Higher Education Ph.D. Dissertations


Studying Abroad: An Opportunity for Growth in Spirituality

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Higher Education Administration

First Advisor

Dafina-Lazarus Stewart

Second Advisor

Ellen Broido (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Stefan Fritsch (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Patrick Pauken (Committee Member)


The purpose of this collective case study was to explore how six college students described the influence of their study abroad experience on their spirituality. I situated this study in a constructivist research paradigm because the inquiry focused on how the participants constructed meaning about and understood the influence of study abroad on their spirituality. I utilized a staged, semi-structured interview protocol consisting of up to three separate interviews. Interviews took place before participants departed for their study abroad experience, while they were abroad, and after returning home from studying abroad. Students studied abroad for at least eight weeks during the summer of 2012.

Through a better understanding of their described experience, I gained insight into the impact of study abroad, how study abroad affected specific spiritual practices, and which specific elements of study abroad ignited spiritual development. From the data, six major themes emerged to indicate how students described the influence of studying abroad on their spirituality. Students became more aware of their own and others ' spirituality. Spiritual coping was utilized by many participants in reaction to feeling isolated, uncomfortable, and homesick. Participants enacted spiritual and religious practices while abroad to help cope with being abroad or to enact their spirituality. Participants engaged in dialogue about spirituality and spiritual questions. Finally, participants expressed that, after studying abroad, their spiritual identity was strengthened.