Intercultural Identity Development through Study Abroad Programmes: An Ethnographic Case Study of Algerian Students in a UK University

  • Amina Guerriche

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


During the last decade, higher education institutions and governments have been increasing their efforts to incentivize study abroad participation. These efforts are grounded in the belief that study abroad participation nurtures culturally competent individuals who can effectively function in today’s multicultural environments (Kehl & Morris, 2007). Study abroad programmes are said to have the potential to grant intercultural immersion opportunities that students perceive as having different cultural norms and practices and which thereby lead to intercultural development and transformation. While there is considerable body of research regarding students’ experiences abroad, evidence that support this claim appears to be limited by a range of methodological weaknesses including small homogenous samples, an absence of a rigorous ethnographic research strategy. In particular, very few studies have looked Algerian students on study abroad programmes (with the notable exception of Doring et al, 2010).Much of the literature on study abroad outcomes focuses on the linguistic proficiency gains, and the development of intercultural communication skills (e.g. Nagy, 2008). A smaller number of studies have looked at the influence of study-abroad programmes on attitude change towards different cultures (Killick, 2017; Sutton & Robin, 2010), and very few on the impact on the students’ intercultural identity (Kim, 2001). In these studies, cases of Chinese, American, Australian, and European students were taken. To date, no research has explored the development of Algerian students’ intercultural identity during the study abroad experience. Furthermore, previous studies which investigated the intercultural development of Algerians have been conducted in contexts such as France and Germany and tackled virtual learning rather than experiential learning or immigrants’ adaptability (Vincent-Jones, 2009; Rocheron, 2005). To date no research has addressed the outcomes ofexperiential learning by Algerian students in the culturally diverse context of the United Kingdom.The current study sought to provide new insights on the possible impact that inter-group relations, social contact, and increased cultural exposure may have on the process of intercultural identity development of Algerian students during their sojourn in the UK. The project was informed by the constructionist/interpretivist paradigm and used a qualitative research strategy.An ethnographic case study design was used to explore the process that students went through to reach an intercultural adaptability and intercultural identity transformation. Data were collected by means of semi-structured interviews, ethnographic interviews, and participant observation. The Interviews were coded and analysed using a thematic analysis deductive approach that was guided by the research questions and theoretical framework. This resulted in the emergence of 4 different themes: intercultural immersion, sociocultural challenges, intercultural interactions, and intercultural identity development.Students’ reactions, perceptions, behaviours, and meaning making were examined. The outcomes of the study abroad experience came both to confirm the claims made in some previous studies regarding the positive outcomes of study abroad programmes, and to challenge some other studies. Based on the results of the present research, it was possible to draw a series of implications for theory, and for educational institutions, government agencies, stakeholders, and policy makers concerned with study abroad programmes and the importance of maximizing of positive outcomes of the study abroad experience.
Date of Award24 Jun 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SponsorsAlgerian Government
SupervisorTrevor Grimshaw (Supervisor) & Janina Iwaniec (Supervisor)


  • Intercultural identity
  • Study abroad programmes
  • Intercultural exposure
  • intercultural encounters
  • intercultural education

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