Theresa Harvey_Thesis_30.06.2023.FINAL.pdf (2.44 MB)

The lived experience of undergraduate health discipline students who participate in a short-term study abroad program

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posted on 2023-11-20, 05:38 authored by Theresa Harvey
Short-term study abroad programs provide a period of mobility (less than 8 weeks duration) for higher education students, aimed at augmenting their personal learning and understanding of another culture and country within a discipline context. Over the past decade, there has been an exponential growth in tertiary students in Australia engaging in these short-term learning activities. This growth is attributed to the Australian Government and Higher Education sector’s response to globalisation and developing global citizens, resulting in the investment of considerable financial assistance to students seeking to undertake such an experience. Study abroad has been found to be a valuable learning experience, however, there is limited literature that reports the actual personal experiences that focus on tertiary students studying a health discipline, who have undertaken a short-term international program. It is important to examine health students’ personal and professional learnings acquired from a short-term study abroad program to gain an understanding of how the experiences impact them and what skills, attitudes and values they develop that they can transfer to their professional roles. The purpose of this research was to explore the lived experience of undergraduate health discipline students who participated in a short-term study abroad program. A descriptive phenomenological approach in the Husserlian tradition, was taken to explore this phenomenon. Twenty-one students from two Australian universities, studying social work, midwifery, paramedicine and nursing, who had partaken in a short-term international study program, volunteered to be interviewed. The transcribed interview data was analysed using Colaizzi's (1978) seven step method to explicate theme clusters and core themes of the participants’ experiences. Findings revealed five themes: feeling unsafe and anxious about the unknown-unexpected; finding comfort in feeling a sense of belonging; coming to terms with a different reality; adapting to moments of cross-cultural encounters; and becoming mindful of the developing self. The themes revealed how the participants’ journey led to personal and professional development that transformed the way they viewed themselves and their future professional practice.



Central Queensland University

Open Access

  • Yes

Era Eligible

  • No


A/P A. Welch, A/Prof.Julie Shaw, Em Prof. Helen Edwards, Dr Ashlyn Sahay

Thesis Type

  • Doctoral Thesis

Thesis Format

  • Traditional

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