Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2011

Document Type


First Advisor



This research project will examine beliefs underlying scholar’s measures of intercultural communication competence (ICC) and how they match up to students own ideas of their ICC based on their study abroad experience. Past research has explored ways of measuring ICC. Scholars have focused on how to assess the impact of study abroad on ICC by employing different scales of measurement. All of these scales seem to represent a similar view of competency, a view that misses the cultural aspect and role of communication that I argue cannot be left out when defining competent intercultural communication (CIC). In order to reveal a better understanding of CIC, I collected data through interviews with 15 study abroad students. The data I collected was obtained through in-depth interviews lasting no longer than 30 minutes. Data was based on interview questions about students’ study abroad experiences and their own description of these experiences. From the collected data of interviewees’ responses, terms for talk (TFTs) were identified as a way to explicitly reveal students’ understandings of CIC and to get at the cultural and communicative aspect of CIC which scholars leave out of their measurements. Analysis of the data showed when students used TFTs in their experiences to define CIC, they were also using these TFTs to reveal messages about personhood, society, and the communication itself. In these salient messages within TFTs, my data revealed that students understand CIC as work on the self through communicating in interactions rather than using skills to accomplish competency as claimed by abstract measures of ICC. Therefore CIC is not about acquiring specific skills but rather about the use of communication in working on the self to become open to differences in our world.