The “Authentic” Me
New Understandings of Self and the World as a Result of Global Learning Experiences
Keywords:global engagement, identity, global education, reentry, sociocultural development
In this qualitative study, 26 university students reflected on their experiences in domestic or international study away programs. Utilizing a sociocultural developmental framework, we examined perceived changes in identity in relation to salient aspects of the sociocultural context and social interactions during and after study away. Students reported developing an enhanced understanding of who they really are. Their experiences navigating new environments served as a catalyst for personal growth, and, for some, participating in study away ignited new professional pathways and plans. Encountering different perspectives on policies and issues facing the United States (US) afforded opportunities to co-construct new understandings of national identities. Reentry posed particular challenges in communicating with family and friends, and some found it hard to communicate unique personal experiences within an institutional context in which the majority of students study away. The process of reflecting on questions related to identity and reentry in the focus groups was reportedly a unique and valuable intervention. The findings support the need for enhanced opportunities for guided reflection experiences before, during, and after study away.
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Copyright (c) 2021 Maureen Vandermaas-Peeler, Olivia Choplin, Kirsten Doehler, Amanda Sturgill, Nina Namaste, Matthew Buckmaster
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