Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Chitra Raghavan

Committee Members

David Chapin

Caitlin Cahill

Richard Mitten

Kimberly Holland

Subject Categories

International and Comparative Education | Multicultural Psychology | Psychology


experiential learning, study abroad, Lefebvre, place-based pedagogy, Morocco, Bali


Efforts to globalize higher education have resulted in study abroad climbing to an all-time high in the United States. Amidst this growth, emergent bodies of literature have uncovered problematic trends in study abroad that reproduce hierarchies of power and colonialism, perpetuate views of an exotic cultural “other,” and privilege tourism over education. In my dissertation, I respond to these problems by exploring ways of teaching and learning in study abroad that embrace the pedagogical power of place to foster awareness of the self in relation to other, cultivate relationality, and deconstruct the exotic. Rather than focusing on the individual as the unit of analysis, I was concerned with wider phenomena of experiential learning, including understanding how knowledge was produced in study abroad programs to Rabat, Morocco and Bali, Indonesia, with a focus on place. In 2014, I spent seven weeks abroad with these programs as a participant-researcher, collected over 200 written narratives in the form of reflective journals with 26 students, and conducted one-year post-program interviews.

I looked to Henri Lefebvre’s (1991/1974) theory on the production of space to formulate the overarching research question that guided this dissertation: What is the role of place in the production of experiential learning space in study abroad? I introduce the concept of experiential learning space as situated within sociocultural (Rogoff, 2003; Vygotsky, 1962) and socio-spatial perspectives, which allows for exploration into the ways in which experiences in/of place are both socially produced and socially producing through engagement with surrounding environments. Three sub-questions arose in order to explore my research question fully: How can a socio-spatial perspective of experiential learning advance place-based research? How does student engagement with place contribute to the production of experiential learning space? How might the inclusion of a place-responsive pedagogical intervention shape student experiences in/of an exotified cultural environment? Analyses of each sub-question are presented in three interrelated chapters that act as standalone units and make up the main body of this dissertation.

Findings indicate engagement with place was fundamental to the production of experiential learning space in the Morocco and Bali programs, mediated through pedagogies that engaged students with local rhythms, meanings, and histories; social interaction with locals, each other, and participation in cultural communities; and cultural tools that engaged students in alternative ways of knowing and being the world before and during the trip, including narrative activities and a pre-trip pedagogical intervention. Comparative case analysis suggests pairing experiential place-based pedagogies with narratives activities encouraged students’ acknowledgment and renegotiation of representations of Moroccan-ness and Bali-ness, deconstruction of the exotic, and enhanced relationality between self and other that remained a year later, while simultaneously guiding students in the unpacking of their own cultural baggage.

Transcending categorical hierarchies of cultural difference and reversing the colonial gaze in study abroad requires providing students with tools that help them embrace difference, while at the same time, find some common ground or relationality within their experiences in/of place. To this end, I advise that study abroad educators adapt the intentions and practices of their programs to embrace the pedagogical potential of place, and provide a theoretical framework, five epistemological commitments, and several pedagogical strategies to guide future program development with an eye toward social change.