Three very different study abroad visits for US students illustrate limitations of short-term study abroad experiences as well as highlight successful approaches. Lessons can be gained for strategically planning experiences that gain the most cross-cultural learning from short study abroad visits.
Seven US business students attended a two-week business-plan competition in Germany that involved students from six countries. Incidents occurred which could have provided critical cross-cultural learning. Faculty-assisted analysis of these cultural incidents could have been used as teachable moments.
Thirty US business students attended a one-week study visit to Mexico in conjunction with a Mexican university. The students attended economic lectures at the university and visited industrial locations. Students were allowed to do as they wished during free time, without any interaction with host nationals or assisted cultural analysis.
Two US business students journeyed to Ethiopia for a three week visit in conjunction with an Ethiopian business college. The students were involved with in-depth cultural research and intensive interaction with host nationals. Strong gains in cultural understanding were observable.
The thesis of this pedagogical case study is that instructors and program directors should seize upon, and create, the opportunity for unplanned critical incidents. These incidents should not be looked on as problems, difficulties, or bad behavior, but as normal cross-cultural interactions that can teach students more than pre-planned program interactions. Intensive interactions with host nationals in uncontrolled situations, combined with expert analysis, may convey greater cross-cultural learning than controlled formal programs.
This empirical study investigates American market responses to a Spanish product that is strongly culture-laden and may violate cultural taboos. Surveys were conducted in two contrasting US universities in Arkansas and California. Contrasting student majors were also chosen: Art and Business. The product is a life-sized baby doll, designed to be breast-fed rather than bottle-fed, which highlights the benefits and normality of breast-feeding babies. Although this product is popular in its original European market, US media accounts suggested strongly negative morality-based American reactions. This study found a strong overall non-acceptance of this product in all groups, but with significant differences between groups. Results quantify the market reaction and illuminate its cultural basis by comparing responses between two culturally different regions, two contrasting college majors, different genders, and different ethnicities. In doing so, this study helps to break new ground in the international marketing of culture-laden products.