Developing Intercultural Competence Through Short-Term Study Abroad Programs: A Qualitative Case Study




Higher education, ICM, intercultural competence, international experiential leanring pedagogy, short-term study abroad, undergraduate students


The globalization of business, education, and other sectors has illuminated the need for institutions of higher education to prepare students to adapt, interact, and perform in culturally diverse environments (Arnett, 2002; Brislin & Yoshida, 1994; Elmuti et al., 2005; Williams et al., 2017). Utilizing the conceptual framework of Deardorff’s (2006) Intercultural Competence Model (ICM), this qualitative case study explored undergraduate students’ development of intercultural competence (IC) resulting from their participation in two different short-term study abroad programs (STSA) while enrolled at a specific U.S.-based university. Nine themes emerged that supported and enriched Deardorff’s ICM. Findings provided a more holistic comprehension of IC by capturing students’ own words, oral stories, descriptions, and feelings about their shared STSA experiences. Findings further identified students’ perceptions of the role that varied pedagogy played in their development of IC through STSA.

Abstract in Spanish

La globalización de los negocios, la educación y otros sectores ha puesto de relieve la necesidad de que las instituciones de educación superior preparen a los estudiantes para adaptarse, interactuar y desempeñarse en entornos culturalmente diversos (Arnett, 2002; Brislin & Yoshida, 1994; Elmuti et al., 2005); Williams et al., 2017). Utilizando el marco conceptual del Modelo de Competencia Intercultural (ICM) de Deardorff (2006), este estudio de caso cualitativo exploró el desarrollo de la competencia intercultural (CI) de estudiantes universitarios como resultado de su participación en dos programas diferentes de estudios a corto plazo en el extranjero (“short-term study abroad”; STSA) mientras estaban matriculados en una universidad específica en EE. UU. Surgieron nueve temas que apoyaron y enriquecieron el ICM de Deardorff. Los hallazgos proporcionaron una comprensión más holística de la CI al capturar las propias palabras, historias orales, descripciones y sentimientos de los estudiantes sobre sus experiencias STSA compartidas. Los hallazgos identificaron además las percepciones de los estudiantes sobre el papel que desempeñaba la pedagogía variada en su desarrollo de CI a través de STSA.


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Author Biographies

Margaret Arrison Nolan, Arcadia University

Dr. Margaret Arrison Nolan is an Assistant Professor of Business Administration in Arcadia University’s School of Global Business. She has over 20 years combined experience in higher education teaching and human resources management consulting. She is also certified in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). Her research interests and publications are centered on experiential learning pedagogy, intercultural training, short-term study abroad, and cultural intelligence.

Peggy Hickman, Arcadia University

Dr. Peggy Hickman is an Associate Professor in Education at Arcadia University, where she teaches graduate and doctoral courses in qualitative and mixed methods research methodologies, as well as educator preparation for working with diverse and multicultural populations. Her publications, consulting and advocacy work focus on these topics as well.


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How to Cite

Nolan, M. A., & Hickman, P. (2024). Developing Intercultural Competence Through Short-Term Study Abroad Programs: A Qualitative Case Study. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 36(1), 596–623.



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