Identity development through study abroad experiences: Storied accounts

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Harumi Kimura
Brenda Hayashi


This study investigated three Japanese L2 learners who joined a government-funded, short-term study abroad program in the USA during their first year of college. Four years after the program, we interviewed the learners about their overseas experiences. We also asked what they had done during their university years after the program. We then analyzed their accounts to explore participants’ linguistic and personal growth during and after the program. Their stories offered important insights into what short-term study abroad programs should provide: critical experiences that participants embrace through meeting and communicating with new people in L2s for the purpose of mutual understanding. When participants perceived their experiences to be successful and valuable and felt a desire to become a more efficient L2 user, they took actions to improve their L2 skills in relation to other life goals after returning home. Furthermore, their L2 identities are likely interwoven with their current and aspiring personal identities. As such, their stories are self-development trajectories and evidence of L2-learning-mediated personal growth through social interaction. We propose that short-term study programs: (a) avoid an exclusive focus on L2 learning on-site, (b) include ample opportunities of meaningful social interaction, and (c) target first-year students.



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Author Biographies

Harumi Kimura, Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University, Sendai

Harumi Kimura teaches at Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University, Sendai, Japan. She earned her doctorate from Temple University. She studied L2 listening anxiety in her doctoral research and her academic interests include second language acquisition, learner development, learner psychology, multilingualism, and cooperative learning. She coauthored a book with Dr. G. M. Jacobs, Cooperative Learning and Teaching (The English Language Teacher Development Series; 2013, TESOL Press).

Contact details: Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University, 9-1-1 Sakuragaoka, Aoba-ku, Sendai, Japan 981-8557 (

Brenda Hayashi, Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University, Sendai

Brenda Hayashi teaches at Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University, Sendai, Japan. She has studied at UCLA and Macquarie University. Her academic interests include intercultural communication issues (English and Japanese), cognitive linguistics, and English language education. She coauthored a book entitled Learn the Basics of Teaching English as a Foreign Language (2015, Shohakusha).

Contact details: Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University, 9-1-1 Sakuragaoka, Aoba-ku, Sendai, Japan 981-8557 (


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