A Short Conceptual History of Intercultural Learning in Study Abroad

Milton J. Bennett,
The Intercultural Development Research Institute

In 1967 I was a bus chaperone for a group of international AFSi students, which involved three weeks of stops each evening at homes across the country and non-stop stories each day about their experiences in the US the previous year. It was clear then, as it is when I talk with exchange students today, that the experience of studying abroad has some common elements and a lot of individual variation.

In common was the powerful impact of immersing one’s self in another culture, and the increase in tolerance that typically accompanies that experience. With a few exceptions, the students were more appreciative of the complexity of US American life, and thus less likely to engage in stereotyping. I do not believe a single student would have judged the experience a waste of time.

But there was a lot of variation in what might be more objectively stated as experiential education goals: the attainment of cultural self awareness, increased knowledge of the cultural perspective of the hosts, and general intercultural competence. The students did not seem to have any technical jargon with which to refer to these aspects of their experience, as they did, for instance, in referring to political, economic, or even culinary differences between their own and US society.

A Short Conceptual History of Intercultural Learning in Study Abroad


Milton J. Bennett