Enlightened travelers? Cultural attitudes, competencies, and study abroad

Ara Pachmayer, Kathleen Andereck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


In this qualitative study, the impact of the touristic experiences of study abroad participants on cultural attitude change and perceived cultural competence was investigated. The sample was comprised of college students who had participated in a study abroad program. The study included a photo elicitation project with participants after their study abroad program where participants submitted up to 10 photos from their study abroad experience, which represented best their experiences in another culture. The results of this study indicate that the touristic experiences study abroad participants have does result in changes in both their cultural attitudes and cultural competency, which supports previous literature. Participants often have profound experiences while studying abroad that impacts their feelings about others, themselves, and how they function in the world as expressed through cultural attitude change and perceptions of cultural competency. Participants expressed their cultural attitudes by discussing expectations and assumptions they had about the host country, cultural adjustment, trying new things in the host culture, and comparing the host country to home. In discussing their cultural attitudes, participants further explained how their experiences led them to acknowledge cultural differences and resulted in changes in their ability to understand, accept, and adapt to cultural differences, all elements necessary for attaining cultural competency. Recommendations include using the framework of the study in evaluating study abroad participants' touristic experiences outside of the classroom. This could result in valuable information for improving cultural experiences embedded to a study abroad program and designing reflection activities for participants to better understand the impact of study abroad on their cultural attitudes and cultural competency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-182
Number of pages18
JournalTourism, Culture and Communication
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2019


  • Contact theory
  • Cultural attitude change
  • Cultural competency
  • Photo elicitation
  • Study abroad

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Communication
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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