International volunteers’ perceptions of intercultural competence

Abstract

Although international volunteer sending organizations vary greatly, nearly all claim that volunteering will increase intercultural competence. Various theories of intercultural learning suggest, however, that cultural contact will only improve a volunteer’s intercultural competence under certain conditions. The study collects self-reported responses from 291 volunteers who served in one of two service models that differ on multiple characteristics. This study isolates four key characteristics and employs a moderated multiple regression to test how these variations affect volunteers’ perceptions of intercultural competence. Findings suggest that that service duration, cultural immersion, guided reflection, and contact reciprocity are all positively associated with intercultural competence. In addition, guided reflection appears to moderate the relationship between duration and intercultural competence. This study responds to the need for research on the effects of international volunteering across institutional models.

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