

A medida que los programas para estudiar en el extranjero se vuelven más comunes, también lo hace la necesidad de entender cómo los diferentes programas de voluntariado impactan la experiencia de estudiar en el extranjero. Para determinar cómo el diseño de programas de intercambio se relaciona con la percepción de crecimiento personal en la población estudiantil encuestamos a 72 estudiantes universitarios que participaron en diferentes actividades de voluntariado para jóvenes mientras estudiaban en el extranjero. Ser mentor en un programa de alcance juvenil secuenciado, activo, enfocado y explícito (SAFE) aumentó la probabilidad de crecimiento personal percibido en estudiantes universitarios en un 27 % en relación con las actividades de alcance no estructurado en el mismo lugar. Con estos hallazgos, sugerimos que se considere el marco SAFE al diseñar actividades de intercambio para jóvenes. Asimismo, el 44% de los encuestados consideró las opciones de voluntariado como un factor al seleccionar un programa de estudios en el extranjero. Combinados, estos hallazgos brindan un incentivo para que las organizaciones de estudios en el extranjero inviertan en oportunidades estructuradas de alcance juvenil para su clientela, en lo que puede ser una oportunidad triplemente beneficiosa para las organizaciones de estudios en el extranjero, sus estudiantes y los jóvenes en las ubicaciones del país anfitrión.


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Author Biographies

Lily Z. Zhao, University of California, Santa Barbara

Lily Zhao is a PhD candidate in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is interested in how we can redistribute the costs and benefits associated with American programming abroad to help reduce inequities in marine science and education. Lily is a former staff member at the School for Field Studies, Center for Marine Resource Studies.

Katherine E. Keil, University of Washington

Katherine E. Keil is an interdisciplinary researcher, educator, and environmental scientist. Her research focuses on quantifying and understanding the ecological effects of environmental stressors, such as ocean acidification, and the implications for human systems. She is passionate about bridging the gap between scientists and policymakers and utilizing applied science to solve complex environmental and societal problems. Katherine received her Master of Marine Affairs and graduate certificate in Climate Science from the University of Washington.

Brittany L. Flittner, University of Washington

Brittany L. Flittner is a Project Specialist with the Spill Prevention, Preparedness, and Response Program at the Washington State Department of Ecology. Her work focuses on amending the program’s oil spill prevention regulations. She has a master’s degree in Marine and Environmental Affairs from the University of Washington. She first became interested in improving environmental education while working as an EcoReps Coordinator at the University of Rochester, where she co-taught a sustainability course for incoming freshmen students.

Samantha D. Farquhar, East Carolina University

Samantha D. Farquhar is a PhD candidate in Integrated Coastal Sciences at East Carolina University. With extensive experience studying and teaching abroad, Sam has received multiple awards, including a Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) award to study French and natural resource management in Canada and a U.S. Student Fulbright Award to study marine protected areas in Madagascar. Sam has also led international exchange programs for high school students in Bonaire and Portugal.

Edward H. Allison, WorldFish

Edward H. Allison is an interdisciplinary scholar and educator with over 30 years of academic and policy experience in marine affairs and sustainable development. He is the Acting Director of Sustainable Aquatic Food Systems at WorldFish and an Affiliate Professor at the University of Washington.


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How to Cite

Zhao, L., Keil, K., Flittner, B., Farquhar, S., & Allison, E. (2023). Improving Outreach Activities — Mentoring Youth in a Structured Skills-Based Development Program Increases Personal Growth of College Students Studying Abroad. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 35(1), 224–248.



Research Articles