The Impact of Study Abroad on Language Learners' Understanding of the Concept of Citizenship: Some Preliminary Considerations

Bruen, Jennifer (2013) The Impact of Study Abroad on Language Learners' Understanding of the Concept of Citizenship: Some Preliminary Considerations. ISSN 2009-3160

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The notion often associated with study abroad that it will deepen students’ understanding of citizenship and expand it beyond national borders remains contested. While the Erasmus website (European Commission, 2012a) claims that study abroad and the experiences associated with it ‘give students a better sense of what it means to be a European citizen’ there is little research that documents how students themselves actually conceive of the term citizenship in practice (Streitwieser and Light, 2010, 1) or how a period of study abroad might transform such conceptualizations. In order to contribute to this debate, this paper analyses reflective pieces by undergraduate students on the nature of citizenship written before (n=16) and after (n=8) a year of study abroad as part of an Erasmus exchange programme. It presents an initial attempt to derive a typology of understandings for the term citizen from this data and to assess the impact of study abroad on these understandings. The findings of this pilot study suggest that before students engage with study abroad, they have a tendency to articulate a relatively straightforward understanding of the concept of citizenship with a strong focus on the notion of ‘belonging’ to a country. In contrast, those in the post year abroad group recognise that the concept of citizenship is “difficult to define”, complex and composed of a number of elements. In addition, both obligations and responsibilities increase in importance and become more significant than rights for the post-year abroad group. Implications for a more in-depth study and for further research, in general, as well as for the preparation of students for study abroad are considered.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: citizenship; language learning; language teaching; study abroad
Depositing User: National Forum
Date Deposited: 30 Nov 2015 14:18
Last Modified: 30 Nov 2015 14:18

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