Beyond Sightseeing: The Learning Effects of Excursions within a Study Abroad Context

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(Download the complete article as a .pdf file.)

Supervised cultural excursions are often included in the offerings of study abroad immersion programs. Such excursions have the potential to achieve a depth beyond sightseeing. Under certain conditions, excursions can foster foreign language and intercultural learning as well as skill acquisition in a setting that has advantages not only over the traditional classroom, but also over daily unsupervised immersion.

I intuitively came to these conclusions during my experience as both a program participant and later, as an organizer and leader of such cultural excursions with the Boston University (BU) Dresden Programs in Germany. In academic literature on study abroad topics, excursions are generally viewed as being beneficial for students (Dahl; Fry; Hansen, Bohn, Smithers; Thies 86; Zeilinger 10, 16). However, to my knowledge, the above statements have never been supported by empirical evidence. Therefore, the questions which guided my research were:

What are the potential learning effects of immersion program excursions?

What are the actual learning effects of immersion program excursions?

I attempted to answer the first question with a literature review of immersion programs and excursions, and the second question with an empirical case study of the cultural excursions offered by the BU Dresden Liberal Arts Program. My findings will be described in condensed form below.[1]

The accompanying Appendix for this article can be downloaded here.

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About Devon Donohue-Bergeler

Devon Donohue-Bergeler earned a B.A. from Boston University and an M.A. from the Technische Universität Dresden in Germany. She has supported STEM field international students and scholars in both Dresden and Hamburg and was a trainee at the European Parliament in Luxembourg. Currently, she is an Assistant Instructor of German pursuing a PhD in foreign language education at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research interests focus on aspects of second language acquisition in a study abroad setting, experiential learning, motivation and intercultural learning.

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