Study Abroad Academic Pre-Departure Course: Increasing Student’s Intercultural Competence Pre-Sojourns


  • Kelly Lemmons United States Air Force Academy



intercultural competence, pre-departure preparation, study abroad


Student enrollment in U.S. study abroad programs is at an all-time high, however, the majority of growth is in short-term programs. Some research has shown that short-term programs struggle to increase students’ intercultural competence and can actually serve to reinforce preconceived stereotypes and biases. This study sought to discover if an academic pre-departure course focused on the following seven themes, with the intent to prepare students for their sojourns abroad, would increase students’ intercultural competence: (1) culture, (2) cultural resolution, (3) worldview, (4) journaling and reflexivity, (5) cultural goal training, (6) applied techniques, and (7) a final cultural project. Data was collected using both quantitative and qualitative methods. Findings suggest that a pre-departure course taught in this manner can have a significant impact on students’ intercultural competence, potentially helping to overcome limitations of short-term programs, namely, the limitation of time.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Kelly Lemmons, United States Air Force Academy

Dr. Kelly Lemmons is an Associate Professor at the US Air Force Academy. He has a passion for teaching and conducting research on the topics of cultural geography, economic geography, and travel/study abroad. Before serving at the Academy, Dr. Lemmons served as Department Head and Assistant Dean at Tarleton State University. He is a graduate of Brigham Young University (BS), the University of Massachusetts (MS) and Texas A&M University (PhD). Dr. Lemmons is married to Ami Leatham Lemmons, and they are the proud parents of three children.


Anderson, P., Lawton, L., Rexeisen, R., & Hubbard, A. (2006). Short-term study abroad and intercultural sensitivity: a pilot study. International Journal of Intercultural Relations. 30. 457-469. DOI:

Bathurst, L., & La Brack, B. (2012). Shifting the locus of intercultural learning: Intervening prior to and after student experiences abroad. In M. Vande Berg, R. M. Paige, & K. Hemming Lou (Eds.), Student learning abroad: What our students are learning, what they’re not, and what we can do about it (pp. 261–283). Sterling, Virginia: Stylus Publishing, LLC. DOI:

Baxter Magolda, M.B. (2008). Three elements of self-authorship. Journal of College Student DOI:

Development, 48, 491-508. DOI:

Beck, U., & Sznaider, N. (2006). Unpacking cosmopolitanism for the social sciences: A research agenda. British Journal of Sociology, 57(1), 123. DOI:

Bennett, M.J. (2004). Becoming interculturally competent. In J. Wurzel (Ed.), Towards multiculturalism: A reader in multicultural education (second edition, pp. 62-77). Intercultural Resource Corporation.

Birdsall, S. (2003) Learning to see landscape through a flexible lens. Journal of Geography,102:1, pp. 29-34. DOI:

Byram, M. (1997) Teaching and Assessing Intercultural Communicative Competence (Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters). 34.

Chang Alexander, K., Ingersoll, L. T., Calahan, C. A., Miller, M. L., Shields, C. G., Gipson, J. A., & Chang Alexander, S. (2021). Evaluating an intensive program to increase cultural intelligence: A quasi-experimental design. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 33(1), 106-128. DOI:

Chieffo, L. & Griffith, L. (2004) Large-scale assessment of student attitudes after a short-term study abroad program. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, v10 p165-177 Fall 2004. DOI:

Chirkov, V.I., Safdar, S., de Guzman, J., Playford, K. (2008) Further examining the role motivation to study abroad plays in the adaptation of international students in Canada, International Journal of Intercultural Relations, Volume 32, Issue 5, Pages 427-440. DOI:

Creswell, J. W. (2014). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (4th ed.). SAGE.

Deardorff, D. K. (2006). Identification and assessment of intercultural competence as a student outcome of internationalization. Journal of Studies in International Education, 10(3), 241–266. DOI:

Dewaele, J., Comanaru, R. & Faraco, M. (2015) The affective benefits of a pre-sessional course at the start of study abroad. In: Mitchell, R. and McManus, K. and Tracy Ventura, N. (eds.) Social interaction, identity and language learning during residence abroad. Eurosla Monographs Series 4. Eurosla, 95-114 .

Engberg, M., & Jourian, T.J. (2015) Intercultural wonderment and study abroad. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 25, Spring 2015. DOI:

Engle, L., & Engle, J. (2004). Assessing language acquisition and intercultural sensitivity development in relation to study abroad program design. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 10, 219-236. DOI:

Foote, K., Hugill, P., Mathewson, K, and Smith, J. (1994). Re-reading cultural geography. University of Texas Press.

