Study abroad and identity: a longitudinal study of Saudi female learners of English in Ireland

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Alsufyan, Arwa
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University College Cork
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Although many studies have investigated the influence of studying abroad on the identities of L2 learners, none have looked at Saudi female identity development during a study abroad sojourn. This study considers the voices of Saudi female study abroad learners of English in relation to the positive and negative experiences they had in Ireland. Using semistructured interviews, the narrative data of six students were collected every three months over a period of nine months. Two frameworks, the facets of identities (Benson et al., 2013) and second language identity and the spectrum of intergroup identity negotiation (Ting-Toomey & Dorjee, 2014), were used to qualitatively demonstrate their identity changes. Findings are presented thematically, with the themes of social interaction, anxiety about events at the language institute, and the benefits of the study abroad experience recurring in the participants’ data. Mini-case studies for each participant show their individual identity changes in relation to the three themes. Generally, the lack of intercultural competence between teachers and learners was believed to be the cause of their negative experiences. All participants agreed that (1) they expanded their love for their country and religion and felt anxious when teachers spoke negatively about them, (2) they were more enthusiastic about interacting with international students than native speakers and (3) they felt that studying abroad had developed their personalities. Their religious identity development helped them adjust to the host environment; they prayed to succeed and easily adapt to their new situation. Without intending to, the study served to fill the gap that Han (2018) identified by longitudinally illuminating the role of religion in language learning abroad. The conclusion suggests numerous implications for future research, such as comparatively investigating the identity development of Saudi male and female students in a study abroad situation and examining native speaker perceptions of social interactions with male and female Saudi students who are studying abroad.
Study abroad , Intercultural competence , Global competence , Social interaction , Social integration , Identity , Identity negotiation , Identity development , Identity reconstruction , Individual differences , Study abroad benefits , Study abroad experience , Poststructuralism , Interculturality , Ethnocentrism , Narrative analysis , Thematic analysis , Story telling
Alsufyan, A. 2019. Study abroad and identity: a longitudinal study of Saudi female learners of English in Ireland. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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