Flipping the Script to Investigate Study Abroad

written by admin on October 7, 2014 in CEL News and Global Learning and Studying EL with no comments

by Amanda Sturgill

I got a chance to see study abroad from the other side of the experience this year, when my family hosted an exchange student from Spain.

I felt pretty competent to host someone from another culture – I’ve done short and medium stints abroad, both with and without students. I’ve both felt the effects of culture shock and seen them with my students. And I even speak some Spanish.

Yet it was quite an adjustment for our family to have our guest with us. She had not been out of Europe before or traveled without her family. My kids have been overseas several times, but never without us.

What is the effect of home-stay on student learning in study abroad? It’s hard to tell, based on current research. Rodriguez and Chornet-Roses (2014) note that for many students, it’s not like living in a family. Tanaka (2007) found that just staying in a home does not necessarily lead to lots of opportunities to practice the language of the host country, and Shackleford (2011) found that the discomfort of limited language proficiency leads to more limited exposure to the language than might be expected, as language-uncomfortable students tend to keep to themselves, even in a homestay. Castaneda and Zirger (2011) found that if students are intentional about using their social capital as a foreigner, they can sometimes access people and opportunities that let them learn more.

What is missing, however, is the integration of the homestay into the study abroad experience and ultimately the full university experience. As a host family, I would have appreciated knowing more about things I could do to help my student get the most from her short time abroad. As an educator, I’d like to know more about helping my students to be prepared for the realities of living in someone’s home in another culture. As a traveler myself who has done homestays, I’d like to know more about using my social capital in an appropriate way to get the most from my experience and how to make the cross-cultural experience a true exchange.

Investigating the integration of study abroad within the university experience can help educators understand how the interplay of both host and learner impacts student learning. The Center’s 2015-2017 Research Seminar on Integrating Global Learning with the University Experience: Higher-Impact Study Abroad and Off-Campus Domestic Study will support multi-institutional inquiry into this integration. Applications are due November 3, 2014.


Shackleford, Nick. (2011). Japanese Students in a New Zealand Homestay Programme: Issues of Linguistic and Intercultural Competence. Communication Journal of New Zealand, 12(1).


Amanda Sturgill (@DrSturgis Associate Professor of Communications at Elon University.  She has professional experience in newspaper journalism and marketing communications, and her research focuses on the intersection of education and community-based work, the relationship of region and media, and on new technologies and the news. Amanda routinely teaches study abroad courses and has published on methods of reflection in service-learning abroad.