As the old model of study abroad welcomes a new generation of student, administrators are forced to grapple with how and whether to adapt the old model to new communication technologies. Assumed in the traditional model of study abroad, and in the cultural and language learning theories around which those programs were constructed, is that learning takes place in face-to-face (FTF) encounters with the host culture. Under these assumptions, the Internet is merely a distraction and ought to be avoided during study abroad. However, more recent research on Internet-mediated communication no longer situates Internet-mediated communication as diametrically opposed to FTF communication. Study abroad participants and administrators have long grappled with how to decrease stress and increase integration during study abroad. Literature on Internet-mediated social support, and computer-mediated communication, suggests that the Internet may be an effective means through which to access socially supportive peer networks, and break down barriers to communication-both of which have the potential to reduce stress and increase integration while abroad. The present study is a descriptive analysis of how students are using the Internet to enhance their experience abroad. An original survey instrument constructed from qualitative data was used to determine the ways in which students use the Internet to both access and to create networks of support during study abroad. The results indicate that the Internet bolsters confidence and risk taking by providing students with the perception of available support, valuable informational support, and access to a broader social network. These results are then analyzed with respect to students' acculturative stress levels and increased integration.
- Internet-mediated communication
- social support
- study abroad