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Date(s) - Jun 1, 2018


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Stretching the boundaries of study abroad research: studies from the SAREP COST Action (CA 15130)


Symposium participants:

June Eyckmans, Ghent University, june.eyckmans@ugent.be, (coordinator)

Rosamond Mitchell, University of Southampton

Nicole Tracy-Ventura, University of South Florida

Amanda Huensch, University of South Florida

Klara Arvidsson, Stockholm University

Fanny Forsberg-Lundell, Stockholm University

Kata Csizér, Eötvös Loránd University

Vanda Szatzker,  Eötvös Loránd University

Kitti Erdő-Bonyár, Eötvös Loránd University


Overall abstract

The growing popularity of international exchange programmes has promoted empirical research directed at the linguistic, social and cultural benefits of residences abroad. Apart from investigating the nature of linguistic development as a result of a study abroad, scholars have examined the specificities of communicative interaction, the role of socio-biographical factors in exploiting the affordances of residences abroad and the development of cultural competence and personality.


In this colloquium we aim to further explore the benefits and limitations of study abroad for second language learners by focusing on the influence of psychology (self-concept, identity and agency) on plurilingual interaction with others during residence abroad. In doing so we disseminate results of the Study Abroad Research in European Perspective (SAREP) COST Action (CA15130), a European cooperation in science and technology. In a first and plenary presentation Rosamond Mitchell (University of Southampton) will examine the influence of student agency on plurilingual practice and intercultural development during study abroad. Next, June Eyckmans (Ghent University) will hone in on the role of self-regulation for the enrichment of the study abroad experience. In a third presentation Klara Arvidsson and Fanny Forsberg Lundell (University of Stockholm) will present two case studies to illustrate the interplay between learners’ self-concept and their linguistic development during a study abroad experience. This is followed by a presentation by Nicole Tracey Ventura, Amanda Huensch and Rosamund Mitchell on the significance of study abroad for identity development in the future life course. Finally, Kata Csizér, Vanda Szatzker & Kitti Erdő-Bonyár (Eötvös Loránd University) will explore the way students’ regulate their learning, academic work and social life in study abroad contexts.


Summary: In this colloquium we aim to further explore the benefits and limitations of study abroad for second language learners by focusing on the influence of psychology (self-concept, identity and agency) on plurilingual interaction with others during a residence abroad.


SAREP symposium paper 1: Sojourner agency and its contribution to social integration and plurilingual development during study abroad; Rosamond Mitchell (University of Southampton)

Educational programmes often assume that study abroad (SA) will lead straightforwardly to students’ intercultural and plurilingual development. However a developing body of socioculturally oriented research has shown that the commonly adopted identity of “temporary sojourner” may be an obstacle to these aims. Student sojourners are known to sustain home networks and relationships very actively through virtual means while abroad, and may limit new network development to co-nationals or other international sojourners, thus experiencing SA primarily as a “coming of age” experience, with limited linguistic and intercultural impact.

This presentation draws on a set of case studies of SA participants, to explore the L2 identities and personal qualities of “low gainers” vs “high gainers”, in terms of both plurilingual and intercultural development. It is shown that a strategic view of the L2 self as plurilingual, combined with persistence, resilience and flexibility in developing new plurilingual social relations, both within and beyond the student group, are characteristic of “high gain” participants. Particular attention is given to sojourner agency, its dynamic nature and its role in initiating and developing personal relationships with a range of actors in the SA setting, including fellow students, romantic partners, housemates, older mentors, sports teammates and workmates.

Summary: This presentation examines the contribution of sojourner agency to the building of plurilingual and intercultural social networks and relationships during study abroad. Case studies of “low gain” and “high gain” sojourners are presented and it is shown how growing agency contributes to the intercultural and plurilingual development of high gainers.

SAREP symposium paper 2: Influencing students’ sense of agency during study abroad; June Eyckmans (Ghent University)


Study Abroad experiences are reputed to enhance not only foreign language skills but also individuals’ ability to successfully deal with intercultural environments. However, annually collected data at Ghent University have revealed that the aforementioned gains show large individual variation with students showing growth as well as decline in their multicultural effectiveness after a sojourn abroad. Also, students’ self-reported intensity of language contact during their sojourn points to disappointingly few hours of target language use in a restricted range of communicative contexts. It seems that the linguistic and intercultural benefits of sojourns abroad cannot be taken for granted. In order to support students during their residence abroad and increase their chances for fruitful intercultural interactions, a blended learning tool has been developed that taps into students’ capacity for self-regulation. By means of a playful computer app individuals’ sense of agency is influenced with a view of letting them reap more rewards from the study abroad experience. In this presentation the research leading up to the development of the blended learning environment will be discussed, with a focus on the role of self-regulation and its influence on students’ interactions while abroad.

