College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Landscape Architecture

Thinking of studying abroad?

From the Diamondback: "Students return with heightened nationalism after studying abroad"
Freshmen Grace Stanton and Alex Smoot talk with landscape architecture professor Dennis Nola about study abroad options at the Study Abroad Fair in Stamp Student Union on September 10, 2015.
Photo Credit: 
Stephanie Natoli/The Diamondback

While hundreds of University of Maryland students each year pack their bags to study abroad, expecting to fall in love with another country, one university professor found they might return with different sentiments.

Calvert Jones, a government and politics professor who arrived at this university in August, found in a 2014 study that American students tend to feel a heightened sense of “enlightened nationalism” after returning from study-abroad programs, as opposed to feeling connected to the other country.

“People came back [from studying abroad], relative to those about to go, much prouder of their American identity, prouder to be American citizens, feeling like they had more in common with Americans as a whole,” she said.

The report studied 571 undergraduate subjects from 11 U.S. colleges, some of whom were returning from a fall semester abroad and others who were planning to go abroad during the following spring semester.

The subjects reported their opinions about concepts such as democracy and “the good life” and how their opinions compared with those of their host countries, she said.

While Jones said some studies and theorists have noticed that cross-cultural experiences lead to positive relationships between different cultures and the idea of “sameness,” this study provided evidence that immersion in different cultures could lead to a mere understanding of differences, but a greater pride for one’s own country.

“The experience … kind of renders it clearer who you are as a nation, coming into contact with the other but in a way that is not necessarily threatening,” Jones said. “It is not necessarily chauvinistic and particularistic and dangerous.”

Senior biology major Sarahann Yeh studied abroad in China from February to August 2014, spending months in the country where her ancestors once lived. While she has both Chinese and American roots, the experience challenged her biracial identity, she said.

“I’d always kind of identified myself as Chinese,” she said, “but after going to China, I kind of realized that I was raised American and I am an American person through and through.”

But the most popular host countries in Jones’ study — Spain, France, Italy and the United Kingdom — are the ones most similar to the United States, said Conrad Zeutenhorst, an adviser in the Education Abroad office.

It could be difficult to make generalizations about study-abroad experiences when looking at similar cultures, he said.

“[Jones] did a good job of highlighting that this is not the jingoistic, aggressive nationalism that we’ve seen in the 20th century,” he said. “It’s more an appreciation of American culture.”

Jones said she would like to repeat this study in the future, focusing more on people who study abroad in cultures less similar to those of Western countries.

Zeutenhorst added that the most popular destinations for students at this university studying abroad are in Western countries, too.

“Western Europe has always been the destination of choice for Americans,” Zeutenhorst said. “We’re a campus that still has that legacy, and it’s not a bad thing. It is what it is, but it is a wide world out there.”

CORRECTION: Due to a reporting error, the photo caption in a previous version of this story identified Dennis Nola as an architecture professor. He is a landscape architecture professor. The article has been updated.

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