INFLUENCE OF STUDYING ABROAD ON THE STUDENTS’ IDENTITY COSTRUCTION
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The objective of this paper is to determine if and in what ways the studying abroad experience affects the students’ identity. It also aims at exploring the influence this experience has on the development of the students’ intercultural competences. The research is based on eight interviews in total. The majority of the participants were students that completed their education in Greece; four of them studied abroad and four did not participate in studying abroad programs. The qualitative methodology of semi-structured interviews was chosen. The same questions were asked to all the participants in order to compare how the personality of the students that participated in studying abroad programs was constructed differently with those that did not participated in study abroad programs. Subsequently, more in-depth interviews were conducted with the students that studied abroad to investigate the influence this experience had on their intercultural competences. Evidence from the interviews confirms other researchers’ findings in the research field of studying abroad. Specifically, my study builds on work by a variety of researchers that conducted similar investigations. Brown (2009) conducted research regarding ways in which students’ identities could be influenced by experiences abroad. The same results were found in a study conducted by Murphy–Lejeune (2002) who demonstrated that life abroad is a powerful experience of discovery of self and others. Additionally, the theory about identity construction by Bucholtz and Hall (2004), who explain the ways in which identities are constructed through the notions of “sameness” and “difference” or from Holliday (2016), who analyses the idea of cultural threading and cultural blocking and how these concepts are related to intercultural learning, were used to interpret the findings of the research. Finally, the findings of the research showed that studying abroad has a big influence on the identity of the students. In addition, the results illustrated a correlation between studying abroad and the development of intercultural competences.