Internationalizing the Higher Education Curriculum with Intention: Dr. Peter Maribei’s Experiences and Advice

We connected with Dr. Peter Maribei, to learn about how higher education has been responding to a push for more global-oriented education by embedding intentional and transformative international experiences within their curricula.

My first international work assignment was to Mozambique, where I was assigned by a faith-based nonprofit to mentor college students. In preparation for this move, I went through an immersive cross-cultural training program in Harare, Zimbabwe. Different speakers addressed a wide range of topics such as the cultural adjustment life-cycle, worldview, and values. I was also introduced to a language learning technique called Language Acquisition Made Practical (LAMP), which I later applied to learn Portuguese—the official language in Mozambique. The practical portion included living with a host family and taking part in communal life. 

This training came in handy as I encountered my own immersive and disorienting cross-cultural experiences while working with a multinational team consisting of members from Brazil, U.S., and Mozambique. I was also able to see many of the principles in action when I led my first group of students from Universidade Eduardo Mondlane across an international border into South Africa. I noticed how students marveled at the stark differences between the two countries. It solidified for me the importance of international experiences in helping students develop a global mindset and be able see things from different perspectives. Two key terms often used to describe a person’s capacity to function in environments characterized by cultural diversity are “intercultural competence” and “cultural intelligence” (Ang & Van Dyne, 2015), both of which have become an integral part of my academic and professional trajectory.

While my career began in informal experiences, I began to venture into curricular, credit-bearing international experiences as a doctoral student at the University of San Diego. After a seven year stint in San Diego, I moved to Miami University of Ohio in January, 2020 where I now work as the Associate Director for Education Abroad focusing my efforts intentionally in the quality and intentionality behind higher education international experiences.

How are Faculty led Study Abroad Programs Structured?

In 2009, the University of San Diego’s School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES) made international experience a requirement for graduation. The Department of Learning and Teaching, one of the departments within SOLES, designed a few international experiences for their teacher education students. The department felt that it was particularly important to develop teachers who can think and teach from a global mindset as well as respond to the diverse needs of student bodies. Teachers who can connect their teaching to the global context are also better able to prepare their students for an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world.

In 2019, I took part in one such memorable international program experience, traveling to Brazil with a cohort of graduate students from SOLES. The program, which was led by a faculty member, sought to examine the impact of affirmative action and race dynamics on access to higher education. Pre-travel work involved readings, classroom discussions and a talk by a subject expert. The study tour entailed pre-planned visits to universities, cultural sites, and a community-based nonprofit working towards equitable access to higher education for marginalized groups. Students also chose sites to visit to gather data for their project as well as for their own personal enrichment. After a site visit and at the end of each day, the faculty member led students in a group discussion to reflect on their experiences, connecting them back to the course material. 

As a culminating project, students worked together to design a game to simulate the intricacies of navigating access to a college education in Brazil for players. They incorporated concepts from their readings and field research such as the inherent inequities in entrance exam preparation, racial quotas for admissions, and access to scholarships. The students were highly engaged in their project which required them to integrate all the dimensions of learning gained through the course.

Dr. Peter Maribei (right) with group of students visiting Brazil

What are the Impacts of Faculty Led Programs?

As the prevalence of international experiences has been growing across higher education, so has my growing interest in understanding the impacts of such programs. A recent study examined data from students who started and completed a degree program in SOLES between 2013 and 2015, noting that slightly more than half (51%) of students fulfilled their international requirement through a study abroad program (Lee & Ngo, 2017). A survey instrument developed in-house at SOLES, sought to further understand the impact of these international experiences by looking at three dimensions of cultural competence including the application of context appropriate cultural knowledge, the awareness of general norms of a culture and the utilization of intercultural communication skills. The study concluded that the internationalization graduation requirement at SOLES had a positive effect on graduate students’ cultural competence levels and supported the continuation of this requirement for future cohorts.

In a follow up study, Dr. Reyes Quezada, the chair of the Department of Learning and Teaching, and I, examined archival data of subsequent cohorts of students in the teacher education program (Maribei & Quezada, 2019). A total of two hundred and eighty six students took part in study abroad programs in 8 different international locations between 2013 and 2018. Among the courses taught include comparative education; education reform; cognition and learning; and, special topics and inclusive environments. Findings suggest that students had gained an appreciation of the similarities and differences from the exposure and engagement, not only in aspects of the host culture, but also in the educational systems in the host country when compared to the United States. 

While the knowledge of the norms and practices of host cultures appeared to be gained just from the travel portion of the course, other dimensions of cultural intelligence required additional post-travel work. Students who were requested to incorporate what they learned into their lesson planning and demonstrate how they had applied it in their student teaching, appeared to have improved their cultural intelligence. These activities appeared to have helped students increase their motivation to direct their energy toward learning how to function in cross-cultural situations and their capacity to modify certain behaviors when interacting with people from different cultures.  

As some initial conclusions to this work, studies suggest that short-term international educational credit bearing programs are a valuable means for developing intercultural competence. Secondly, studies show that intentional, guided reflection as well as frequent feedback by a cultural mentor produces better learning outcomes. This involves pre-travel work, guided reflections while on site, and opportunities to apply the learning after travel. The knowledge has contributed to my practice in international education and can benefit other scholars and practitioners. I look forward to bringing this knowledge and practice to my new position at Miami University of Ohio to make sure that we are intentional about the many international experiences we create and offer—striving to create a globally minded, culturally sensitive student body more aware and ready to thrive in our every changing world.

Meet Dr. Peter Maribei:


Ang, S., & Van Dyne, L. (Eds.) . (2015).  Handbook of cultural intelligence: Theory, measurement, and applications. Routledge.

Lee, K. M. & Ngo, M. (2017) . Effect of graduate students’ internationalization experiences on cultural competence, Journal of Higher Education Management, 32(1), pp.66-84.

Maribei, P. & Quezada, R. (July, 2019) . Internationalizing the curriculum and its impact on intercultural competence: One university’s story. Presented at the International Council on Education for Teaching (ICET), 63rd World Assembly, Glenburn, South Africa.