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Internationalization is about taking the rest of the world seriously, not only one’s home country, and can be thought of as the formal term for thinking globally before acting locally. It requires knowing enough about the larger world to act appropriately in a specific context and location, especially when interacting with cultural others. Internationalization is relevant for citizens of all countries, but the following comments are primarily intended for those based in the United States, where internationalization is still often viewed as an option. Internationalization applies to all domains and contexts, but these comments emphasize higher education.

The question really is not “why should members of the National Communication Association be interested in internationalization?” but rather “in the global knowledge society, how can anyone still pretend the United States stands alone?” This has implications for the long-term success of Communication faculty members and students who need to be fully integrated into an increasingly global context. Too many U.S. scholars have few (if any) international connections and have not stopped to consider the difficulties this may cause them, or their students, in the future. There is a multiplier effect: If faculty members have few international connections, they don’t convey to students that these are necessary and expected, so the next generation may develop even fewer ties to international peers. 

The benefits of internationalization in the context of higher education were clearly articulated by the American Association of State Universities and Colleges in its 2004 report, A Call to Leadership: The Presidential Role in Internationalizing the University:

  • Internationalization helps students develop the global critical thinking skills that are essential to contributing as citizens of the world and competing in the international marketplace.
  • Internationalization links communities to the world, expanding opportunities for university service and engagement while also enhancing their global competitiveness.
  • Internationalization contributes to national security and a vital economy, and prepares world leaders who know and value American democracy.
  • Internationalization enlivens faculty scholarship and teaching, expands research opportunities, and provides a pathway to national and international distinction.

Internationalization within higher education includes at least the components described below.

Teaching international content (click to expand)

Teaching U.S. students about other parts of the world is the first major approach, and it comes in three variations:

Area studies

“Area studies” is the term used when describing entire courses or sequences of courses that provide knowledge of a particular geographic or cultural region. Some Communication faculty members participate in area studies programs if they bring relevant expertise. More often, faculty members can encourage their students to take courses or even to major or minor in an area studies program as a way to gain considerable knowledge about a particular part of the world. Given that many in the United States are critiqued for not knowing much about the rest of the world, and also for not even realizing just how little they know, this would be a good start toward a solution. However, area studies require a substantial commitment of time and resources, and so may not be appropriate for everyone.

Internationalization of course content  

Integrating international content into individual courses is far easier than convincing students to take a sequence of area studies courses, and therefore a more frequently pursued variation. Within Communication, it is relatively easy to integrate specific examples drawn from other parts of the world into a wide range of course content. Due to subject matter, Intercultural Communication courses generally incorporate the most substantial focus on international content. However, every course can potentially integrate at least a few international examples, and there are many reasons why they should. In the increasingly global knowledge society, students need to become aware of other countries and cultures. Bringing in relevant examples from other countries, whether from international business contexts for Organizational Communication, Public Relations, or Marketing, or from speeches given at international bodies such as the United Nations for Public Speaking or Rhetoric, is a good way to show how we truly live in a global village. Certainly a study of social change through following the Arab Spring on social media would have been timely in spring 2011. Such additions both maintain student interest and often help convince businesses with international partners or branches to hire our students after graduation. 

One particularly valuable way to integrate international content into a course is to collaborate with a faculty member in another country, creating joint student projects so that students learn about another culture through working with members of that group. Rapid changes in technology make such cooperative ventures increasingly obvious and feasible. An example is Charles Braithwaite’s global classroom at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln which uses video technology to connect his students to their peers in Russia, Turkey, Pakistan, Yemen, Spain and Costa Rica.

Teaching U.S. students to speak, read, and understand various foreign languages 

Typically Communication instructors assume this is outside their area of expertise, but if students are to understand the relevance of fluency in multiple languages, they must see that such fluency has an application. Reading another language is often the easiest task; it is passive, whereas writing and speaking are active. Building upon these insights, the “Language Across the Curriculum (LxC)” model establishes small study groups led by foreign students as a vehicle for reading supplementary non-English language readings that are relevant to a course. The readings are then summarized and brought into the larger course discussion. LxC provides a context in which students are expected to use what they have learned about a foreign language, helping establish the value of that knowledge. 


