Document Type

Student Research Paper


Spring 2016


The purpose of this study was to gain perspective on occupational therapy students and licensed occupational therapists’ perception of how their study abroad experiences affect their skills, specifically in regards to cultural awareness and competency. Completed research related to this topic in occupational therapy consisted of expanding cultural constructs and perspectives, understanding strategies that practitioners utilize when engaging different cultures, and practitioners’ meaning of their lived experiences working in other countries. One’s own perception of culture can change through experience and immersion into a new culture. The need for preparing occupational therapy students to attend to culture and cultural awareness in client-centered practice is evidenced through a review of literature (Murden, Norman, Ross, Sturdivant, Kedia, & Shad, 2008). There is also a need to evaluate the long-term impact of international experience on the individual (Johns, 2010; Mu, Coppard, Bracciano, Doll, & Matthews, 2010).

The primary research question of this study was how studying abroad affects occupational therapy students’ and licensed occupational therapists’ perceived skillset in fieldwork and practice. Secondary questions include, what does it mean to have cultural awareness or cultural competence? How do you think this experience has affected your awareness and commitment to cultural competence? How have these new perspectives of cultural competency and awareness affect client-centered practice? The goal is to gain valuable insight into these perspectives. Limits of the research would include the results of the study being biased from the perspectives of educated occupational therapy Elizabethtown College students and graduates and that these perspectives are culturally bound to the participants. Another limit may be that each study abroad experience is unique; this study looks specifically at occupational therapy students’ and occupational therapists’ study abroad experiences and its perceivable applications.


Senior Thesis.