Fall 11-11-2022

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Leadership (Ed.D.)

Type of Paper/Work



Fr. Jean-Pierre Bongila

Second Advisor

Chien-Tzu Candace Chou

Third Advisor

Jayne K. Sommers


This phenomenological study examined how alums made meaning of their cultural immersion programs during high school. I selected 10 participants (five men and five women) who graduated from a Midwest private high school between 2012 and 2021 and attended at least one of the Guatemala or Ethiopia immersion programs between 2012 and 2019. Data collection comprised surveys, semi-structured interviews, artifacts, and researcher’s notes. The first theme generated by data analysis revealed participants’ motivations to join the programs. The second theme indicated that while abroad, participants experienced discomfort before overcoming communication challenges and appreciating the host culture. The third theme showed the enduring effects of the programs. Contact theory (Allport, 1954) explained the role of personal interactions participants develop during their cultural immersion programs. Intercultural competency theory (Bennett, 1986, 2017) helped analyze participants’ intercultural competency development. The findings of this study indicate personal contact is an essential element. Also, study abroad programs increase participants’ intercultural competency skills. School leaders should encourage high school students to participate in at least one immersion experience. Future research should expand on this study to understand how differences in identity, such as race and gender, affect individuals’ cultural immersion experiences.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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