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Perceptions of Program Coordinators, Program Advisors, and Resident Directors of Study Abroad Regarding Their Professional Responsibilities: A Qualitative Social Constructionist Inquiry
AuthorDeyo, Marti Elaine
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Internationalization in institutions of higher education has come in many forms, and an ever-increasing number of university leaders have encouraged their students, especially undergraduates, to participate in study abroad programs. Every year almost 4.5 million students study abroad worldwide. As more and more students study abroad, the number and diversity of study abroad personnel located and working throughout the world continues to increase. The purpose of this study was to explore the perceptions that program coordinators, program advisors, and resident directors of an international study abroad organization held about creating a study abroad experience for U.S. college students. More specifically, this study focused on their perceptions of their professional responsibilities, the goals and objectives of study abroad, and the needs of college students. To better understand the perspectives of the staff, qualitative data was collected during interviews lasting from 45 minutes to two hours. Throughout the interviews, participants described a balancing act to help students get out of their comfort zones, become self-reliant, manage their emotions, and find themselves. Particularly noteworthy was how similar their responses mirrored Chickering and Reisser's Theory of Identity Development which theorize seven vectors students go through while developing their identities. The findings of this study expand the notion that creating a study abroad experience requires carefully orchestrated planning, preparation, and teamwork within the study abroad staff for a higher purpose – in this case, to create engaged global citizens.