University of Sussex
Nielsen,_Katherine.pdf (3.76 MB)

Study abroad: perspectives on transitions to adulthood

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posted on 2023-06-08, 16:55 authored by Katherine Nielsen
The Irish immrama literary style seems the most appropriate way to represent student narratives based on their study abroad experiences in Ireland. The chapters containing the immrama of students are an ethnographic experiment in which the reflexivity students demonstrated through the interview process is presented in narrative form. This writing style provides the context for the examination of issues related to academic aspirations, professional, and personal wandering, and how study abroad experiences and tourism behaviour contribute to the transition to adulthood. The immrama are located in the evennumbered chapters. Daily challenges and student-organised travel experiences that develop as part of a study abroad have the potential to transform the participants. Eight months of fieldwork in the Republic of Ireland during the 2008/9 academic year revealed the types of activities students independently organised during their period as educational tourists in an international context and the nature of the learning outcomes. The most reported outcome of their sojourn was increased self-confidence. Wandering among academic settings, geographic locations, and social interactions resulted in the development of intercultural competences and the shift in frames of reference. Chapter 3 recounts the theoretical and epistemological basis for this thesis. Anthropology provides the basis for discussion of adulthood, liminality, and the development of friendship through learning opportunities inherent in study abroad programmes. Andragogical theories identify and define adult learning as independent and student-directed. This approach allows for discussion of learning such as intercultural competences, the outcomes of studying abroad, settings that foster personal development, experiences that transform students, and learning as a transition to adulthood. Chapters 5 and 7 examine the opportunities for learning and personal development that result from independent travel. Students developed friendship groups by living and travelling together. The establishment of friendship networks facilitated intercultural competences through interactions with other international students and the travel that they undertook together. Students did not think of themselves as tourists in Limerick, but did when travelling on the continent. At other times, they needed to host guests who came to visit. Study abroad was not without risks associated with credit for courses taken, personal risks associated with travel, and online risks in the use of social media. Travel and overcoming challenges resulted in the development of a sense of self-confidence and self-reliance. Students felt they learned more from travelling than they did in their courses. Chapter 9 presents the methodology that was established to conduct this research and the strategies used to collect data. The multi-sited field combined with multiple methods of data collection yielded a rich set of data. This writer participated in the activities with students during the fieldwork period, becoming an observant wanderer. Data collection was designed to elicit students’ points of view about the value and challenges of the experience. Educational ethnography in the future will need to consider issues relating to multisited ethnography, the researcher as a primary site, and autoethnography. The relationship between the students and the observer became important because as memory, storytelling and writing revealed the power of reflexivity, the ethnographer was challenged to represent the intertextuality of the process. Chapter 10 identifies the implications of methodological positioning: the importance of wandering as a legitimate strategy for learning, accounting for intertextuality in fieldwork and analysis, and the need to reconceptualise the educational ethnographic field.


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