Faculty/student exchanges (click to expand)

Exchanges of either students or faculty members are the second basic approach to internationalization:

Encouraging and facilitating student exchanges

The United States attracts more international students than any other country in terms of numbers of students enrolled (though not in terms of percent of students). However, their knowledge of another country is often not seen as the valuable supplement to course content that it could be. Similarly, in sheer numbers, the United States sends a lot of students to study abroad, but in terms of percentage of total students, fewer than the percentage sent abroad by many other countries. A substantial distinction between the types of programs chosen by students who come to the United States versus those who leave magnifies the gap: those who come to the United States typically stay for at least a year, and often an entire degree program; those who leave the United States typically choose a semester or even a single month, through winter or summer courses. Research shows that short international visits do not improve students’ ability to manage cultural differences and may even be harmful. The U.S. Department of State funds 1,500 students to study abroad each year through the Fulbright US Student Program. ​

Many university programs in the European Union require students to study in a different country for a semester or a year. One distinct advantage for students who study abroad lies in the connections they make with locals; for graduate students, this can result in significantly expanded research opportunities. Many international universities offer graduate or post-doctoral fellowships as a way to bring scholars from other countries, and their knowledge of other research traditions, to their campuses. Occasionally, international exchange programs (where an entire cohort of students moves among several countries) are offered; one example was Global Xchange

Participating in faculty exchanges

Sometimes, university-to-university exchange agreements facilitate the movement of faculty (and students) between institutions; there are hundreds of these, some of which are not terribly well advertised, so checking what each institution offers may be important. Other times, specific programs (such as Fulbright) can help a single faculty member visit a single country. The Fulbright Scholar Program sends 800 U.S. faculty members abroad each year, typically for a year, for a combination of teaching and research. The Fulbright Visiting Scholar Program brings 850 non-U.S. faculty members to the United States, for either a semester or a year, for a combination of teaching and research. Because sometimes even a semester seems too long to fit into a tight schedule, the Fulbright Specialist Program sends U.S. scholars abroad for two- to six-week periods. Descriptions of the process used by Communication scholars who have been awarded several types of Fulbrights are here.

Many institutes for advanced study are open to scholars of any country; these usually expect research only. Typically, each institute has a separate website, with occasional sites for an entire country (as with RFIEA, the French Network of Institutes for Advanced Study). It is also possible to obtain a position as a visiting scholar at many international universities for anything from a few days to a year; each campus provides details on its own website, as with this example from City University of Hong Kong.


Additional opportunities (click to expand)

If full-time exchanges are too time-consuming or intimidating, shorter opportunities of several sorts may be pursued:

Participating in international conferences

One way for U.S. faculty members to internationalize at least their own research is to present their findings at a conference held outside the United States. The result often will be new connections with international peers that may turn into a wide range of future possibilities in terms of research and publication. International conferences are typically quite well advertised, and today each one is likely to have a website so it can be easily found through an online search. Many U.S.-based associations have lists of relevant international conferences in their newsletters and on their websites. NCA has occasionally sponsored or co-sponsored international conferences, such as the NCA Summer Conference on Intercultural Dialogue, held in Istanbul in 2009; the International Communication Association co-sponsors a variety of international conferences and often advertises others.

Integrating non-US scholars in US-based conferences

If support for U.S. scholars to attend international conferences is difficult to obtain, a related activity could be inviting international scholars to participate in a panel for a U.S.-based conference. Just as integrating foreign students attending U.S. universities supplies an international element to courses, so integrating foreign faculty members into our conventions brings an international voice to our conversations there. Simply talking to international participants at a U.S.-based conference seems almost too obvious to mention. NCA hosts an International Scholars Reception at our Annual Convention to help promote dialogue between U.S. scholars and their colleagues abroad. Ultimately, however, the most significant impact may come from research collaborations. 

