Exploring Students' Decisions Regarding Studying Abroad: A Study of Private University Students in South Texas

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Richard Gray


Pat Watkins


David Campos


this study was designed to examine one south Texas university's student participation and non-participation in study abroad programs. Though there are many advantages to be gained from studying abroad, a low participation level exists in south Texas in comparison to the U.S. student population. In an effort to better understand the low participation level in study abroad in this particular region, this study was designed to examine one south Texas university's student participation and non-participation in study abroad programs. This study used quantitative and qualitative data in order to address 3 research questions. First, what are the determinants affecting south Texas students' decisions regarding study abroad? Second, are certain demographic factors, including gender and ethnicity, significantly related to students' decisions regarding study abroad? Third, do the common determinants of study abroad decisions for south Texas participants and non-participants differ from those of other geographic areas and age groups? In the first phase, the researcher obtained quantitative data from a demographic and study abroad survey. The qualitative phase further explored the quantitative data using a phenomenological perspective by interviewing 18 students. The results of this study offered a view particular to south Texas students' decisions regarding study abroad. While some results of this study were found to be in agreement with previous findings from studies conducted in other U.S. regions, such as cost, professors '/administrators' support, friends' influence, prior knowledge before studying, students' interest and personal goals in study abroad, and logistics and planning, this study identified other factors of specific relevance to south Texas students' decisions. Such variables as low-paternal support, students' educational goals, and parents' educational attainment as significant influences on the decision regarding study abroad have not received much attention in previous studies. As a result of this study's findings, several recommendations are suggested for further implementation. First, encourage family members to be a part of the study abroad process by inviting them to meet with study abroad administrators and providing them with informational material on study abroad programs. Within this recommendation, administrators should consider sponsoring meetings for interested parents with parents of students who have already studied abroad to address their specific needs and concerns. Second, academic advisors and faculty should emphasize even earlier planning and participation. Within this recommendation, admission counselors should include studying abroad as one of their topics of discussion when recruiting incoming students in order to introduce or encourage the idea of studying abroad. Third, increase the number of informational sources while searching for additional scholarships could assist students who face financial issues when inquiring into study abroad. Fourth, encourage the exchange of information among students who have participated with those who are inquiring into studying abroad. Within this recommendation, administrators and faculty members should be encouraged to advertise study abroad when giving general announcements during class. The researcher suggests 3 recommendations for future study. The first recommendation is to expand the number of universities to be studied in the same region. Second, a future study could include different student classifications (e.g., freshmen, sophomores, etc.) while implementing the same methodology and tests in order to compare and contrast the determinants affecting study abroad decisions. Finally, increasing the duration of this study may add to the number of participants, thus yielding additional information for the purpose of comparing and contrasting determinants affecting the decision to study abroad.

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