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Voices of the Global Community


Jodi Malmgren, Study Abroad Advising Interest Group Chair

The NACADA Core Values challenge advisors to “help students establish realistic goals and objectives and encourage them to be responsible for their own progress and success” (NACADA, 2004). As advisors, we know that helping students to set goals and to monitor their progress assists them with achieving their desired educational outcomes.

Anastasia Kitsantas (2004) highlighted strong correlations between goal-setting and study abroad learning outcomes. Kitsantas surveyed her students about three goals for study abroad – enhanced cross-cultural skills, proficiency in the subject matter, and socializing – and tested two subsequent learning outcomes – cross cultural skill development and global understanding. In her study, students who set one of the two academic goals for their study abroad experience (rather than a purely social goal) were more likely to develop cross-cultural skills and gain deeper global understanding.

While Kitsantas’ research was limited to just a few goals and learning outcomes, her exciting results suggest two possible lines of inquiry: what are desirable study abroad learning outcomes and how might academic advisors encourage students to set goals to achieve those outcomes?

Study Abroad Learning Outcomes

How might we define desirable learning outcomes for study abroad participants? Categorizing learning outcomes into three areas can help students determine realistic goals for their study abroad. Categories and examples include:

Academic Learning Outcomes

  • Discipline-specific learning
  • Knowledge of norms and cultures of another country and its educational system
  • Language proficiency
  • Field research techniques
  • Career-related knowledge or contacts developed through an internship

Ability Learning Outcomes

  • Autonomy/self-direction
  • Confidence
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Tolerance for ambiguity
  • Flexibility

Attitudes/Awareness Learning Outcomes

  • Intercultural awareness and competence
  • Awareness of global issues
  • Ability to evaluate competing perspectives on global issues
  • Interest in community service/involvement
  • Appreciation of difference
  • Awareness of one’s own values and culture
  • New perspective on the U.S. and its role in the world

Goal-setting with Advisees

What questions might an advisor ask to assist students to set goals to achieve those learning outcomes? What kinds of experiences might an advisee seek out when choosing a study abroad program to reach these objectives?

Academic Learning Outcomes

Advisor Questions
Student experiences
Inquire whether students are choosing courses that duplicate what is offered on campus, or if they may choose courses that complement the on-campus curriculum. The advisee might enroll in a course abroad that takes advantage of local experts or that exposes students to a new perspective on their discipline of study.
Encourage students to make a “language pledge” to speak the host country language whenever possible. The student could choose a program that allows students to live with a host family to improve language proficiency.
Ask if advisees have considered doing an internship or field-based learning experience. An advisee might consider programs that offer out-of-classroom experience and make a point to follow up with individuals they meet.

Ability Learning Outcomes

Advisor Questions
Student experiences
Ask students what strategies can be used to get to know their host family or community. What steps will they take to learn more about the culture prior to going abroad and while living abroad? The student may wish to ask for recommendations about what to read or what films to see to learn more about the country of study and its culture.
Encourage advisees to plan a “weekly challenge” that requires them to gain a new skill, such as learning to grocery shop or finding a library. The advisee will want to take time to explore the adopted country and learn how to navigate the public transportation system.
Ask advisees how they will cope with a roommate or host family member whose political beliefs differ radically from their own. A student could try new foods and ask about local ingredients and food preparation.

Attitudes/Awareness Learning Outcomes

Advisor Questions
Student experiences
Ask advisees to think critically about their own norms and values and how those might differ from those in their host culture.
Many students choose to participate actively in the local community through volunteer work, an internship, or other activity.
Encourage advisees to read newspaper accounts of local and global issues while abroad and consider the political perspective of the journalist or newspaper.
An advisee could ask a professor for suggested reading written by a local author on a topic the student knows from an American perspective.
Share experiences with encountering cultural differences; note ways to navigate the unexpected.
Students often seek out ways to meet locals of different age groups and backgrounds and ask respectful questions about their perspectives.

Advisors often assist students with goal setting for study abroad, e.g., deciding where to study and what courses to take while abroad. Additionally, advisors should assist students with deeper goal setting that may help achieve the learning outcomes listed above. Although many of the outcomes above are expected to be natural results of a study abroad experience, Kitsantas’ research suggests that goal setting plays an important role. Advisors should challenge advisees to think deeply about their goals for study abroad and how they might best achieve those goals when they choose a program, while abroad, and as they reflect upon their experiences when they return.

StudyAbroadIG.jpgJodi Malmgren
Associate Director
Learning Abroad Center
University of Minnesota
[email protected]


Kitsantas, A. (2004). Studying abroad: The role of college students’ goals on the development of cross-cultural skills and global Understanding. College Student Journal 38 (3) 441-452.

NACADA. (2004). NACADA statement of core values of academic advising. Retrieved September 21, 2007 from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising ResourcesWeb site: www.nacada.ksu.edu/clearinghouse/AdvisingIssues/Core-Values-Exposition.htm

Cite this article using APA style as: Malmgren, J. (2007, December). Goal-setting for study abroad learning outcomes . Academic Advising Today, 30(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]


# Mariam
Sunday, January 6, 2019 12:16 PM
Nice article ... I encourage my students to study abroad and think of OPT as well

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