Document Type (Journals)

Original Research


International service learning experiences provide invaluable opportunities for occupational therapy practitioners and students to practice clinical skills while also being exposed to different cultures and experiences not available in their home country. Studies have shown that clinical activities during international service learning experiences increase students’ cultural awareness and sensitivity, however the effect of cultural activities on students’ development is not known. Over the span of two years, multiple groups of American occupational therapy students traveled to Morocco for a ten day service learning experience and served in a variety of clinical activities across the lifespan and population. Students also participated in cultural and tourist activities for increased exposure to the local culture. This study explored the development of cultural sensitivity through participation in both clinical and cultural activities during the international service learning experience through a quantitative survey (n=22) and qualitative interview (n=17). Participants indicated that both clinical and cultural activities played a role in their self-perceived development of cultural sensitivity on the quantitative survey. Themes identified within the qualitative interview revealed the impactful qualities of various activities, identified as “Authenticity,” “Communication Skills,” “Role of Religion,” and “Exposure to Morocco.” It appears that both kinds of activities play a role in development of cultural sensitivity, and regardless of the activity, authenticity and exposure to the culture along with opportunities to practice communication skills play the largest role in students perceiving a personal increase in cultural awareness and sensitivity while participating in international service learning experiences.


Dr. Monique Chabot, OTD, OTR/L, SCEM, CLIPP CAPS is an Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy at Thomas Jefferson University- East Falls campus. She leads the service learning and Fieldwork I experience to Morocco for the East Falls and Center City campuses.

Adair Sanchez is a student at Thomas Jefferson University pursuing a Doctorate of Occupational Therapy degree.

Dr. Said Nafai, OTD, OTR/L, CLT is an Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy at American International College. He also is the founding father of occupational therapy in Morocco and president of the Occupational Therapy Association of Morocco. He created the service learning and Fieldwork I experience to Morocco.

Elizabeth Stevens-Nafai, MS, OTR/L is a practicing occupational therapist and adjunct professor who facilitates clinical and cultural experiences during the service learning and fieldwork trips to Morocco. She volunteers OT clinical support and consultation to a wide variety of groups and settings in Morocco.

Declaration of Interest

Said Nafai reports a declaration of interest as the co-founder of the organization that organized the service learning experiences to Morocco. Elizabeth Stevens- Nafai, Monique Chabot and Adair Sanchez report no declarations of interest.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.