Looking Five Years Post-Immersion The Long-Term Effects of Undergraduate Immersion Experiences

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Richard Clark, Ph.D.
Anne McGinness, Ph.D.
James Menkhaus, Ph.D.
Andrew Costigan, M.A.

Abstract

Students who return from an immersion experience often report that it was “life-changing,” but how do we know that students’ lives have changed, especially when change is best measured several months or years after the immersion? Each year, 1.6 million Americans participate in short-term immersion experiences or missions outside the United States. With the massive influx of students to struggling communities, one might presume that immersions benefit the students as well as those in the affected communities. However, there is little research on the long-term effects of immersions. Our study aims to ascertain what effect immersion experiences have on the lives of those who travel to serve or learn from communities on the margins. We measured the effect of one program on participants five years or more after completing the immersion experience, focusing on six areas: actions, cognitive growth, emotional growth, seeing value in being a good citizen, increasing their desire to serve, and spiritual growth. Our findings suggest that immersion experiences have an overall powerful influence on people fi ve years later.

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