While some institutions require their students to spend a semester abroad as a prerequisite to earning a business degree, academics challenge the view that travel abroad helps students become culturally competent. Many students admit that they failed to immerse themselves in a cross-cultural environment. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to identify the components of exchange study abroad programs (ESP) that facilitate student cross-cultural learning (CCL). Building on the transformative learning theory (TLT), we propose and test a conceptual model of relationships between different components of exchange programs and student CCL. The data collected from more than 700 students participating in a semester and two-semester-long programs are analyzed through logistic regression. This research contributes to the literature on the effectiveness of ESP by identifying the key components that maximize positive outcomes for students. By building on the TLT, it reveals the importance of getting out of one’s comfort zone and providing students with support during the ESP. This study bears practical implications as it provides academic institutions and students with important insights that help maximize student CCL.