Impacts of long-term international volunteering on volunteers’ intercultural competence
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Intercultural competence has become an extremely important skill for one to have in today’s globally-connected world. As intercultural competence is something that must be developed over time, it is therefore crucial to understand how one develops intercultural competence, and the impact that such developments have on an individual. Immersion experiences in particular have been proven to have the ability to help aid in intercultural competence development, and one specific context that has not been studied much in intercultural competence research is long-term international volunteering, which research has shown has the unique elements needed to foster intercultural competence development. Therefore, the aim of this thesis is to look at how past, long-term international volunteers perceive that their volunteer experience affected their intercultural competence and what effect that has had on volunteers since. Through the analysis of open-ended questionnaires and follow-up interviews completed by 30 past, long-term international volunteers from Maailmanvaihto ry, the Finnish branch of ICYE, who completed their volunteer experience 3 to 10 years ago, it was found that long-term international volunteering, as an immersion experience, does have the ability to foster intercultural competence in volunteers. In addition, it was found that volunteers perceived that learning and development continued to take place after they returned back home as they processed, and reflected on, their experience. It was also found that the impacts of the volunteer experience were still felt, years after the volunteer experience, particularly in participants’ working lives. These findings are useful to Maailmanvaihto ry to help them support volunteers in their return, as well as to intercultural competence research as a whole in that the findings show the importance of long-term assessment of intercultural competence. ...
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