Exploring Students’ Experience of Study Abroad

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Participating in a study abroad program has been reported as having a positive impact on students in areas such as personal growth, intellectual development, and increased employability. It is a great opportunity to train students to become global citizens. Developing a broader perspective and cultural competency is critically important for future social workers. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore experiences of students who participated in short study abroad programs offered as a part of the social work curriculum. Focus group interviews with eight students identified two themes: 1) cultural exposure and 2) personal and professional growth. Students reported that they were able to adopt changes, improve their ability to understand and relate to a new culture and population, and learned new perspectives. They also expressed that participating in a study abroad program helped them reflect on themselves and their own background, which are critical components of cultural competence. The study findings indicate that study abroad programs offer a valuable opportunity to enhance skills that are necessary to become a competent social worker.