Participating in international research

Intercultural Communication scholars often conduct cross-cultural comparisons, and increasingly scholars in other areas, such as Health Communication, do the same. The easiest way to do this research is to let one scholar from each country manage their part of the project (especially data collection), but the more interesting method creates a true collaboration between scholars who are based in different countries. Such projects typically depend upon connections established through one of the forms of internationalization listed previously, such as meeting at a conference or an exchange. Building a network of scholars who have common research interests is the obvious first step. Reading articles published in international journals, and then writing to an international peer whose publications demonstrate common interests, often results in a positive response and lays the groundwork for further future collaborations. United States scholars traveling for pleasure often do not think to write ahead of time to scholars based in the country they are visiting in order to set up a meeting, but such contacts are often welcome and can lead to future collaborations. One caution: other countries do not divide up the academic pie the same way as in the United States, international colleagues who study similar topics may be based in a Psychology, Sociology, or Business department. Also, in many countries, those teaching English have expanded their research and teaching to include Communication generally (as at the Department of Languages and Cultures at the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa, Japan). Occasionally, entire universities are devoted to the study of the language and culture of other countries (as with the Beijing International Studies University, or the Shanghai International Studies University), and these serve as obvious points of connection for U.S. Communication scholars. 


The Center for Intercultural Dialogue is a project of the Council of Communication Associations, representing scholars in the discipline of Communication. The Center approaches intercultural dialogue at two levels: encouraging research on the topic of intercultural dialogue, but doing so through bringing international scholars interested in the topic together in shared intercultural dialogues about their work. The Center serves as a clearinghouse for information on conferencesgrantsstudy abroadteaching abroad, and collaborative research opportunities, among other topics. Those interested intercultural dialogue (in either of the two senses listed) are welcome to add a researcher or practitioner profile to the site, or list relevant publications or projects, so that others may more easily connect with them. 

Administration (click to expand)

Best Practices/Testimony

General Resources

Collaboration Opportunities

  • The IIE Center for International Partnerships in Higher Education — The IIE Center for International Partnerships in Higher Education assists higher education institutions in developing and sustaining partnerships around the world.
  • International Academic Partnership Program — The International Academic Partnership Program (IAPP), originally funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), is a major initiative of IIE’s Center for International Partnerships in Higher Education that seeks to increase the number of international partnerships between higher education institutions in the United States and those abroad.

Awards Opportunities

  • The Senator Paul Simon Award for Campus Internationalization — The Senator Paul Simon Award for Campus Internationalization recognizes colleges and universities that are making significant, well-planned, well-executed, and well-documented progress toward comprehensive internationalization—especially those using innovative and creative approaches.


Faculty (click to expand)

Best Practices/Testimony

  • Institute of International Education — Scholars involved with the IIE discuss their experiences with creating new and working with established internationalization efforts, as seen in a number of testimonial videos.
  • Dialogue in Cross-cultural Perspective — This project was led by Donal Carbaugh (Massachusetts, USA) and involved participants from several different countries including: a) Xinmei Ge (China); b) David Boromisza-Habashi (Hungarian); c) Elena Khatskevich Nuciforo (Russian); d) Saila Poutiainen (Finland); e) Makato Saito (Japan); f) Dong-shin Shin (Korea); and g) others. The work has taken a look at several linguistic clusters related to dialogue in order to ask: Is there something like dialogue in each, as a cultural concept and as a form of practice? The research explores each as an expressive system-in-use by examining both the relevant terms relating to dialogue in these languages and the practices referenced with those terms. Some preliminary findings are that these cultural discourses, considered together, reveal a wide variety of possibilities that are active when “dialogue” is being advocated, mentioned, and translated. One of the group’s publications is in the special issue of the Journal of International and Intercultural Communication on Dialogue, co-edited by Prue Holmes (Durham, UK) and Shiv Ganesh (Waikato, NZ) that resulted from the NCA Summer Conference on Intercultural Dialogue in 2009.


