Academic Skills and Interests in Transnational Educational Mobility

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Taking a gap year and studying abroad is done by more and more students nowadays. They see the opportunity to gain international experience and to learn and improve their skills in another country. This phenomenon can also be called transnational educational mobility (TEM). TEM encompasses all temporary stays abroad between and during secondary and post-secondary education, which can be in formal as well as in informal contexts. It includes all students participating in a study abroad program, children, and adolescents who moved temporarily to a foreign country because of international migration, or young people who decided to take a gap year (Waibel et al., 2017). However, is this costly education worthwhile or is it a waste of money? Does your infant indeed learn that much that it in future has better career opportunities or is that just a fairytale? And did they really develop their vocational skills? This is important to study, so that in the future, parents have more objective information regarding the benefits of studying abroad.

There has been a lot of prior studies on this topic, all discussing the effect that TEM has on adolescents. According to Patterson (2012), studying abroad has a positive impact. Students made lifelong friends, they created an interest in travelling around the world, want to explore different cultures and develop a more sophisticated worldview. However, with respect to career plans, just less than a quarter changed his or her plans because of their abroad experience and less than 40% was influenced by TEM to acquire a job abroad. Carlson et al. (1991) had almost the same findings. They also concluded that the studying abroad group developed a passion for travelling, which plays a role in their general development. Students develop personal knowledge, independence, social abilities, self-confidence, cultural awareness, and their language proficiency increases substantially. However, they concluded that more than half of the students created a new area of career interest and took courses that broadened their cultural and academic backgrounds. This suggests that their experience abroad enabled them to expand their academic and intellectual horizon. Another thing is that the students who stayed at home are more determined to achieve their career aspirations, because they have more clearly defined career goals. Then we have Teichler and Janson (2007) who concluded that the international experience has helped students to get employed for the first time, and that those students are more superior in many professionally relevant competencies than nonmobile students are. However, they do not believe that their status, income on average, and career enhancement is superior to those who were nonmobile.

Although the effect of TEM on career planning skills, transition into employment, and income or professional status was already studied, psychological measurements on career maturity have, to my knowledge, not received enough research attention. Therefore, my research question is: What is the relationship between participating in TEM and making mature vocational choices, based on psychological measurements? The psychological measurements will be: Career Development Inventory (CDI), Career Maturity Inventory (CMI), and Vocational Self-Efficacy. The contribution of this study will be to investigate the impact of TEM on adolescents making mature vocational choices with a different empirical method. The three psychological measurements will be the empirical method. With researching this, there can be reached a more stable conclusion regarding the positive effect of transnational mobility as ‘transformational learning experience’ in the process of vocational exploration (Waibel et al., 2017).

Theoretical Constructs

The independent variable is the Transnational Educational Mobility (TEM). This variable will be measured through three different psychological measurements: Career Development Inventory (CDI), Career Maturity Inventory (CMI), and Vocational Self-Efficacy. These measurements are necessary to determine if participating in TEM has an impact on adolescents making mature vocational choices. First, the Career Development Inventory (CDI). This is an objective, multifactor, and self-administering inventory, which measures the vocational maturity of adolescents. It contains three scale scores: two of them are an attitudinal factor and one is a cognitive factor. The scales are: A, Planning Orientation, B, Resources for Exploration, and C, Information and Decision-Making. The eventual score is a measure of career and vocational maturity, the manner in which adolescents handle the vocational development tasks with which they are confronted through society (Supper, 1973).

Second, is Crites’ Career Maturity Inventory (CMI), which is based on Super’s vocational development theory. CMI has been seen as an important construct in vocational development theory. Career maturity is the extent to which an adolescent has mastered developmental tasks appropriate to their career stage. This is related to the career choice process and career choice content. CMI includes Independence in career decision making, Compromise, Orientation, Decisiveness, and Involvement. Compromise measures the willingness of adolescents to compromise reality and wishes, Orientation is about being familiar and relatable to the decisional process, Decisiveness measures how certain one is about the career choice, and Involvement is about how active you are participating in the process of making career choices (Hardin et al., 2001). Last, we have Vocational Self-Efficacy. Self-efficacy expectations are beliefs about someone’s ability to see which actions are required to achieve elected types of performances. They are considered to affect adolescents’ choice of behavioural activities and their behaviour when getting confronted with obstacles. Research of Hackett and Betz (1981) suggested that the beliefs of self-efficacy influence achievements and decisions concerning career. Other research found out that the beliefs of career and academic self-efficacy relate to indices of career choice behaviour and that it predicts the success in certain academic majors (Lent et al., 1989).

