Social Capital Development in Community College Alumni Who Studied Abroad


  • Heidi Fischer Old Dominion University
  • Rosalind Raby California State University, Northridge



Agency, community college alumni, narrative inquiry, social capital


This qualitative study explores how US community college students who studied abroad use their existing social capital to enhance their engagement with other students and host country residents. The study also shows that students who studied abroad develop new social capitals for bridging and bonding with others. Data collection consisted of two rounds of in-depth interviews with 27 alumni students as well as a survey on participant background. Findings show that students use their social capital to enhance their relationships with other students and host country individuals. These positive relationships, in turn, enrich and build new social capitals that remained with the students after studying abroad. Skills such as open-mindedness, cross-cultural communication, and consideration provide the social capital that helped student make lasting connections and friendships abroad and when they returned home.

Abstract in German

Diese qualitative Studie untersucht, wie US-amerikanische Community-College-Studenten, die im Ausland studiert haben, ihr vorhandenes soziales Kapital nutzen, um ihr Engagement mit anderen Studierenden und Bewohnern des Gastlandes zu verbessern. Die Studie zeigt auch, dass Studierende, die im Ausland studiert haben, neues soziales Kapital entwickeln, um Brücken zu schlagen und Kontakte zu anderen zu knüpfen. Die Datenerhebung umfasste zwei Runden ausführlicher Interviews mit 27 Alumni-Studenten sowie eine Umfrage zum Hintergrund der Teilnehmer. Die Ergebnisse zeigen, dass Studierende ihr soziales Kapital nutzen, um ihre Beziehungen zu anderen Studierenden und Personen im Gastland zu verbessern. Diese positiven Beziehungen wiederum bereichern und bauen neues Sozialkapital auf, das den Studierenden nach ihrem Auslandsstudium erhalten bleibt. Fähigkeiten wie Aufgeschlossenheit, interkulturelle Kommunikation und Rücksichtnahme stellen das soziale Kapital dar, das den Studierenden dabei half, dauerhafte Kontakte und Freundschaften im Ausland und nach ihrer Rückkehr in die Heimat zu knüpfen.


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Author Biographies

Heidi Fischer, Old Dominion University

Heidi Fischer, PhD, is a higher education researcher and scholar with over a decade of experience working in education abroad, student exchange, and international partnership development. Her research focuses on community college internationalization, education abroad outcomes, and virtual international education. She previously served as chair of NAFSA Region VIII and has presented her work at regional and national conferences.

Rosalind Raby, California State University, Northridge

Rosalind Latiner Raby, PhD, is a Senior Lecturer at California State University, Northridge in the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Department of the College of Education. She is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Comparative and International Higher Education. Dr. Raby is Director of California Colleges for International Education, a non-profit consortium of California community colleges. Since 1984, Dr. Raby has worked with and studied community college internationalization. Dr. Raby is highly published in over 50 academic journals and has published 15 books.


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How to Cite

Fischer, H., & Raby, R. (2023). Social Capital Development in Community College Alumni Who Studied Abroad. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 35(3), 303–331.



Special Section: Assessment and Evaluation in Community College/Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Education Abroad