  • The Fulbright Scholar Program — The Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES), under a cooperative agreement with the United States Department of State, administers the Fulbright Scholar Program for faculty and professionals. Each year, the program sends some 800 U.S. faculty and professionals to 155 countries to lecture, research, or participate in seminars. At the same time, approximately 800 foreign faculty come to the United States each year.
  • NAFSA Find Resources — This site discusses different models of faculty involvement in internationalization.
  • Council on International Educational Exchange — The CIEE is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization. It is also the world leader in international education and exchange. The programs include: a) study abroad; b) teach abroad; c) high school study; d) gap year programs; e) international faculty development seminars; f) summer work and travel exchanges; g) internships; h) professional training programs; and i) volunteer opportunities.


  • International Academy for Intercultural Research — The primary purpose of the IAIR is to promote intercultural understanding. Accordingly, it also promotes and encourages research, theory, and practice in the field of intercultural relations. This academy is an explicitly interdisciplinary forum which promotes and facilitates intercultural research in the areas of: a) Psychology; b) Sociology; c) Communication; d) Education; e) Anthropology; f) Management; g) Political Science; and h) other areas of specialization in the social sciences.
  • The International Association for Intercultural Communication Studies — The IAICS consists of scholars from a range within the cultural sciences who are dedicated to doing research on communication across cultures. This group meets annually at different locations around the world, with membership comprising participants from more than 32 countries. The results of their investigations are published in the journal of the organization, Intercultural Communication Studies (ICS).
  • Society for Cross-Cultural Research — The SCCR is a multi-disciplinary organization. Its members all share a common devotion to conducting cross-cultural research. SCCR members are professionals and students from the social science fields of: a) Psychology; b) Anthropology; c) Sociology; d) Education; e) Family Studies; f) Social Work; g) Human Development; h) Psychiatry; i) Communication; j) Ethnic Studies; and k) Business.
  • Center for Intercultural New Media Research — The CINMR is an organization which gathers, generates, and disseminates intercultural new media research. The director is Robert Shuter, a past chair of NCA's International and Intercultural Communication Division, and many of the participants are NCA members.

Collaboration Opportunities

Funding Opportunities

  • The Fulbright Scholar Program — This program offers grants for journalists and other professions in fields related to Communication.
  • Fulbright Specialist Program — The shorter specialist program offers grants of two to six weeks of travel during an exchange program.
  • Fulbright-Hays Faculty Research Abroad Fellowship Program — This program funds fellowships through institutions of higher education to faculty members who propose to conduct research abroad in modern foreign languages and area studies to improve their skill in languages and their knowledge of the culture of the people of these countries.
  • The Center for Intercultural Dialogue — The CID maintains a list of grants relevant to international research, which can be found here. One of the goals of the CID is to acquire grant funding, then distribute it to Communication scholars who are members of any of the member associations of the Council of Communication Associations for research-related travel.
  • The British Council — Eighteen grants of up to £50,000 (USD $75,000) in funds have been awarded to support multidisciplinary research projects between U.K., U.S., and Indian higher education institutions.

Award Opportunities

  • The Intercultural Innovation Award — The BMW Group Award for Intercultural Innovation, in support of the Alliance of Civilizations, under the auspices of the United Nations (otherwise known as the Intercultural Innovation Award) searches for innovative and sustainable projects around the world that are encouraging dialogue and cooperation among people from different cultural backgrounds using novel and creative methods.


Students (click to expand)

Best Practices/Testimony


  • Fulbright Foreign Student Program — This program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.
  • Institute of International Education Study Abroad Funding — This site allows for a search of a variety of funding opportunities.
  • Council on International Educational Exchange — The CIEE is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization, CIEE is the world leader in international education and exchange. The programs include: study abroad, teach abroad, high school study, and gap year programs; International faculty development seminars; summer work and travel exchanges; internships; professional training programs; and volunteer opportunities.
  • Study Abroad — This site provides information pertaining to a number of student exchange programs.
  • Odyssey of the Mind — This is an international, problem-solving based program which allows students at many levels, including college level, to participate in global team exercises.


