The number of college students who participate in study abroad programs continue to increase every year. According to Open Doors 2011, 270,604 US students studied abroad for academic credit in 2009/2010. This is an increase of 3.9% over the previous year. U.S. student participation in study abroad has more than tripled over the past two decades (Institute of International Education, 2011).
There is a growing trend toward shorter study abroad programs. Open Doors defines short-term study abroad programs as those that occur during the summer or are eight weeks or shorter. From the 2009/2010 data, 56.6% of the programs were short-term programs (Institute of International Education, 2011). Short-term programs have grown more than any
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Dwyer concluded that full academic year abroad experiences had a more significant and longer lasting effect on student participants. However, she did point out that, “In some categories of factors, summer students were as likely or more likely to achieve sustainable benefit from studying abroad in comparison with semester students” (Dwyer, 2004, p. 161). Cultural competency is a term that gets thrown around a lot. Many educators would agree that it is a skill that students will gain from participating in a study abroad program, and something valuable they should graduate college with and bring with them to the workforce. Thus, this leads us to two questions: How should we define cultural competency? How can we measure it?
Milton Bennett’s (1986) Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS) is a developmental model divided into six stages of development, with each stage representing a way to experiencing difference. Here, the term intercultural sensitivity is used instead of intercultural competence. Hammer, Bennett, and Wiseman (2003) use intercultural sensitivity to refer to “the ability to discriminate and experience relevant cultural differences,” as opposed to intercultural competence, which is “the ability to think and act in interculturally appropriate ways” (p. 422; as cited in Bourjolly,