The impact of immersion trips on development of compassion among college students

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The purpose of this study was to examine the possible enhancement of compassion in college students as a result of participating in community-based learning immersion trips. In two separate experiments, a total of 123 college students were given a series of questionnaires immediately before and after university-sponsored immersion experiences to measure compassion and related constructs. In Experiment I, 19 participants on college immersion trips as well as 20 comparison students not attending immersion trips were evaluated. In Experiment II, the same questionnaires were administered to 45 immersion participants and 39 comparison students. Results of Experiment I suggest that immersion participants had higher posttrip empathy scores and less stress. In Experiment II, results indicate a significant increase in compassion scores among students who participated in an immersion experience compared to those who did not. Because communitybased learning seeks to increase student and community engagement and connection to those in greatest need, it is likely that compassion and related constructs such as empathy are nurtured through these now popular experiential learning opportunities.