Effects of the Study Abroad Experience on the Self-Concepts of College Students

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Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Pamela Bacon, Psychology


When students return from a semester abroad, many are convinced that they have experienced changes. Although no studies have been conducted to verify these sentiments, existing research may support the possibility that the unique study abroad experience creates the proper environment for self-concept change. When studying abroad, students behave differently, and interact with a new social group; further, they do so publicly and under cognitive load. Research suggests that these behaviors facilitate self-concept change (Tice, 1992). Fifty-five undergraduates who are either currently abroad (N = 29) or enrolled in an upcoming study abroad program (N= 26) were asked to complete an online survey at the beginning of the fall semester and at the semester's end. I predicted that students who spent a semester abroad would experience greater changes in self-esteem, relational self-construal, and self-concept clarity than students who did not study abroad. Though results did not support my hypothesis, high rates of attrition raised concerns regarding the data that I collected.