Keywords: Transfer, Socio-economic Status, Undergraduate
Participation in high impact practices, like study abroad experiences, helps students develop global competencies, improve chances of academic success, and enhance interpersonal, cognitive, and intrapersonal competencies. Although study abroad programs have largely achieved gender parity, some students remain systematically underrepresented in study abroad, including underrepresented racial/minority groups, transfer students, and low income or first-generation students. The purpose of this exploratory study is to examine the study abroad experiences of prospective engineering transfer students who currently attend a community college, have financial need, and participate in a global engineering program at Virginia Tech. We focus on the following research question: How do prospective transfer students describe their experience in an engineering study abroad program?
Our study context is a global engineering program with approximately 180 rising sophomore students who engage in a Spring semester global engineering class followed by a two-week international module on one of seven international tracks. Using narrative analysis, we examine journal reflections of prospective transfer students who participate in the program. Our findings suggest that (1) prospective transfer students reflected candidly on moments of discomfort and tension during interactions with peers from Virginia Tech, and (2) prospective transfer students reported gaining a deeper understanding of engineering, even reporting a desire to work internationally as engineers in the future.
Overall, this paper highlights a need for expanding access to study abroad programs and for program administrators to integrate potential transfer students into the group carefully and purposefully, especially when those students are older than their peers. This paper also calls for more focused research into the experiences of potential transfer students, including longitudinal studies about the long-term impacts of participating in high-impact practice programs on participants’ future success at Virginia Tech.
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