Summary: This study focuses on the role of agency and self-regulation in intercultural interactions in a study abroad context. The opportunities of a blended learning environment, more in particular the interface possibilities of a playful computer app, for influencing students’ sense of agency in unfamiliar contexts are discussed.


SAREP symposium paper 3: The interplay between learners’ self-concept and the linguistic development during study abroad – two case studies; Klara Arvidsson & Fanny Forsberg-Lundel, (Stockholm University)

Research on second language acquisition in a Study Abroad setting systematically report on individual variation in language learning outcomes. Studies have made efforts to better understand this individual variation. The variability in learning outcomes is increasingly recognized to stem from the dynamic interplay between cognitive, affective, motivational and contextual factors. In Study Abroad research, there are however to date relatively few studies which document the linguistic development over time in relation to psychological and social dimensions of the learning experience. In this presentation, we will report on a longitudinal study involving two learners, who differ in their respective degree of linguistic development. Data were collected at four points over a semester and includes oral production in the target language, semi-structured interviews, the Language Engagement Questionnaire and the Social Network Questionnaire (McManus, Mitchell & Tracy-Ventura, 2014). The participants’ different developmental trajectories will be discussed in relation to their self-concepts, motivations, patterns of language use, social networks and L2 development during a semester abroad.

Summary: This longitudinal study explores the language learning trajectories of two participants during a semester abroad. The dynamic interplay between the learners’ self-concepts, motivations, patterns of language use, social networks and linguistic development during a study abroad will be discussed.

SAREP symposium paper 4: Long term evolution of L2 identity following study abroad; Nicole Tracy-Ventura, Amanda Huensch & Rosamond Mitchell, (University of South Florida & University of Southampton)


It is well recognised that study abroad can promote considerable changes in the personality and identity of student participants (Kinginger 2009, Ch 5; Benson et al., 2013; Mitchell et al 2017). However, the long term evolution of SA participants’ L2 identity post-sojourn has received comparatively limited attention. Some studies suggest that SA has a durable influence e.g. on sojourners’ intercultural orientation and career mobility (e.g. Coleman & Chafer, 2011). However, it is also suggested that participants will need structured post-sojourn opportunities for reflection on their in-sojourn learning, if impact is to be maximally effective for many sojourners (Jackson, 2014).

This paper reports an investigation into the L2 identity of 30 young professionals, 4 years following a 2-semester study abroad experience as languages students. The participants had taken part in a previous study before, during and immediately following their sojourn abroad, in which the evolution of their L2 identity as students was well documented, as was the development of their L2 proficiency. For the new investigation the participants were contacted and interviewed once again. We report overall trends in their L2 identity development and its relationship with the extent of their ongoing contacts with L2 users and engagement in L2 use.


Summary: This paper tests the significance of SA for identity development in the future life course. The L2 identities of 30 young professionals were investigated through an interview survey, 4 years following a similar investigation during SA. Conclusions are drawn on factors promoting stability and change in L2 identity over time.


SAREP symposium paper 5: The academic and social dimensions of self-regulation; Kata Csizér, Vanda Szatzker & Kitti Erdő-Bonyár (Eötvös Loránd University)


Autonomous learning and self-regulation are important in study abroad contexts for students as without these, they might not be able to exploit academic or social opportunities. The aim of the present study is to explore the way students regulate their behavior in study abroad contexts in terms of not only their learning and academic work but also their social life. The investigation builds on Benson’s (2001) conceptualization on autonomy, i.e. to what extent students take responsibility for their own learning, and conceptualizes self-regulation as particular actions students take before, during and after their study abroad experiences. The pilot study of the instrument involved students at a large Hungarian university (N=36), who filled in an online questionnaire. The main results are as follows: First, there are clear differences in terms of students’ self-regulation concerning how they prepare for study abroad, what they do while abroad and how they make use of their experiences after study abroad. Second, although they are aware of the opportunities in terms of enhancing their academic work, they are somewhat shier about regulating their social life and taking opportunities outside school. Third, as some of the proposed constructs failed to provide reliable measures, it seems that some self-regulatory processes have been overlooked in the initial conceptualization.


Summary: The aim of the present study is to explore the way students’ regulate their behaviour in study abroad contexts in terms of not only their learning and academic work but also their social life. Based on some quantitative data, similarities and differences were analysed in students’ lives.


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