Educational reform in the United States is a constant, on-going process. New ideas and models are constantly espoused which are intended to dramatically improve education. One of these “new” ideas involves experiential learning. The ability to involve one’s self in specific experiences, to reflect and conceptualize these experiences, and then to take an active role in experimenting and building upon them, is the foundation of experiential learning (Joplin, 1981; Kolb, 1984).
Experiential learning, as well as problem- solving and decision-making abilities, has continually been touted as an essential element in the education process (SCANS Report for America 2000, 1991). The basic theme among all experiential learning models is that learning through applicable experiences, with requisite reflection and synthesis, provides for the best education (Kolb, 1984; Joplin, 1981). And, it is this experiential learning model which provides the backbone for a capstone course. The course provides a culminating experience, which needs to be carefully monitored so students achieve their stated objectives (Knowles & Hoefler, 1995; Aupperle & Sarhan, 1995).
Experiential learning, which has been shown to be an integral part of capstone programs (Andreasen, 1998), is equally integral to study abroad programs. Empire State College, for example, had incorporated the experiential and capstone concepts into their Principles of
International Business Course. Students, who were provided the opportunity to participate in a study abroad program, could learn crucial international business concepts, skills, and other related learning which were being unmet in the students’ other courses (Herdendorf, 1991).