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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Americans in Paris: A Discourse Analysis of Student Accounts of Study Abroad

  • Author(s): Wolcott, Timothy Paul
  • Advisor(s): Kramsch, Claire J
  • et al.
Abstract

In this study, I provide a discourse analytical and narrative-theoretical examination of four American undergraduate students' interview accounts of study abroad in France. The key finding is that all of these students accounted for the significance of their experiences studying abroad in terms that transcended the institutionally sanctioned academic and professional goals of the program itself. Instead, these students discussed the various impacts of their term abroad in largely personal and life historical terms. In order to account for the often deeply personal ways in which these participants made sense of their experiences, I turn to recent post-structuralist scholarship on subjectivity and symbolic competence. I also position these accounts within the broader history of the programmatic implementation and the scientific evaluation of American undergraduate study abroad. Seen against this historical backdrop, I pay particular attention to how these student accounts both reinforce and undermine some of the dominant discourses found in the established research and commentary on study abroad in the applied linguistics and international education literature. While the ultimate purpose of this study is descriptive, in the final chapter I explore some of the pedagogical implications of my findings and offer a sample syllabus of a course designed to help students reflect on the subjective dimension of their study abroad experiences.

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