Date of Award

Spring 5-13-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Middle and Secondary Education

First Advisor

G. Sue Kasun, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Michelle Zoss, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Ana Solano-Campos, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

James Gambrell, Ed.D.


Study abroad experiences are considered transformative for students, although, the research on underrepresented students who study abroad is minimal. Informed by critical frameworks in educational studies and building on research literature based on study abroad programs, this study explored the engagement and relations of U.S. Latinx students in Mexico. This critical ethnographic case study examined the existing power structures and personal stories of the nine Latinx students within the context of a short-term study abroad program traveling from the Global North to the Global South.

Using connectivity through a decolonizing lens is a way for people to build relationships within the context of history and lived experiences of others and with the understanding of asymmetrical power structures. The framework of connectivity centered relationships among the Latinx students along with the host community. Decolonization provided a lens to analyze the data and account for unjust systems, relational approaches, and collective work that required action and empowerment. Data were collected from various sources: participant observation, interviews of host families, study abroad course discussions, and student assignments. The findings revealed the development of solidarity and community. Developing solidarity within the group was a way to decolonize knowledge and enact change in political structures, self, and community with the Latinx students. The decolonizing approach of the study abroad program opened space within the Latinx students to heal the marginalization and oppression they encountered in the U.S. and replace it with self-compassion. As a group, the Latinx students built a level of trust through compassion, empathy, and vulnerability connecting each of them to a community. This study contributes to important yet under-examined aspects of Latinx students’ relationships and experiences within a study abroad experience. The implications are intended to create connections across borders and contribute to the assets and contributions of Latinx students in study abroad. This study recommends further examination of underrepresented student experiences and how they and host communities are impacted by their study abroad experience. Through this study abroad program, the Latinx students were able to connect with compassion and thrive communally.


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