Giovanangeli, A., Oguro, S., & Harbon, L., (2018) Mentoring students’ intercultural learning during a study abroad. In Intercultural interventions in study abroad. Jackson, J., & Oguro, S. eds. Routledge. DOI:

Glass, M. (2015) Teaching critical reflexivity in short-term international field courses: practices and problems, Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 39(4), 554-567. DOI:

Goldstein, S. B. (2017). Teaching a psychology-based study abroad pre-departure course. Psychology Learning & Teaching, 16(3), 404–424. DOI:

Gray, K., & Savicki, V. (2015) Study abroad reentry: behavior, affect, and cultural distance. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 26, 264-278, Fall 2015. DOI:

Hammer, M. R. (2008). The intercultural development inventory (IDI): An approach for assessing and building intercultural competence. In M. A. Moodian (Ed.), Contemporary leadership and intercultural competence: Understanding and utilizing cultural diversity to build successful organizations, (pp. 203-218). Sage Publications. DOI:

Hammer, M.R. (2011). Additional cross-cultural validity testing of the Intercultural Development Inventory. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 35, 474-487. DOI:

Hanada, S. (2019). A quantitative assessment of Japanese students’ intercultural competence developed through study abroad programs. Journal of International Students, 9(4), 1015–1037. DOI:

Hiebert, P. (2008) Transforming worldviews: An anthropological understanding of how people change. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic.

Heinzmann, S., Künzle, R., Schallhart , N., Müller, M. (2015) The effect of study abroad on intercultural competence: Results from a longitudinal quasi-experimental study. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, fall 2015. DOI:

Hepple, E. (2018) Designing and implementing pre-sojourn intercultural workshops in an Australian university. In Intercultural interventions in study abroad. Jackson, J., & Oguro, S. eds. London: Routledge. DOI:

Holliday, A.R. (1999) ‘Small cultures’, Applied Linguistics 22 (2): 237–64. DOI:

Holliday, A.R. (2011) Intercultural communication and ideology, London: SAGE Publications. DOI:

Hoult, S. (2018) Aspiring to postcolonial engagement with the other: deepening intercultural learning through reflection on a South India sojourn. In Intercultural interventions in study abroad. Jackson, J., & Oguro, S. eds. Routledge. DOI:

Institute of International Education (2017). Institute for international education: leading institutions by duration of study abroad and institutional type 2015/16. Open Doors Report on International Exchange. Retrived October 28, 2018, from

Isabelli-Garcia, C. (2006) Study abroad social networks, motivation and attitudes: Implications for second language acquisition. In Language learners in study abroad contexts edited by Margaret A. DuFon, Eton Churchi. Pp. 231-258. DOI:

Jackson, J., & Oguro, S. (2018). Intercultural interventions in study abroad. Routledge. DOI:

Jackson, J. (2006). Ethnographic pedagogy and evaluation in short-term study abroad. In M. Byram and A. Feng (Eds.) Living and studying abroad: Research and practice (pp. 134-156). Multilingual Matters. DOI:

Janeiro, M. G. F. (2009). Assessing changes in intercultural sensitivity in students exposed to interlecultural experiences supported by the college of agricultural sciences and natural resources at Oklahoma State University using the intercultural development inventory. (Doctoral dissertation) Oklahoma State University.

Keefe, M. C. (2008). Short-term study abroad: Impact on the development of global competencies at a public college of art and design in the northeast. (Doctoral dissertation) Johnson and Wales University.

Kegan, R. (1994). In over our heads: The mental demands of modern life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Kehl. K., & Morris, J. (2008) Differences in global-mindedness between short-term and semester-long study abroad participants at selected private universities. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, v15 p67-79 Fall-Win 2007-2008. DOI:

Kitsantas, A. (2004). Studying abroad: The role of college students’ goals on the development of cross-cultural skills and global understanding. College Student Journal, 38(3), 441-452.

Lemmons, K. (2021a) Intercultural competence training at a US service academy: pilot study. Journal of Peace and War Studies. Fall 2021, pp. 172-184.

Lemmons, K. (2021b) Increasing Diversity, Inclusion, and Intercultural Competence at a Historically Less Diverse Regional University. Academia Letters, Article 3388. DOI:

Lemmons, K. (2015) Short-term study abroad: culture and the path of least resistance, Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 39:4, 543-553. DOI:

Lemmons, K., Brannstrom, C., & Hurd, D. (2014). Exposing students to repeat photography: Increasing cultural understanding on a short-term study abroad. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 38, 86–105. DOI:

Lemmons, K. (2013). Short-term study abroad Programs: Where they came from, how they work, and why they often don’t (Doctoral dissertation). Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas.

