Reasons for the formation of Spanish Erasmus ghettos in Italy: the role of languages

Author: Helena Torres-Purroy (University of Lleida, Spain)
Sònia Mas-Alcolea (University of Lleida, Spain)
Speaker: Helena Torres-Purroy, Sònia Mas-Alcolea
Topic: Language Socialization
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL COMELA 2020 General Session


Discourses on study abroad (SA) have often praised its linguistic and intercultural benefits, based on the “metaphor of linguistic and cultural immersion” (Mitchell et al., 2017, p. 19). Yet, the related literature widely reports the formation of a homogeneous Erasmus ‘self-contained enclave’ (Tsoukalas, 2008) or community (Kalocsai, 2014) formed by a foreign student cohort with shared practices and features, which does not interrelate with the ‘local community’. Based on longitudinal qualitative data (pre-, while- and post-SA) gathered from four Catalan–Spanish undergraduate students, this paper explores the causes and intervening factors of the formation of a third community, a group of Spanish Erasmus students who did not seem to find their place in neither of these two networks. Results suggest that there are multiple factors that may affect the socialisation of Spanish Erasmus students abroad and the formation of Spanish ghettos in Italy, many of which are related with language. Some such factors are (1) the lack of initial linguistic preparation in both English and the local language (Italian in this case), (2) the participants’ ideology on the local language, here perceived as similar to their L1 and thus attainable, (3) the size of the compatriot cohort abroad, (4) the ease provided by the host institution to use their L1 as medium of instruction and of assessment, and (5) participants’ priorities abroad. This study may aid the design and provision of support mechanisms for mobility students by both home and host institutions so that students are in the best position to achieve their initial goals and the promised positive outcomes of the Erasmus programme.

Keywords: study abroad, social networks, SLA, Erasmus, language socialization