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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Subjectivity and Spirituality during Study Abroad: A Case Study

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In this paper, we examine the case of Veronica, an American undergraduate studying abroad in Paris, whose struggles to negotiate linguistic and cultural differences highlight a deeply personal and emotional attempt to reconcile the symbolic values she assigns to her national, ethnic and imagined identities. While at first glance this student’s accounts may seem self-centered, a closer inspection reveals a depth of worries, passions, and desires that suggests a degree of reflexivity and self/other awareness long associated with personal development, intercultural competence, and even spiritual conversion.  Considering this case study through the dual lenses of subjectivity and spirituality affords a reframing of Veronica’s desire to re-invent herself as indicative not of an urge to cling to the familiar but of an incipient metanoia, or a profound shift in her way of looking at herself and the world. Following the case study, we explore the implications of our approach for study abroad research and outline a curriculum for helping students address issues related to subjectivity and spirituality during a term abroad.


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