Narrating language and intercultural transitions: The impact of an online intervention

Author: Jane Jackson (Chinese University of Hong Kong)
Speaker: Jane Jackson
Topic: Language socialization
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 General Session


Study abroad researchers have discovered that international exchange students may experience starkly different trajectories in an unfamiliar linguistic and cultural environment (Ward, 2015). Some quickly acculturate, form multicultural friendships, and develop a sense of belonging in the host country; others, however, experience identity misalignments and cultural disequilibrium and quickly withdraw to the safety of their in-group (e.g., co-nationals) (Benson et al., 2013; Kinginger, 2015). With limited exposure to local communities of practice, second language sojourners may demonstrate little or no growth in host language proficiency, intercultural sensitivity, or global-mindedness. Consequently, pedagogical interventions are increasingly recommended to enhance the academic/social integration of student sojourners (e.g., Coleman, 2013; Vande Berg et al., 2012).

This presentation centers on a fully-online general education course that has been designed to help international exchange students cope with language and intercultural transitions in their host country. At the heart of the curriculum is structured, critical reflection. While abroad, the participants are prompted to share and ‘unpack’ their emotions/experiences in reflective essays and a weekly online Forum. After briefly describing the course and participants, discussion centers on an analysis of the written narratives (e.g., reflective essays, online posts), which revealed growth in language and intercultural awareness. Excerpts from the post-course interviews and questionnaire offered valuable insight into student perceptions of the benefits and challenges of this period of intense reflection. While the presentation centers on the language and intercultural development and identity reconstruction of international exchange students from a Hong Kong university, the lessons learned should be meaningful for educators in other parts of the world who are concerned with the socialization of second language sojourners.


Benson, P., Barkhuizen, G., Bodycott, P. and Brown, J. (2013). Second Language Identity in Narratives of Study Abroad, Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Coleman, J. (2013). Researching whole persons and whole lives. In C. Kinginger (Ed.), Social and cultural aspects of language learning in study abroad (pp. 17-44). Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Kinginger, C. (2015). Student mobility and identity-related language learning, Intercultural Education, 26(1): 6-15. doi: 10.1080/14675986.2015.992199
Vande Berg, M., Paige, R. M., & Lou, K. H. (2012). Student learning abroad: Paradigms and assumptions. In M. Vande Berg, R. M. Paige, & K. H. Lou (Eds.), Student learning abroad: What our students are learning, what they’re not, and what we can do about it (pp. 3-28). Sterling, VA: Stylus.
Ward, C.A. (2015). Culture shock. In J.M. Bennett (ed.) The Sage Handbook of Intercultural Competence, Volume 2 (pp. 207-10). Los Angeles: Sage.