Update #1: Figuring it out

**Disclaimer: I forgot to post these progress reports throughout my research, but I will try to post reflective accounts of the different stages of my research**

When I first began my research, I had a very general interest in the benefits of study abroad, which was sparked by the fact that I was going abroad to Spain with the William and Mary Cadiz Summer 2019 program. I knew that William and Mary stressed the importance of studying abroad to their liberal arts education, which is intended to produce a well-rounded individual capable of dealing with problems from many different areas of study and integrating their areas of knowledge effectively to craft a solution. However, I was not entirely sure what concrete benefits I could hope to reap from my five weeks abroad.

During the first block of my research, I found many articles summarizing studies about the general benefits of experiencing life in a foreign culture regardless of housing situation, host country language, length of stay, level of integration, and other specific factors that differentiate programs. These benefits were mostly in the realm of personal development of intercultural sensibility and adaptability. I learned that there are many different characteristics that fall under those categories, including flexibility and open-mindedness, cultural empathy and non-judgmental perceptiveness, personal autonomy, and resourcefulness. Each of these traits can be improved simply through the daily experiential learning that comes with immersion in a scenario that you have never experienced.

A more familiar example of these changes can be seen in many of our own lives as we reflect on the transformation many of us underwent throughout our freshman years. College students go through a comparable transition as they move in to college and must juggle new living and dining situations, forming lasting friendships from scratch, and staying afloat in the more demanding college courses, which are normally a different style from their high school experiences. However, unless their college was in a different country, the student still has the same cultural norms as their new classmates, reducing the barriers that can make daily tasks more difficult. Going to a different country metaphorically throws students into the deep end of the pool, facing them with various challenges that they had never encountered. A study abroad program can offer the support necessary to successfully face these challenges and develop personally without leaving students without a safety net.