Critical Literacy: Engaging Students to Enhance Cultural Humility in Study Abroad


  • Melody Loya Tarleton State University
  • Katherine Peters


study abroad, critical literacy, popular education, cultural humility, voluntourism


Focusing on the intersection of study abroad, critical literacy, and cultural humility, this article establishes a framework for the development of study abroad programs that meet thoughtfully established educational objectives while not harming the communities that are visited. The authors contend that the emphasis of study abroad programs (in particular, short-term programs) should follow certain ethical guidelines and should focus on mutually beneficial relationships between the learning of the students and the good of the community. The face of study abroad has changed in recent years, shifting from students spending a semester abroad to much greater participation in short-term (eight weeks or less) programs. This article provides a context for developing short-term programs with concrete learning objectives and using critical literacy as a foundation to encourage students in the development of cultural humility. The authors share examples from their own experiences and discuss some best practices for developing respectful programs that do not cause harm to the communities or people that are visited by students.

Author Biographies

Melody Loya, Tarleton State University

Melody Loya is an Associate Professor and Department Head of Social Work at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas. She holds a Ph.D. from Capella University and a MSSW from the University of Texas at Arlington. She has led multiple study abroad programs to Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. 

Katherine Peters

Katherine (Kat) Peters holds a Master’s in Education and a Master’s in Territorial Rural Development.  She spent close to a decade living in Central America, where she worked in study abroad and volunteered in communities of immigrants. She recently taught a course on Global Perspectives at Valparaiso University.  Kat was the Assistant Director of ICADS (which hosts short-term and semester-long internship programs) for eight years, prior to relocating to the United States.




How to Cite

Loya, M., & Peters, K. (2019). Critical Literacy: Engaging Students to Enhance Cultural Humility in Study Abroad. Reflections: Narratives of Professional Helping, 25(1), 57–69. Retrieved from



Cultural Humility in Education and Practice