Social and personal engagement and development during study abroad: experiential perspectives from Saudi language learners

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Almohammade, Nesreen
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University College Cork
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This thesis is a longitudinal study that aims to explore Saudi language learners’ experiences in a study-abroad environment. The study investigated their contact with the language, culture and academic life in Ireland and how gender influenced their sojourn experience. The research will reveal the impact of study abroad experience on Saudi learners’ language development and personal growth from learners’ perspectives. The study included ten newly-arrived Saudi language learners in Ireland and followed a qualitative research approach. Two face-to-face, semi-structured interviews were guided by three research questions about how the participants spent their time abroad, gender influence and overall perception of the study-abroad experience. Participants were interviewed twice, upon their arrival and three months after they settled in. The data from the interviews were analysed under the objectives of the study using computer analysis software. The data analysis revealed that learners’ expectations of their language use and social relationships with native speakers were not realistic and were challenging to achieve. However, once they modified their expectations, their perception of the experience changed positively. The findings highlight how the learners are active social agents who wish to socialise and use the language inside and outside the classroom in authentic real-life situations. Furthermore, communicating in the second language was perceived as the main challenge they experienced upon arrival, followed by interacting with the opposite gender in the case of female participants. According to the learners, their social networks included mainly other international students and co-national friends due to the fact that meeting native speakers was difficult except for those who lived with a host family.
Study abroad , Saudi , Language learners
Almohammade, N. 2021. Social and personal engagement and development during study abroad: experiential perspectives from Saudi language learners. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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