An ethnographic study of foreign travel and its impact on the foreign-language student
Teichmiller, Nancy C.
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The purpose of this thesis was to understand the impact of foreign travel on the foreign-language learning, cultural knowledge, and personal development of high-school students. Having traveled with students out of the country on four prior occasions, I believed that foreign travel did greatly influence my students, specifically in areas of language, culture, and personal development. I wanted evidence. In the summer of 1998, I traveled with 21 students and two other chaperones to Spain. As the student's teacher and chaperone, I was involved in the experience. Using a participant observation method, I systematically recorded and documented the reactions of my students. Upon evaluating the data collected during and after the trip, there were five themes that became clear: 1) students expressed sentiments of surprise about their ability to communicate with and comprehend the Spaniards, surprise at their knowledge of culture and history that they had learned over their years in school, and surprise at the amount of fun they were having while learning; 2) students realized that a foreign culture is a difficult concept to grasp while immersed in one's own culture, and that the American way is not the only way; 3) students learned that culturally normative ideas about how to behave, dress, and believe can be challenged; 4) students learned to appreciate their own good fortune by experiencing other perspectives on how people live; and 5) students' attitudes were changed regarding their studies, their futures, their fears, and their priorities. I will continue to travel with students to foreign countries knowing how valuable the experience can be. I now can offer evidence to administrators, teachers, parents, community members, and students to prove that a trip to a foreign country is not only enjoyable, but also incredibly influential for those that participate.