Purpose: When healthcare students participate in international service-learning experiences, they are exposed to a culture that is different from their own. This exposure, accomplished through cultural and clinical activities, can help to develop their clinical skills and result in personal growth. However, the individual impact of clinical versus cultural activities on personal growth is poorly understood. This study examines the impact on personal growth of clinical activities and cultural activities during international service-learning in occupational therapy students. Methods: Qualitative interviews using a phenomenological approach were utilized to explore the lived experiences of American occupational therapy students who traveled to Morocco. Responses were coded and analyzed to identify general themes on the impact of different clinical and cultural activities. Qualities of impactful experiences were also identified. Results: Participants identified authentic clinical activities that elicited an emotional response and cultural activities that involved full cultural immersion as being most impactful for their personal growth. Conclusion/Recommendations: To support healthcare students’ personal growth, international service-learning should be designed to include authentic clinical activities that elicit emotion and reflection and opportunities for full immersion into the culture of the country abroad.

Author Bio(s)

Monique Chabot, OTD, OTR/L, SCEM is an Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy at Widener University in Chester, PA. She leads international service learning experiences to Morocco as faculty chaperone. At the time of travel, she was faculty at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, PA.

Said Nafai, OTD, OTR/L, CLT is an Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy at American International College in Springfield, MA. He is the founder of OT Morocco and the creator of the international service learning experience to Morocco.

Marina Mitchell, MS, OTR/L was a student at American International College. She currently works for Fox Rehabilitation.

Elizabeth Stevens-Nafai, MS, OTR/L works in school based practice in Worcester, MA. She serves as a fieldwork educator for OT Morocco and the international service learning experiences to Morocco.




Submission Location


To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.