Students' Perceived Benefits of Short-Term Study Abroad Programs: A Case Study of Hong Kong Higher Education

Students' Perceived Benefits of Short-Term Study Abroad Programs: A Case Study of Hong Kong Higher Education

Annie Yan-Ni Cheng (The Hong Kong Institute of Education, Hong Kong)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0169-5.ch007
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Abstract

Short-term study abroad programs have been increasingly emphasized in expanding university curricula since the beginning of the 21st Century. This chapter aims to understand students' perceptions of short-term study abroad programs in the context of Hong Kong Higher Education (HE). Its objectives are to examine students' perceived benefits, concerns and the issues facing them when deciding on their participation in these programs. Using quantitative and qualitative methods, a case study was conducted in the eight universities of Hong Kong. Results show that the students strongly believed that the greatest benefits of taking part in these programs included enhancing their personal growth and intercultural development. The significance of this chapter is to contribute new knowledge to the understanding of students' perceptions and values of outbound short-term study abroad in an Asian/Chinese context.
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Introduction

Although it was such a pain dealing with the issues of deciding whether or not to participate in the exchange program at the time, this kind of study abroad experience brought me memories that will last a lifetime. (Megan)

The expansion of student mobility in terms of short-term study abroad programs has important academic, cultural, economic, political, and societal outcomes for both the sending and host institutions and their countries, as well as for the students involved in these programs. Universities have been introducing exchange or short-term study abroad programs into their curricula since the beginning of the 21st Century. Governments and universities in Western countries have been researching the effectiveness of the integration of various types of short-term study abroad programs in their Higher Education (HE) curricula. Similar to other Western countries, short-term study abroad programs are increasingly emphasised in the curricula of Hong Kong universities. However, few research studies have been undertaken in the Chinese or Asian context.

This chapter aims to understand students’ perceptions of these programs in the context of Hong Kong HE. Its objectives are to examine students’ perceived value, concerns and issues facing them when deciding whether to participate in these programs. A case study was conducted in the eight HE institutions (HEIs) in Hong Kong, using both quantitative and qualitative methods.

Key Terms in this Chapter

NVIVO: A Qualitative Data Analysis (QDA) computer software package produced by QSR International. It has been designed for qualitative researchers working with rich text-based and/or multimedia information, where deep levels of analysis on small or large volumes of data are required. NVivo is used predominantly by academic, government, health and commercial researchers across a diverse range of fields, including social sciences such as anthropology, communication, psychology, and sociology, as well as fields such as criminology, forensics, marketing, and tourism.

Immersion Program in Hong Kong Teacher Education: In this study, ‘immersion program’ refers to an immersion semester which is a compulsory part of the language program. Government policy requires that every full-time undergraduate language student-teacher has the opportunity to undertake at least one international or mainland experience during his/her course of study. In this HEI, all BEd (English) students will go abroad to live and study in an English-speaking country such as Australia, the UK or Canada, while all BEd (Chinese) students will go abroad to live and study in a Putonghua-speaking city such as cities in mainland China or Taiwan, in Year 3 Semester 1. The students will study for 15 weeks at a university and live with a local family, which is also called their host family. The aim of this experience is to enhance the students’ language proficiency and widen their horizons. In addition, the students are also expected to learn more about the language cultures and other education systems in order to increase their general confidence and develop a wider worldview.

Intercultural Competence: A set of cognitive, affective, and behavioural skills and characteristics that supports effective and appropriate interaction in a variety of cultural contexts.

Exchange Program in Hong Kong Higher Education: For the HE sector, a variety of Hong Kong exchange student programs are dependent on individual institutions, faculties and departments as per Singapore or Mainland China. For example, the University of Hong Kong (HKU) Worldwide Undergraduate Student Exchange Program was established in 1997. It serves to enhance students’ global perspectives and foster cross-cultural understanding among students of participating institutions (HKU, 2010 AU33: The in-text citation "HKU, 2010" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ). It expects that 25% of undergraduate students in HKU will have the chance to go outside Hong Kong for exchange activities. However, this exchange program has only provided limited scholarships or sponsorship and is mainly market-driven. The Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd, 2010 AU34: The in-text citation "HKIEd, 2010" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ) also offers an exchange program in order to consolidate its strategic partnerships with universities and schools of education within the region.

Short-Term Study Abroad Student: A student participates in a short duration, from a few weeks to one year, study abroad program as a component of a degree awarded in his/her own country. This kind of mobility may be achieved within study abroad programs such as exchanges, language immersion, overseas internships and voluntary programs.

Long-Term Study Abroad Student: A student undertakes the whole course abroad, the duration of which is at least from one to several years, and which might lead to formal education qualifications such as a bachelor degree, a Master’s degree or a postgraduate professional certificate. This kind of mobility is usually called ‘studying abroad’.

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