International Educational Exchange Programs as a Promoter of Peace? : Moving Beyond Assumptions of Attitude Change to Identify a Causal Pathway

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Institutionen för freds- och konfliktforskning

Abstract: This study asks, “How can international educational exchange contribute to more peacefulsocieties?” To test the first two steps in a proposed causal pathway, this paper hypothesizes thatstudents from non-democratic countries who study in a democratic country will 1) have more favorable views toward human rights than students who have not studied in a democratic country; and 2) be more likely to advocate for human rights protections in their home country than students who have not studied in a democratic country. Utilizing a natural experiment design, this study did not find support for either hypothesis when comparing international students who had studied in the United States with those who were unable to due to Covid-19. There were, however, statistically significant differences in political activism levels for the variables of socio-economic status and previous experience in a democratic country before university. This suggests that students from lower socio-economic backgrounds who study in a democratic country may ultimately secure more politically influential careers in their home country due to the theory of cultural capital. As these students are more likely to support political activism, they may use their influence to advocate for improved human rights protections, contributing to more peaceful societies.

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