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My affinity for culture, both foreign and domestic, has greatly shaped my life and future career path. As I have been frequently reminded, I did not take the “typical” exchange route. However, I accredit this atypical experience to my passion towards the subject. My first immersive cultural experience occurred during a yearlong, high school, Rotary led exchange to Bourges, France. Simply put, it changed my life. I encountered the culture first hand, accepting a new normal: bisous greetings, daily baguettes, and a well-structured hierarchy. Within six months, I considered myself fluent in the language. I lived with French families, was capable of comical rhetoric in French with my local friends, and participated in dance lessons at the Center for the Arts; I had become a part of the local community.
After experiencing several other exchange programs and struggling with the meaning of exchange for the individual, I have come to understand that not everyone is interested in such an immersive experience. However, in this global business market, preparing students to maneuver with foreign cultures is gravely important. Western Michigan University recognizes this by naming “Globally Engaged” as one of its three strategic pillars. The business college is no different, as stated in their goals, “Here at WMU and the Haworth College of Business, we need to do all that we can to make sure that our students don't fall off the edge of the intensely competitive flat business world.”
For my Lee Honors College thesis, I conducted an exploratory study to better understand the Haworth College of Business’ faculty-led short-term study abroad programs. I interviewed several instructors who lead study abroad trips through Haworth College of Business’ Global Business Center. Professors are responsible for the creation of these study abroad trips for the most part and their work is important. They are the working backbone of the study abroad machine. Their contributions directly impact students’ experiences. I wanted to know about the process they go through to create an exchange, what’s in it for them, and if the study abroad office gives them any guidelines. Can anyone create a study abroad trip? What do they view as a successful study abroad? These are all points of discussion covered during the interviews with the creators of these trips, however, the most important question was: what are the objectives of their study abroad program?
With this information, I then interviewed students who have participated in said programs. During these interviews, I explored their actual experiences while considering the program’s objectives to see if the theory matches the reality. By asking them unbiased questions about their experiences and how it has influenced their life, I then decide if the HCoB short-term faculty-led study abroad programs induce cultural immersion and, if they do not, how we can better prepare our students to be competitive in today’s global society.
The purpose of this research is to verify the cultural immersion of HCoB’s short-term study abroad programs. Are students benefiting from their experiences or are they simply changing locations? This thesis concluded with three recommendations for the university to further their global engagement.
Crawford, Katherine, "Cultivating Cultural Exchange: Improving University Study Abroad Programs" (2017). Honors Theses. 2894.
Honors Thesis-Open Access