Paper Title
The Transformative Impact of International Experiential Education on The Critical Thinking Skills and Academic Performance of College Students

Abstract
This study used the self–reported data from undergraduates who participated in both short–term and long–term international study abroad and service–learning experiences to understand the effects that experiential education (e.g.: study–abroad and international service–learning) had on their critical thinking skill development and overall academic performance. The authors posed four specific research questions to student–participants using a survey format: 1). Did participation in international experiential education (e.g., study abroad and international service learning) enhance/improve the critical thinking skills of college students? 2). How specifically did participation in international experiential education enhance/improve the critical thinking skills of college students? 3). Did participation in international experiential education (e.g., study abroad and international service learning) lead to enhanced/improve academic performance in college students? 4). How specifically did participation in international experiential education lead to enhanced/improved academic performance in college students? A self–report survey was developed and administered to 147 college students who had participated in either a semester long (16 weeks) or month long short term (3–4 weeks) international study–abroad experience. Descriptive statistics and narrative qualitative data were compiled. Common themes and distinctive responses from students served to answer each of the four research questions. Results: 1) The majority of students, (N=111/147 or 76%) responded that they either strongly agreed or agreed that participation in international experiential education had indeed enhanced their critical thinking skills. Six students responded that they disagreed or strongly disagreed, 22 students selected neutral and 8 students gave no response this this 5 point Likert Scale question. 2) The effects that international experiential education (study–abroad and international service–learning) had on enhancing critical thinking skills of college students were grouped into 4 themed categories that included: Increased ability to engage in problem solving; Expanded students’ perspectives, Improved communication skills and Increased ability to navigate in different environments. 3) Once again the majority of students (N=105/147 or 72%) responded that they either strongly agreed or agreed that participation in international experiential education has led to their enhanced academic performance. Ten students indicated that they disagreed or strongly disagreed, 27 students selected neutral and 5 students provided no response to this question to this 5 point Likert Scale question. 4) The specific effects that international experiential education (study–abroad and international service–learning) had on enhancing the academic performance of colleges students were again grouped into 4 themed categories that included the following: Content learning and application; Interpersonal relationships; Motivation/Desire to Learn; and Study Skills. Index terms: International experiential education, Service–learning, Study–abroad, Critical thinking, Academic performance