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The academic literacy socialization of Mexican exchange students at a Canadian university Zappa, Sandra

Abstract

Academic exchanges have become very popular worldwide as part of the internationalization of higher education. While the benefits of study abroad have been well documented, mostly using large-scale surveys, detailed information about the individual experiences of sojourners and the outcomes of these experiences has been lacking. Addressing this gap, this qualitative multiple-case study explores the second language (L2) academic literacy socialization experiences of foreign students studying abroad at a large Canadian English-medium university. The focal participants are six undergraduate Mexican students enrolled in the MCMU-WCU Joint Academic Exchange Program (a pseudonym) for either one or two academic terms between 2005 and 2006. Triangulated data sources included interviews with focal and secondary student participants and with two instructors, focus group interviews, written assignments, questionnaires, writing logs, and field notes. The main goal of this investigation was to yield rich understandings of the learning resources and opportunities available to the participants and how these impacted their L2 academic literacy development and performance during their stay. The study also examined participants' reentry experiences in Mexico and their perceptions of the significance of their academic experiences in Canada once they returned to their home contexts. This study draws on the language socialization framework (Duff, 1996, 2003; Schieffelin & Ochs, 1986a, b), the "community of practice" concept (Lave & Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998), and social network theory (Milroy, 1980, 1987) to provide an ecological perspective of the students' socialization into host L2 academic literacy practices. Based on these theories, five parameters that emerged for the analysis of students' experiences from a sociocultural perspective are examined and illustrated. While this study does not yield findings that can be generalized to the wider population of study abroad students, it does contribute with "analytical generalizations" (Firestone, 1993) by illustrating how the three main theories informing this study can be combined in novel and productive ways to understand students' experiences of study abroad. Finally, suggestions for future exchange students, instructors and institutions sending and receiving international L2-speaking students are presented together with directions for further research.

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