Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore

Psychological impact of experience of study abroad

 5 April 2019

What are the main triggers for transformative learning during study abroad experiences? And what are the blocks? Flavia Cristofolini from the Faculty of Psychology at Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore held a fascinating session describing the outcomes of research undertaken with colleagues Alice Chirico (Facaulty of Psychology) and Andrea Gaggioli (Faculty of Psychology, and the Istituto Auxologico Italiano, Milan).

Although study abroad is generally accepted as being a standard tool for achieving internationalisation, there is little research to back up this claim and the study presented on 2 April 2019 went some way to respond to this lack of data.

The study analysed a group of Italian students to see their study abroad experience was in fact a transformative learning experience, and if so, what effect it had. Changes over time were monitored through interviews which were conducted before they left for a six-month programme abroad, and then immediately upon their return and then again six months later. The students went to a number of different countries in Europe and to the United States.

The results of the study provide specific qualitative and quantitative data on the transformative learning that takes place while students are undertaking study abroad programmes. This data can be used in internationalisation planning – by preparing students for study abroad and by using it together with other data for planning programme content.