Date Approved


Graduate Degree Type


Degree Name

Education (M.Ed.)

Degree Program

College of Education

First Advisor

Donald Mitchell

Second Advisor

Chasity Bailey-Fakhoury

Third Advisor

Mark Schaub


Study abroad participation has more than tripled over the past two decades in the United States and has led to increased research efforts on topics such as the benefits of study abroad and the development of students who study abroad; however, little research exists on students who have heritage connections to the area in which they study abroad. In order to address this need within the field of higher education and study abroad, a hermeneutic phenomenological qualitative study was conducted to explore what factors, if any, affect changes in identity salience for students who study abroad in areas that are representative of their heritage. Rather than focus on one aspect of identity (e.g., social, ethnic, racial, or nationality), this study left it up to the participants to disclose what pieces of their identity, if any, were affected by their individual study abroad experience. Identity salience in regards to ancestral connection was a focus of this study. The theories that guide this study include Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory and Abes, Jones, and McEwen’s reconceptualized model of multiple dimensions of identity. This research provides insight into this phenomenon by exploring the lived experiences of American students who studied abroad in an area connected to some part of their heritage. In addition, this research embraces a holistic perspective of student development as a guiding philosophy throughout in order to represent the fluidity and intersectionality of identity.