Journal of Global Citizenship & Equity Education, Vol 2, No 1 (2012)

The Study Abroad Experience: Where Does Religion Fit?

Owen Willis


This article explores the theoretical and practical dimensions of the question: “Where does religion fit in the study abroad experience?” Students abroad are often immersed in communities where religious practice and spiritual worldviews may be widespread and privileged. This may well be one of the areas where students find themselves most disoriented, and may represent one of the greatest challenges at the heart of the study abroad experience. From a theoretical standpoint, the paper interrogates some of the foundational secular assumptions upon which international development programmes in northern universities are based, while providing a brief introduction to the growing literature exploring the role of religion in development. From a practical perspective, the article emphasizes the pervasiveness and diversity of religious influence and then proceeds to highlight the communal and explanatory power of religion. In conclusion, some approaches are suggested that might better serve to prepare students for understanding the place of religion in many societies in the developing world.

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