Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Fred J. Galloway, EdD; Robert Donmoyer, PhD; James B. Gerber, PhD


cultural adjustment, higher education, Leadership studies, perception, private universities, public universities, southern California, study abroad programs


In a world that is increasingly integrated by economics, communications, and politics, higher education is asked to deliver graduates who can function professionally in the international arena. One way to do this is through study abroad programs, which have skyrocketed in popularity among American students over the last 15 years, increasing by 83% to more than 205,000 students in 2007. Despite the obvious benefits associated with such programs, there are challenges to living abroad as well—especially for young adults. To get some sense of these challenges, during the 2005-2006 academic year 114 study abroad students from 2 Southern California universities (1 public, 1 private) completed 2 modified versions of the Michigan International Student Problem Inventory containing more than 100 questions—once prior to departure when they were asked to rate their level of expected problems in 9 general areas, and then again when they returned to the United States at the completion of their study abroad experience. By comparing the actual level of problems experienced in these areas to predeparture expectations, students were found to have both expected and largely experienced nothing more than minor problems, although their expectations in all 9 areas consistently exceeded the reality of their experience. Specifically, predeparture expectations suggested that in 7 of the areas students only expected minor problems while in the other 2 areas—religious services and student activities—students anticipated no problems at all. Upon their return, students consistently reported fewer problems than expected; 6 areas were classified as no problem and 3 as minor (led by social-personal). Additionally, in 8 of the problem areas the expectations of students at the public university were closer to reality than those at the private university. Taken together, these results suggest that while the problems experienced during the study abroad experience may have only been minor, administrators can still do a better job of helping to align expectations with reality. Based on focus group interviews this can be done in at least 3 ways: expanded orientation activities, better tracking of country-specific student problems, and through the matching of returning students with similar experiences.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access