Master of Arts in Higher Education (MAHE) Theses

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Tim Herrmann

Second Advisor

Scott Gaier

Third Advisor

Thomas Jones

Distinguished Theses



University study abroad facilitators must maximize the benefits of a semester away from the home campus for students seeking to realize a transformational experience. Among the documented benefits of study abroad for students is the development of intercultural competence. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between student goals (excluding foreign language goals) for study abroad and change in intercultural competence. Data for this study was collected over four semesters from students (N = 78) who applied and were accepted to attend a study abroad program in a western European country. The study abroad program was hosted by a faith-based university in the Midwest. Participants were from the host university (n = 69) and other similar universities (n = 9). Participants were first-semester freshmen (n = 34), upperclassmen (n = 44), female (n = 61), and male (n = 17). The Study Abroad Goals Scale (SAGS) (Kitsantas, 2004) and the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) (Hammer, 2012) were administered within the first week of the semester. The IDI was administered again at the conclusion of the semester. Students were encouraged but not required to complete the instruments. Kitsantas’ (2004) study on the role of goals as a predictor of cross-cultural development served as a model for this study. Two research questions guided this study. First, what is the relationship (correlation) between student goals as measured by the SAGS for their study abroad experience and change in intercultural competence as measured by the IDI? A Pearson r correlation analysis was run on each of the three SAGS subscales for the combined, freshmen, and upperclassmen participants. Results indicated a simple negative linear correlation on SAGS subscale two for the combined (r = -.279; p < .05, two-tailed) and also for the freshmen participants (r = -.404; p < .05, two-tailed). Second, what is the difference between first-semester freshmen and upperclassmen goals on the SAGS for study abroad and change in intercultural competence as measured by the IDI? A two-tailed t-test revealed a statistically significant difference on subscale one (t = 1.812; p < .10) and on subscale three (t = 3.594; p < .001). Results from a secondary analysis showed significant growth (p < .001) on the IDI for all three participant groups from pre-to-post semester. Literature is sparse on the relationship of goals and change in intercultural competence, which provides ample opportunities for additional research. This study was the first to examine the correlation between the SAGS and the IDI. Limitations included a small sample size, a single study abroad setting, and a narrow pool of participants (only students from small, faith-based universities). The SAGS is a useful tool for students studying abroad and for on-site personnel to understand students’ goals for their experience. With designated time for self-evaluation of goals, feedback, and guided reflection, goals may still prove a factor for growth in intercultural competence during study abroad.