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Title: Outside looking in : case studies of the effects of study abroad on female African American university students' identities
Author: Sol, Nicole
ISNI:       0000 0004 5351 5526
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2014
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In the 2010-2011 academic year, Black university students comprised only 4.8% of all study abroad students in the United States, despite being 14.5% of all university students. In an attempt to better foster the experiences of these students, this thesis seeks to understand the evolution of Black women’s self-concept from studying abroad. This qualitative empirical research focuses on the individual experiences of five U.S. Black university women who studied outside of the United States for one term or academic year during 2011-2012. These case studies gathered data through interviews and field texts, including oral history interviews prior to the participants’ departure, field texts collected while the students were on their abroad experiences, and a follow-up interview after their repatriation back to the United States. Too often, academics seek refuge of analysis in conventional theorists to look for new connections and understandings. Using these frameworks with marginalised communities does a disservice to these individuals. We cannot hope to understand the experience of alternative ways of being if we presume that all people fall into mainstream cultural theory. Therefore this study uses African American psychologists (instead of White psychologists) to examine the participants’ understanding of their identity. Specifically I utilise intersectionality and Africentric theory to understand how these women regard themselves in relation to their family structure, nationality, and religion. Black feminist thought is also employed to analyse the participants’ understanding of their gender with regards to sexualised imaging, physical appearance, and hair. I examine academic achievement (including personal and professional advancement, as well as racial contribution) through a Black psychological lens. This research found that study abroad does indeed have a powerful impact on Black women’s identities. All five women expressed higher self-confidence and shifts in how they understood the various aspects of their identities. Yet the shifts that occurred varied for the individual woman, which I attribute not only to the different destinations where these women studied abroad, but also to the complex and unique identities (and individual understanding of those identities) that each woman carried with her into her study abroad experience. These differences indicate that study abroad practitioners should be attentive in offering custom support to every student to allow him or her to reap the most growth from their time abroad.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Study abroad ; Higher education ; Intersectionality ; African American psychology ; Identity ; Black women