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Effects and outcomes of a study abroad semester: intercultural competence development in an Australian case study
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 19:23 authored by Beate Mueller
Global citizenship and intercultural competence are highly sought-after skills in today’s globalised world. Desired graduate capabilities, as developed through higher education, include the attitudes, skills and knowledge that one needs to competently and successfully live, work and interact in a world where peoples’ cultural identities are developed beyond national borders. Through the internationalisation of the tertiary education system, institutions can assist students in developing these capabilities to effectively and appropriately communicate with people of different cultural backgrounds. Outbound mobility and study abroad is one side of these internationalisation efforts, which helps students to become interculturally competent global citizens. In this thesis, after an introduction of the importance of study abroad on a global and national level, an overview of current theories in the field of intercultural and language learning is given. The attitudes, skills and knowledge that an intercultural speaker has to exhibit are explored next and research outcomes on their enhancement through study abroad are discussed. This leads into the field of the development of intercultural competence during overseas studies and the adaptation process that is connected to it. Following a qualitative research methodology, the concept of intercultural competence and its development during a study abroad semester are examined from the students’ perspective. On a conceptual level, students’ opinions on intercultural competence components slightly differed from those listed in the research literature; however their development, especially on a behavioural and cognitive level could be confirmed to correspond to previous research results. The role of the target language was separately focused on and of special interest for this study. No direct connection between the level of comfort in intercultural encounters and the competence level in the target language could be found; however, the importance of culture contact for language learning could be confirmed.