Study finds that students with greater self-belief are less likely to view new cultures as a ‘threatening challenge’
Students who study abroad have higher levels of belief in their abilities to perform difficult tasks and cope with adversity, according to new research.
A study of 221 students at Leuphana University Lüneburg in Germany found that students who had been abroad had higher levels of self-efficacy than those who remained on campus.
But students who planned to go overseas, but who had not yet been, did not have a higher level of self-efficacy than those who did not plan a study-related stay abroad.
Students with higher levels of self-efficacy tend to cope better with stress, be more likely to successfully accomplish targets and have higher levels of life satisfaction, according to the research.
The paper, “International experience makes a difference: Effects of studying abroad on students’ self-efficacy”, also found that those who studied abroad tended to meet with more social contacts each week and that these contacts enhanced the development of their self-efficacy.
However, it was unclear whether the mere amount of contacts, the quality of socialising, the necessity to adapt to people from another culture or another factor influenced this trend.
Students with higher levels of self-efficacy also tended to have a more “laid-back” view concerning the confrontation with a new culture and were less likely to view it as a “threatening challenge”.
This could be because a high sense of self-efficacy supports students to overcome challenges more easily or that individuals with a high sense of self-efficacy might evaluate the challenge of a new culture as less problematic, the paper said.
However, the paper found that the effect of sojourning on self-efficacy, “even though significant, is rather small”, suggesting that there may be other factors at play.
It added that a possible rise in self-efficacy is unlikely to become a “crucial reason” for students studying abroad but is a “potentially useful side effect”.
The study said that the research could be developed by examining the longer-term impact of study abroad on self-efficacy, suggesting that the effect might be a “short-term phenomenon, declining to its original level after a while”.
A survey of 1,588 UK-domiciled undergraduates, conducted for the British Council and the UK Higher Education International Unit in 2015, found that at least 90 per cent of mobile students reported improved personal development, including increased independence, self-confidence and intercultural understanding.
By Ellie Bothwell