Open Access
Al Thowaini, Assma M
Area of Honors:
Teaching English as a Second Language
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Karen E Johnson, Thesis Supervisor
  • Joan Kelly Hall, Honors Advisor
  • Susan G Strauss, Faculty Reader
  • Celeste S Kinginger, Faculty Reader
  • Saudi
  • study abroad
  • identity
  • views
  • English
  • foreign language education
Recently, research on study abroad has received particular attention. The majority of these studies, however, involve individuals (typically American) who study in European settings or focus on studies about Eastern Asian (i.e., Japanese or Chinese) students coming to an English-Speaking country, such as, the United States and the United Kingdom. Not a single study investigates the experience of Saudi Arabians’ or Middle Easterners in a study abroad context. Thus, the goal of this paper is contribute to the field of Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition (SLA) in exploring the journey of Saudi students as learners of English in the United States and how they see themselves changing as individuals and as learners. Also explored is how this experience of being away from one’s own community plays a role in shaping one’s identity and perceptions. Hence, the study aims to look at the totality of the Saudi students’ experiences as people who arrived from and with a cultural, educational, and religious system that holds very different values and beliefs than those imbedded in the American culture. What would happen to a Saudi learner’s social identity when inappropriate concepts within his or her culture (i.e., alcohol consumption) are encountered as appropriate within the host culture (America) or vice versa? How does his or her perception as individual and as learner change as a result of being exposed to and acquiring English as a second language in the United States? In order to answer the abovementioned questions, the following qualitative study is constructed. The data were collected by conducting extensive, one-to-one, ethnographic interviews with five Saudi participants (3 males and 2 females) using their native language, Arabic, in an attempt to fully capture the nature of their experiences. The participants were newly arrived, six months to one year, to the United States with low English proficiency and they were enrolled in intensive English program. The interviews were audio-recorded and ranged from 45 minutes to an hour and a half, depending upon participants’ individuality. The data were then transcribed and coded in Arabic, and for presentational purposes, excerpts were translated into English. The data were coded using grounded content analysis. Using the grounded content analysis, the researcher found three super-ordinate categories: 1) educational views, 2) intercultural views, and 3) comparative views. Each of these super-ordinate categories included a number of subcategories, ranging from two to four themes, in an attempt to systematize the data and to better understand the participants’ narrative. After the dissection of the data, some possible implication suggested for the Saudi English education, specifically, and for the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) education, generally. The researcher personal experience as an English learner in Saudi Arabia and, later, an English learner in the US, served as one of the motivating reasons behind this study. Learning English in Saudi Arabia, where the system followed a form-based approach to language learning, focusing on structural features of the language while excluding the culture associated with the English language, had a major impact on the experiences of studying abroad in the United States. Thus, the significance of this project is to inform the Saudi English educational system the relative importance of learning cultural knowledge about the target culture and understanding English as a social practice, rather than just grammatical forms to be memorized.