The dependent variable is mature vocational choices. There will be researched if there is a difference in vocational choices between students who did participate in TEM and students who did not participate in TEM. Making mature choices is very important for adolescents, because it determines your future life. The transition from secondary school to postschool education or an abroad study is an important time for young people to think about the future and their occupational career. The choice of a certain vocation is a developmental task which must be paid attention to during their younger years (Volodina & Nagy, 2016). There a number of different theories about vocational choices, connecting it to career decisions. Two of the most important theories are those of Super (1956, 1963) and Holland (1973). Super’s first theory focusses on characteristics and the differences in abilities, personalities, and interests. In his later work, he focussed on self-concept: the choice of career makes clear what kind of person he or she is, because this choice coincides with their own perception of themselves. Holland’s theory also highlights adolescents’ characteristics and determines that people in different vocational groups have similar personalities. Her theory is an example of a ‘person-environment fit theory’, which connects the satisfaction in a job with the congruence between personality and the work environment (Portnoi, 2009).

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Donald Super’s Vocational Development Theory is a theory which links the variables TEM and mature vocational choices. To evaluate his theory, he had to wait until career maturity and other instruments were developed. Without the instruments his theory could not be measured. Super knew that his theory was not testable. However, he saw it more as a segmental theory, with each segment providing testable hypotheses and eventually yielded an integrated theory. To test this, the hypothetical variables must be measurable, using qualified inventories. Inventories that were eventually developed to measure this are, for example, The Career Development Inventory, The Work Values Inventory, and the Career Maturity Inventory (Salomone, 1996).

According to Kronholz and Osborn (2016) there is a positive relationship between studying abroad and adolescents’ personal and intellectual development. However, the question is if this is really due to TEM or because of the maturing of adolescents. Research has been done, but not many based on psychological inventories. Therefore, the hypotheses are as follow: The null hypotheses states: ‘The relationship between TEM and the maturing of adolescents is positive, measured with psychological inventories.’ The alternate hypotheses states: ‘The relationship between TEM and the maturing of adolescents is positive, unless the

Research Design

Research approach

The research approach that will be used in this study is the deductive approach, also called quantitative research, because there is already a lot of existing knowledge about the topic. A survey is used to collect data, which is a tool to collect numerical data to test the hypotheses. Taking the deductive approach for conducting this research is the right way, because to have an objective and representative outcome, a large sample size is needed. Taking interviews is not feasible, it is in this study about the quantity of the data.


The type of participants that will be used are adolescents, both boys and girls. For selecting these participants, we will be using a stratified random sampling, because for the research two specific groups are needed. First, all the adolescents who are in secondary school and post-secondary school will be selected. This population will then be divided into a group that be studying in their domestic country and a group that will be studying abroad (and thus will be participating in TEM). From both these two eligible groups will then be randomly 250 participants chosen. By choosing these participants randomly, the study will be more objective, and will there be no biases in the selection of the participants. By choosing a sample size of 250 adolescents per group, it will still be feasible to process all the data and get a representative outcome.


A survey will be used to conduct the data that is necessary to answer my research question. This is the easiest way to collect a lot of quantitative data and to have a research with many participants, which makes your study more reliable and representative. There will be two moments were participants fill in a survey. The first one will be when starting secondary school and they are going to study abroad. The second one will be after when finishing post-secondary school and when they are back from studying abroad. In this way, the maturation of adolescents can be measured and can be conclude if adolescents participating in TEM now make better mature vocational choices or the people who studied in their domestic country. The survey itself is divided into three parts, because of the independent variable. One will be about CDI, one about CMI, and one about Vocational Self-Efficacy. An interval scale will be used to measure these psychological inventories. This means that the participants have to say if they agree or disagree on the quotations that will be asked.


The analysing work will mostly be done by the by the computer, because it is an online survey. The online survey makes it easy to analyse the results when using 500 participants. However, the graphs will be made by myself. Graphs make it easier to see which adolescents made a bigger development in making mature vocational choices. By knowing the names of the participants, the results of both surveys can be compared. Based on those results, a conclusion can be drawn if adolescents who studied in their domestic country or the ones who studied a year abroad developed their mature vocational skills more.

A limitation of this study is that its conclusion is only based on the three psychological measurement inventories CDI, CMI, and Vocational Self-Efficacy. With determining the development of adolescents making mature vocational choices, these three inventories are not the only ones that influence this development. Making mature choices can also depend on, for example, the characteristics, the motivation, or development of the maturity of adolescents. All different influences must be taken into account when making a conclusion about this topic. Otherwise, the separate conclusions of different researches are worthless. Following research ethics is in research important. Confidentiality is one of them. Knowing the names of the participants is in this study relevant. To compare the data of both surveys, I have to know the names. However, the data is used very carefully and there is made sure that this data would only be in my hands. In this way, participants’ their privacy would not be violated. This also means that you have to be integer and careful. All collected information has to be stored in a well locked place, so that no one other than the researchers can excess the information. Promises and agreements must be kept, as a researcher, you owe that to the participants.

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