The Impact of Study Abroad on the Student Self
Dr Qing Gu
School of Education, University of Nottingham
This paper discusses the nature of international students’ transitional experiences both in terms of their maturation and human development and their intercultural adaptation within a different educational environment and a different culture and society. It also explores how, why and to what extent such experiences may (or may not) contribute to their personal and professional development on their return to work in their home country.
Empirical evidence of the paper is drawn upon a synthesis of findings of four studies, led by the author, which have investigated the pedagogical, sociocultural and psychological challenges that international students have encountered when studying at British universities. Results of these studies show that when exposed to a different societal and educational context, international students are constantly engaged in a reflexive process of change, adjustment and development through interaction with others in the UK educational and societal environment. On their return home, the returnees not only bring new cognitive, social and emotional experiences, but also engage in new processes of re-enculturation, socialization and professionalisation. The studies provide important empirical evidence which contributes to understandings of the impact of the increasingly rapid internationalization of higher education on the lives and careers of individuals in today’s knowledge economy.