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Abstract

In the current context of globalization and the internationalization of many industries, universities are seeking to provide opportunities for students to apply their knowledge in various settings, including an increase in international opportunities and formal study abroad programs. This study examined an Australian university and non-governmental organization (NGO) co-sponsored, short-term, cross-cultural service-learning immersion program in India. Approximately 40 undergraduate students from various faculties have now undertaken the program over the past three years. The students travelled to a semi-remote part of India to work with underprivileged children at a children’s home turned school in Southern India. The affiliation with the NGO has seen it evolve from an informal children’s home with 10-15 rotating children to a residential and day school. The impact of the program has had a profound impact on the students' views about the importance of education to impoverished communities; however, close examination of the relationship between the host community and the institution reveals the complexities of the program are greater than expected. The current paper focuses on community perceptions of the service-learning immersion and brings to light contradictions inherent within the program. While the paper focuses solely on one program, the implications may be the same for other international service-oriented programs.

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