Research Forum: “I Didn’t Know Who Is Canadian”: The Shift in Student Expectations During the Initial Stages of a Study Abroad Program

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Rebecca Kato, Temple University Japan; Kenneth Reeder, The University of British Columbia

An interview-based case study was used to identify the shift in expectations for 5 Japanese undergraduate students studying abroad at a Canadian university. Using a modified expectancy violation framework, this study examined the initial stage of an 8-month study abroad program, using semi-structured interviews supported by observational data gained in classroom observation. An inductive, qualitative analysis of the interviews revealed that expectation of interaction was the most commonly violated expectation for the participants. Most participants struggled with assuming the identity of a less competent language user but nonetheless sought out opportunities to become competent in their study abroad context, in some cases creating and shaping their own contexts for language use and growth. Further, participants faced the challenge of addressing the native speaker/nonnative speaker dichotomy in a multicultural study abroad environment, particularly outside the classroom. The paper concludes with curricular, policy, and research implications.