Study Abroad Interest, Intent, and Decision-Making: The Relationship Between Race and Self-Efficacy.

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Seid, Adam, Higher Education - School of Education and Human Development, University of Virginia
Steinmetz, Christian, CU-Leadshp, Fndns & Pol Studies, University of Virginia

Though more college students are studying abroad than ever before (Edmunds & Shore, 2020; Engel, 2017; Institute of International Education, 2020), Black or African American undergraduates remain marginalized from the well-documented benefits of study abroad. Kuh (2008) listed study abroad as a high-impact educational opportunity; however, only 6.4% of Black students studied abroad during the 2018/2019 academic year despite comprising 13.3% of the national undergraduate population (Institute of International Education, 2020; National Center for Education Statistics, 2019b). Brux and Fry (2010) offered a list of six major barriers minoritized students face when considering study abroad, but there is little-to-no research that considers the relationship between a student’s self-efficacy and the barriers to study abroad, or how this relationship may influence the study abroad decision-making arc.

To address this relationship, I asked the following research questions: (1) Is there a significant association between racial or ethnic identity and the influences of barriers to study abroad?; (2) Are Black students’ self-percepts of efficacy associated with barriers to study abroad participation?; and (3) Is there a significant relationship between self-efficacy and interest in, intent to, and decision to study abroad as an undergraduate student? I conducted this quantitative study at Coastal States University (CSU), a public, four-year, predominantly White institution (PWI) in the Commonwealth of Virginia. I distributed a 51-question survey to 2,610 undergraduate students, and the final sample was N = 620. The instrument was designed to (1) collect students’ general perspectives about study abroad; (2) identify students’ intentions to participate in study abroad as an undergraduate; (3) understand students’ connections to family and friends who may have studied abroad; and (4) assess students’ personal views about institutional patterns.

I utilized a variety of statistical techniques to answer the research questions, including factor analysis, multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA), multiple regression, correlation, and one-way between-groups analysis of variance (ANOVA). First, there was a significant difference between race/ethnicity and three barriers to study abroad: perceptions of participant entitlement, concerns about race abroad, and financial considerations. Second, six barriers to study abroad explained 6% of the total variance in self-efficacy scores for Black or African American students. Third, for all students, there was a medium, positive correlation between self-efficacy and interest in study abroad. For Black or African American students, individual factors and diverse perspectives were most strongly associated with self-efficacy. There was a weak, positive correlation between self-efficacy and intent to study abroad. There was no significant relationship between self-efficacy and the decision to study abroad.

One notable finding was an updated list of study abroad barriers facing minoritized students that explained nearly 60% of decision making among the sample: financial requirements, perception of participant entitlement, individual concerns, concerns about race abroad, institutional factors, and diverse perspectives. In addition, the research led to five recommendations for practice, including (1) addressing financial aid implications of studying abroad, (2) creating a mentorship network for Black students, (3) facilitating diverse and inclusive dialogues about study abroad, (4) developing new programs, and (5) building an administrative capacity to support Black students. Future scholarly work should focus on expanding this work with qualitative follow-up. Additional work should also consider other minoritized groups and address issues of intersectionality. Finally, institutions – and the international education field – should evaluate marketing materials for alignment of goals and practice.

EDD (Doctor of Education)
college study abroad, self-efficacy, Black students, study abroad decisions, study abroad barriers, minoritized students
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