Exploring the Impact of a Short-Term Study Abroad Experience: Learning in Ethiopia across the Years


  • Michele A. Parker University of North Carolina Wilmington
  • Heidi Higgins University of North Carolina Wilmington
  • Meredith Jones University of North Carolina Wilmington
  • Cherie Chandler University of North Carolina Wilmington
  • Kayce Smith University of North Carolina Wilmington
  • Jennifer Stalls University of North Carolina Wilmington




qualitative research, intercultural competence, study abroad, cross-cultural sensitivity, global engagement


In higher education, there has been an increased call to engage students in global opportunities and develop their intercultural skills. Study abroad experiences are often used to help build these skills. This study was conducted to investigate students’ perceptions of a short-term study abroad experience in Ethiopia, especially which aspects of the experience provided opportunities for students to increase their intercultural competence. Participants consisted of 20 pre-service education students enrolled in either a graduate or undergraduate program and traveled to Ethiopia during the 2015, 2017, or 2019 trips. We used a qualitative research method of document analysis to analyze the data, including digital stories and blogs. Excerpts of the data highlight how the pre-service teachers made sense of their experiences. Findings from this study reveal that participation in the short-term study abroad experiences positively influenced students’ intercultural development. We discuss the pedagogical implications regarding programmatic considerations and how these influenced students’ cultural sensitivity and ability to apply and extend their learning in an unfamiliar environment.