Traditionally in the United States, study abroad has been regarded as the primary source for meaningful interaction with members of the target language (TL) community, particularly at the post-secondary level. Today, more than 300,000 college students study abroad every year, and most of them do so in short-term island programs (defined as programs arranged by a sponsoring university, lasting less than eight weeks, aimed primarily at students from that institution, and often taught by faculty members of the home campus). This exploratory study analyzes the change in intercultural contact (i.e., frequency and quality of interaction with members of the second language community) as a result of participation in a short-term study abroad program. Furthermore, it investigates whether those changes are influenced by specific study abroad program features (such as homestays, cultural visits, and service learning), or by the student’s level of experience with the TL. Thirty-nine participants in five different short-term island programs (based in Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Panama and Spain) were examined to determine the impact of foreign sojourns on the nature and extent of their intercultural contact with the host community, using an adapted version of the Intercultural Contact Questionnaire (ICQ) (Kormos, Csizér and Iwaniec 2014). The results of this investigation highlight the cultural limitations of short-term study programs abroad, as well as the challenges faced by second language learners when trying to engage members of the TL community. The pedagogical significance and curricular implications of the findings are discussed.


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pp. 249-266
Launched on MUSE
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