  • Center for Intercultural New Media Research (CINMR) — CINMR Research Associates are listed on the public CINMR website and available for the world at large. CINMR consists of hundreds of Research Associates representing dozens of countries and hundreds of universities worldwide. In addition, CINMR includes Student Research Associates. Graduate students are welcome to join CINMR. The names, university affiliations, and countries of graduate students are also listed on the CINMR public website.
  • The International Association for Intercultural Communication Studies — The International Association for Intercultural Communication Studies consists of scholars who are dedicated to doing research on communication across cultures. The group meets annually at different locations around the world. The results of their investigations are published in the journal of the organization, Intercultural Communication Studies (ICS).
  • Society for Cross-Cultural Research (SCCR) — The SCCR is a multi-disciplinary organization. Its members all share a common devotion to the conduct of cross-cultural research. SCCR members are professionals and students from the social science fields of: a) Psychology; b) Anthropology; c) Sociology; d) Education; e) Family Studies; e) Social Work; f) Human Development; g) Psychiatry; h) Communication; i) Ethnic Studies; and j) Business.
  • School for International Training (SIT) Graduate Institute — This institute of higher education focuses on internationalization studies.
  • Center for Intercultural Dialogue — The center facilitates connections among Communication scholars studying intercultural dialogue, as well as intercultural dialogue among Communication scholars throughout the discipline, by encouraging international collaborative research, serving as a source for grants, and serving as a clearinghouse for information.
    • Researcher profiles for those interested in intercultural topics who want to collaborate with others who have received very different training, or who conduct their research in a very different context, are frequently posted to the site as a way to help scholars locate international peers.

Funding Opportunities

Award Opportunities

  • The Intercultural Innovation Award — The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and the BMW Group have joined forces to strengthen their commitment to encourage cultural diversity and coexistence among communities. The BMW Group Award for Intercultural Innovation, in support of the Alliance of Civilizations, under the auspices of the United Nations (otherwise known as the Intercultural Innovation Award), searches for innovative and sustainable projects around the world that encourage dialogue and cooperation among people from different cultural backgrounds using novel and creative methods.


Community (click to expand)

Best Practices/Testimony

  • The Public Education Committee of the Pittsburgh Chapter of ACLU — Founded in 1920, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is the nation's foremost guardian of liberty. ACLU is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to defending and protecting our individual rights and personal freedoms, including the freedom of speech, the right to privacy, reproductive freedom, and equal treatment under the law. The ACLU local chapters have Public Education committees where members volunteer for community service, in many instances getting involved with different nationalities and cultures.
  • Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab — The Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab, is a collaboration between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the government of Singapore, created to explore new directions for the development of games as a medium. GAMBIT sets itself apart by emphasizing the creation of video game prototypes to demonstrate our research as a complement to traditional academic publishing.

General Resources

  • Rotary Youth Exchanges — This branch of the Rotary Club allows non-Rotary Club members to host foreign students.
  • ESL Resources by the Center for Adult English Language Acquisition — This site provides information on volunteering for an ESL program.
  • Mentoring Immigrant and Refugee Youth — A toolkit for program coordinators — This site provides information on mentoring opportunities, including an immigrant and refugee mentorship program.
  • Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales (AIESEC) — Student members of AIESEC at universities around the world run, manage, and facilitate a global internship exchange network. As registered student organizations, Local Committees of AIESEC function as small businesses in their communities, run entirely by students. They send students from their university abroad on internships that change lives and jumpstart careers. They also partner with local businesses and NGOs to bring international AIESEC student members into the community where they provide valuable skills to the workforce and experience the real life and culture of a new place.