Saudi student perspectives of experiential learning programs at an American university
The purpose of this study was to understand Saudi student perspectives about their participation in experiential learning programs (ELPs) at an American Midwestern university. Social exchange theory was the theoretical framework used to explore ELP workplace benefits and challenges that accompanied Saudi student participation. The study employed an interpretive qualitative design. Data collection comprised 16 individual semi-structured interviews with junior and senior Saudi male and female students enrolled in the colleges of business and engineering. Findings revealed an overall level of satisfaction among participants, especially with respect to gains in academic knowledge, personal growth, and leadership skills. ELP workplace challenges largely related to the educational, social, and cultural backgrounds of the study participants. Sociocultural benefits were inconsistent, most notably regarding gender and group interactions between Saudi and American members. In the final analysis of gains and costs, ELP experiences point to a promising future for students returning to workplaces within the larger Saudi society. The study addresses ways to improve the ELP experience for Saudi students along with implications for American institutions of higher education, ELP program facilitators, and future Saudi students who choose to study in the U.S.