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The Traveller Has Many a Tale to Tell: Personal Change and Language Development as a Result of a Year Abroad

MOORE, IAN,JOHN (2020) The Traveller Has Many a Tale to Tell: Personal Change and Language Development as a Result of a Year Abroad. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Each year, hundreds of thousands of students worldwide undertake a study abroad experience. It is widely assumed that these experiences can be transformative and life-changing for learners but to date, little evidence exists which has empirically challenged these claims. The objective of this thesis is therefore to evaluate the efficacy of the UK year abroad experience regarding fostering positive personality changes, well-being and linguistic development. In doing so, the thesis looks to provide the reader with both a descriptive and explanatory account of change. To achieve this, the thesis comprises of two studies, which complement each other.

The first, Study 1, comprises of a systematic review of Second Language Acquisition literature within the domain of study abroad to ascertain the extent to which sojourning fosters language acquisition compared to remaining at-home. The findings indicate limited robust evidence from which to draw causal claims regarding the extent to which sojourning accounts for linguistic growth. Seven studies were carried forward to the in-depth review, suggesting sojourning to facilitate global proficiency and oral fluency, but where gains were found, these tended to be highly individualised. The review further supports the claims that growth experienced during a study abroad period is highly compartmentalised and subtle in nature.

The second, Study 2, collected data across the academic year 2018/19 in 180 students, 110 who studied abroad, and 70 who remained at-home in their final year of undergraduate study. Undertaking multilevel modelling and regression analysis, the findings indicated that sojourners became significantly more agreeable and curious while abroad compared to non-sojourners. Those who perceived themselves to be less lonely and felt part of the community appeared to experience the most value from the experience in relation to personal growth and mental well-being. An intensive repeated measurement component was also undertaken, demonstrating within-person variability to be systematically related to perceived situational antecedents.

Together, the two studies indicate that the year abroad experience is not transformative for all and that for some, the year abroad may pose distinct and unique challenges not faced by those in an at-home environment. The thesis offers stakeholders an insight into tools and actions which can be taken to aid student acculturation and ultimately foster positive personal and linguistic change. In light of the current political climate in the UK, this thesis comes at an important time and may hold relevance to policymakers and stakeholders alike as we enter into a new Europe.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Study abroad; Personality; Second Language Acquisition; Well-being
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Education, School of
Thesis Date:2020
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:09 Feb 2021 13:54

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