Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Linda Cool




students, semester abroad, intercultural exchange, immersion, host culture


American students are now more than ever being encouraged to study abroad. Study abroad has been praised for increasing students’ cultural sensitivity, and promoting personal, professional, and intellectual development. In the spring of 2011, I personally had the chance to participant in, analyze, and reflect upon what the American students’ study abroad experience is all about. After three months during the summer in India, as a participant observer in a language intensive program, and three months during the fall in Australia, as a participant observer in Union College’s Partners in Global Education, I have a unique personal and cultural understanding of what happens to American students when they study abroad. Here the focus is on the concept of cultural immersion as it relates to American students while they are studying abroad. Cultural immersion, an expressed ideal of the majority of study abroad programs, is a multifaceted concept. A common misconception is that students can go abroad and effortlessly “get immersed” into the host culture. This attitude is detrimental to a successful immersion process. However, there are many options, whether through a homestay, participation in an organization, a peer tutor or as an individual observer, for students to actively begin and propagate their immersion into a host culture. Using interviews with my co-participants, participant observation, and my own experiences, I researched how, if at all, American students immerse into the host culture. I gained insight into how students prepared for studying abroad, what they expected to gain from their international experiences, what they did in their free time while abroad and with whom, and what it means to be living in a homestay while abroad.