Steps Towards Decolonizing Study Abroad: Host Communities’ Perceptions of Change, Benefits, and Harms from Study Abroad

Heather Haeger, John E. Banks, Roman Christiaens, Lily Amador

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Educational travel, and in particular study abroad programs, are generally beneficial to students, but less is known about impacts on the communities in which they are located. This study explores such impacts for a small rural community in Costa Rica that has hosted dozens of ecotourism and study abroad programs. Sixteen interviews were conducted in the community to explore the social and cultural rewards and costs of these programs, including cultural changes such as increases in community members speaking English, availability of drugs and alcohol, appreciation of nature, and adoption of sustainable living practices. We analyze these impacts by examining common programmatic assumptions about study abroad and borrowing biological constructs of symbiosis to diagram the potential trade-offs and costs for the local community–as the basis for developing more mutualistic, decolonized programs in the future.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)81-102
JournalFrontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1 2024

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