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Preface to the Special Issue

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It is with great pleasure that I present to you this special issue on Study Abroad in the Twenty-first Century, guest edited by three young scholars with a special personal and professional interest in study abroad.

Wenhao Diao is Assistant Professor in the Department of East Asian Studies and a faculty member in the doctoral program of Second Language Acquisition and Teaching (SLAT) at the University of Arizona. Her dissertation draws on the language socialization framework and focuses on study abroad students’ learning and use of Mandarin in Shanghai, China. Specifically, she looked at how students used a set of Mandarin sentence-final particles to negotiate identity with their Chinese roommates or host family members. Her findings show qualitative differences between the dorm and the homestay settings that are reflective of China’s sociolinguistic context: while during Mao’s China everyone was supposed to look the same and sound the same, social stratifications are rapidly emerging in today’s China—especially among the urban youth. Wenhao’s current research interests continue to lie in the sociolinguistic and discursive aspects of study abroad and language learning.

Janice McGregor is Assistant Professor of German in the Department of Modern Languages at Kansas State University, where she coordinates the basic German language sequence and teaches in the MA program in Second Language Acquisition. In 2012, she received her PhD at The Pennsylvania State University upon completion of her dissertation, On Community Participation and Identity Negotiation in a Study Abroad Context: A Multiple Case Study. Janice’s own experiences as a German language learner and both student and intern abroad have stimulated a deep interest in the complex identity work students navigate when in new cultural and linguistic experiences. Her current research projects focus on L2 use, authenticity, and identity in study abroad. She is also interested in the role of desire and emotion in L2 use and development during study abroad.

Timothy Wolcott is Adjunct Professor of French in the Modern & Classical Languages (MCL) Department at the University of San Francisco (USF), and he also works as the MCL Department Liaison to the Center for Global Education. In his dissertation, Americans in Paris: A Discourse Analysis of Student Accounts of Study Abroad, he draws on post-structuralist theories of subjectivity to account for the deeply personal ways student interviewees make sense of their study abroad experiences in France. In his recent publications, co-authored with a Jesuit colleague at USF, he has begun to examine the degree to which such personal impacts of study abroad can be understood in terms of spirituality. Drawing on his own experience as an instructor and resident advisor in a study abroad program in Paris, he is currently designing a language-intensive, short-term summer study abroad program in France with a focus on service learning and self-reflection.

The three guest editors rightly feel that the very nature of study abroad has changed drastically for foreign language learners, now that the Internet enables students to travel abroad without really leaving home and that English is spoken around the world. Indeed, research on study abroad is asking new questions, exploring new aspects of studying a language in its “authentic” cultural context. The discourse approach adopted by the authors of this special issue provides an appropriate analytical tool for the investigation of social, national, and gender-related identities in the multilingual environments in which study abroad takes place today.

I wish to thank the three guest editors for putting together this exciting issue of the L2Journal and the seven authors for their superb contributions.

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