High-impact practices (HIPs) are educationally purposeful activities that increase the likelihood of students achieving desired learning outcomes (Buck 2020). Within the American Association of Colleges & University’s official list of 11 high-impact practices, studying away is identified under Diversity/Global Learning as a method that allows students to “explore cultures, life experiences, and worldviews different from their own” as well as so-called “‘difficult differences’ such as racial, ethnic, and gender inequality, or continuing struggles around the globe for human rights, freedom, and power” (AAC&U, n.d.). 

But how does a study-away experience move from being a way for American students to meet up in a different area and travel their bucket list, to being a high-impact practice that allows students to critically interact with the world in a way that expands their worldviews and increases their intercultural competence in alignment with their university’s mission, vision, values, and learning goals? 

While there is no widely accepted definition, study away could be understood as any short- or long-term learning experience that transitions students’ learning beyond the confines of the home institution. Traditionally, these experiences have been understood as a way to allow students to travel beyond the borders of the student’s home country (hence “study abroad”). However, as discussed in a future blog post in this series about the various ways of being abroad, global education offices around the country have included local, regional, and national study away options as a part of their offerings. This has led to a change in utilizing the term “study away” over study abroad. However, the terms continue to be used interchangeably.  

It is not simply the transfer of the class location that makes studying away a high-impact practice. These experiences must be intentionally designed to include any number of key practices that have been identified as being integral to a well done HIP (Biber 2021; Cisneros-Donahue et al. 2012; Luxton et al. 2022; Wallace 2020). Moore identifies six key practices for fostering engaged learning. They are “acknowledging students’ prior knowledge and experiences, facilitating relationships, offering feedback, framing connections to broader contexts, fostering reflections on learning and self, and promoting integration and transfer of knowledge and skills” (Moore 2021). The more of these practices colleges and trip leaders include in their study-away experiences for students, the more likely it is that students will experience the benefits related to engaging in a HIP. In this week’s 60-Second SoTL podcast (releasing Thursday), I talk more about two ways universities have intentionally designed study-away experiences that deliver on their promise to be a high-impact practice.  

For more information on the impact of short- versus long-term study-away experiences, the barriers that students face to participating in study-away experiences, or understanding how colleges and universities have begun to think differently about study away, look for the rest of this blog series on the CEL website in the coming weeks.  


AAC&U (Association of American Colleges and Universities). “Trending Topic: High-Impact Practices,” last modified 2022. https://www.aacu.org/trending-topics/high-impact

Biber, Duke. 2021. “Transformative Learning Curriculum for Short-Term Study Abroad Trips.” Journal of Teaching in Travel & Tourism 21 (2): 198-204. https://doi.org/10.1080/15313220.2020.1775757

David Buck. 2020. “What Even Is a HIP?” Elon University Center for Engaged Learning (blog), July 6, 2020. https://www.centerforengagedlearning.org/what-even-is-a-hip/

Cisneros-Donahue, Teresa, Kathleen A. Krentler, Bruce Reinig, and Karey Sabol. 2012. “Assessing the Academic Benefit of Study Abroad.” Journal of Education and Learning 1 (2): 169-178. http://dx.doi.org/10.5539/jel.v1n2p169

Luxton, India, Rodolfo Valdes-Vasquez, Mehmet Egemen Ozbek, and Laura Thornes. 2022. “High Impact Learning in a Short-Term Study Abroad Program.” Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad 34 (1): 97-130. https://doi.org/10.36366/frontiers.v34i1.541

Moore, Jessie L. 2021. “Key Practices for Fostering Engaged Learning.” Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning 53 (6): 12-18. https://doi.org/10.1080/00091383.2021.1987787

Wallace, Craig. 2020. “Transformative Learning Abroad for Honors Students: Leveraging High-Impact Practices at Global Partner Institutions.” In Internationalizing Honors, National Collegiate Honors Council Monograph Series, edited by Kim Klein and Mary Kay Mulvaney, 229- 249. Lincoln, NE: National Collegiate Honors Council. 

Vanessa Truelove is a student in Elon’s Masters of Higher Education 2024 cohort. She has interest areas in identity-based supports for both undergraduate and graduate students with aspirations to work in higher level administration after a stint as a professor of religion later in life.  

How to Cite this Post

Truelove, Vanessa. 2022. “High Impact Practices Abroad: The Key to Enriching Study Away Programs.” Center for Engaged Learning (blog), Elon University. February 8, 2023. https://www.centerforengagedlearning.org/high-impact-practices-abroad.