Abstract Although international opportunities are the hallmark of nursing education at a large private university, the meaning of participating in such clinical nursing electives has not been described. The purpose of this phenomenological study of nurses was to examine the personal and professional meaning of participating in international clinical nursing electives during their undergraduate nursing studies. Audiotaped interviews were conducted with 20 former nursing students who had had this opportunity. “Opening our hearts and minds” was described by the study’s participants, with the following themes: increasing understanding of other cultures and peoples, increasing understanding of global sociopolitical and health issues, increasing the commitment to make a difference, experiencing personal and professional growth, contributing to professional development in the host country, making interpersonal connexions, and developing cultural competence. This study makes an important contribution to the documentation of the meaning of participating in international nursing clinical experiences. Data are being used for long-term curricular planning in the development and refinement of future international clinical nursing electives and to provide outcomes data for professional accreditation. There are broader implications for the movement beyond individual cultural competence to increasing global consciousness and the improvement of global health care.