Li, J. & Karakowsky, L. (2001). Do we see eye-to-eye? Implications of cultural differences for cross-cultural management research and practice. The journal of psychology, 135(5), 501- 517. DOI:

Lysgaard, S. (1955) Adjustment in a foreign society: Norwegian fullbright grantees visiting the United States. International Social Science Bulletin, 7: 45-51

Medina-López-Portillo, A. (2004) Intercultural learning assessment: the link between program duration and the development of intercultural sensitivity. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, v10 p179-199 Fall 2004. DOI:

Meiklejohn, A. (1932). The experimental college. Harper & Brothers.

Nelson, T. (2015) The ICRP: a hands-on learning experience, DIEVA Journaling model and transformative learning through structured reflection. Kalamazoo College Center for International Programs. Retrieved January 15, 2016 from

Nyaupane, G. P., Paris, C. M. & Teye, V. (2011), Study abroad motivations, destination selection and pre‐trip attitude formation. Int. J. Tourism Res., 13: 205-217. DOI:

Oberhammer, J. (2016) Learning/Volunteer Abroad (LVA) Programs at the University of Ottawa: An Examination of the Preparation and Training Students Receive Prior to Departure. Master’s thesis, University of Ottawa.

Paige, R. M., Cohen, A., Kappler, B., Chi, J., Lassegard, J. (2014). Maximizing study abroad: A students’ guide to strategies for language and culture learning and use, second edition. Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition, University of Minnesota.

Pedersen, P. (1995). The five stages of culture shock: Critical incidents around the world. Greenwood Press.

Pedersen, E., LaBried, J., Hummer, J, Larimer, M., & Lee, C. (2010). Heavier drinking American college students may self-select into study abroad programs: An examination of sex and ethnic differences within a high-risk group. Addictive Behaviors, Vol. 35, Issue 9, pp. 844-847. DOI:

Piaget, J. (1985). The equilibrium of cognitive structures: The central problem of intellectual

development. University of Chicago Press.

Pizzolato, J.E. (2005). Creating crossroads for self-authorship: Investigating the provocative moment. Journal of College Student Development, 44, 797-811. DOI:

Rexeisen, R.J. and Al-Khatib, J.A. (2009) Assurance of learning and study abroad: A case study. Journal of Teaching in International Business, 20(3), 192-207. DOI: 10.1080/08975930903099077 DOI:

Root, E., & Ngampornchai, A. (2013). “I came back as a new human being”: Student descriptions of intercultural competence acquired through education abroad experiences. Journal of Studies in International Education, 17(5), 513–532. DOI:

Ryan, M. E., & Twibell, R. S. (2000). Concerns, values, stress, coping, health and educational outcomes of college students who studied abroad. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 24(4), 409-435. DOI:

Salibrici, M., Creadick, A, & Reilly, D. (2018) Writing to explore: a journal writer's guide for students abroad. Hobart and William Smith Colleges Center for Global Education. Retrieved December 3, 2018 from

Scoffham, S., and Barnes, J. (2009) ‘Transformational experiences and deep learning: The impact of an intercultural study visit to India on UK initial teacher education students’, Journal of Education for Teaching 35 (3): 257–70. DOI:

Sontag, S. (1977). On Photography. Picador.

Texas A&M Pre-Departure (2022).

Tiessen, R., & Huish, R. (2014). International experiential learning and global citizenship. In H. Tiessen, Globetrotting of Global Citizenship? Perils and Potential of International Experiential Learning. (pp. 3-20). University of Toronto Press. DOI:

Uribe, D., LeLoup, J., & Haverluk, T. (2014) Assessing intercultural competence growth using direct and indirect measures. NECTFL Review pp. 15-33.

Vande Berg, M., Paige, R. M., & Lou, K. (2012) Student learning abroad: what our students are learning, what they’re not, and what we can do about it. Stylus Publishing LLC.

Vande Berg M., Connor-Linton, J., & Paige, R. M. (2009) The Georgetown consortium project: interventions for student learning abroad. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, v18 p1-75 Fall 2009. DOI:

Watson, J., Siska, P., &Wolfel, R. (2013) Assessing gains in language proficiency, cross-cultural competence, and regional awareness during study abroad: a preliminary study,” Foreign Language Annals 46, no. 1 (2013): 62-79, DOI:

Wiley, A (2016). Intercultural development inventory: independent review. ACS Ventures: Bridging Theory and Practice.

Wong, E. D. (2015) Beyond “It was great”? Not so fast! A response to the argument that study abroad results are disappointing and that intervention is necessary to promote students’ intercultural competence. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 24, Fall 2015. DOI:

Zhou, Y., Jindal-Snape, D., Topping, K., & Todman, J. (2008) Theoretical models of culture shock and adaptation in international students in higher education, Studies in Higher Education, 33:1, 63-75, DOI: 10.1080/03075070701794833 DOI:




How to Cite

Lemmons, K. (2023). Study Abroad Academic Pre-Departure Course: Increasing Student’s Intercultural Competence Pre-Sojourns. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 35(3), 128–150.



Research Articles