Changes in Social Distance Among American Undergraduate Students Participating in a Study Abroad Program in China

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As the world becomes increasingly interdependent, mutual understanding becomes increasingly important. Therefore, it is essential that people strive for reductions in social distance on an international level. Study abroad is one of the ways to approach internationalization and promote understanding among different peoples and cultures. Prior research has been done on the degrees of social distance between people from different cultures; however, little research has been done regarding changes that cultural immersion produces among those who reside in different cultures. Studies about study abroad programs have focused on cultural sensitivity and adaptability, yet few have combined the study abroad experience ... continued below

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Chen, Danxia December 2007.

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  • Chen, Danxia

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As the world becomes increasingly interdependent, mutual understanding becomes increasingly important. Therefore, it is essential that people strive for reductions in social distance on an international level. Study abroad is one of the ways to approach internationalization and promote understanding among different peoples and cultures. Prior research has been done on the degrees of social distance between people from different cultures; however, little research has been done regarding changes that cultural immersion produces among those who reside in different cultures. Studies about study abroad programs have focused on cultural sensitivity and adaptability, yet few have combined the study abroad experience with the perceptions of self and other cultural groups. This study presents a framework for understanding people through intercultural activities. It studied social distance and attitude changes brought about in social distance as an artifact of cultural immersion. The study took place both in China and in the United States. It focused on the social distance among American undergraduate students who participated in a China Study Abroad program sponsored by the University of North Texas. The study measured before and after social distance of a group of American students who studied abroad in China. The study abroad program itself was the intervention and lasted for three weeks. A mixed methods research design was used in the study. Social distance data were collected before and after students studied abroad in China. Both inferential statistics and descriptive statistics were used. Qualitative data were also collected and analyzed in the study. Most of the sample population were close to the Chinese people to begin with. Some participants positively changed their social distance and attitudes towards the Chinese people after the study abroad program, even though the changes were not statistically significant. This study merits replication among randomly selected samples. Study abroad programs should be promoted and supported. More research needs to be done that explores the quality of cultural immersion study abroad programs. Studies also need to be done to examine attitude changes among peoples in host countries.

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  • December 2007

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  • May 2, 2008, 3:11 p.m.

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  • June 24, 2008, 2:26 p.m.

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Chen, Danxia. Changes in Social Distance Among American Undergraduate Students Participating in a Study Abroad Program in China, dissertation, December 2007; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc5194/: accessed October 18, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .