Mentoring for Study Abroad

Students who go abroad, it is commonly assumed, return with new skills in intercultural communication and a worldly open-mindedness. While this is undoubtedly true for many students, some also come home from their stay abroad with negative learning outcomes and reinforced prejudices. This undesirable effect of study abroad can be counteracted by preparing and accompanying students during their time abroad with a mentoring system that supports them not only in their critical social and cultural negotiation with the host country but also in reflecting upon their own behaviour in the intercultural connection. 

Moreover, students can apply these intercultural skills at home and develop a critical way of thinking about their own country. In this way, the borders of perceiving self and other are modified and relativized, and not only the critical understanding of the host country’s culture and society is advanced, but also for that of the home country. We assume that successful intercultural learning will also simplify students’ access to their studies and will promote good academic achievements. 

With the aim of developing such a support system for outgoing students, the University of Bern and the University of Technology in Sydney are collaborating on a research project investigating methods for facilitating students’ intercultural learning through study abroad programs. Specifically, the project aims at developing a mentoring program that will help students to build constructive and open attitudes towards other learning environments as well as cultural awareness and responsiveness that are applicable both abroad and at home.