At the crossroads: Rethinking study abroad students' social networking and intercultural communication in the age of globalization





  • Irwin Compiegne Email University of New England, Australia


The literature exploring study abroad students’ social networks and intercultural communication traditionally considers three categories of social ties: the co-national network, the multi-national network and the host national network. However, the data collected from a yearlong digital ethnography and the narratives on the social media posts of seven Australian university students of French highlight the need to reconceptualize these traditional divisions. Findings point to three insights that contribute to the discussion on social network development and intercultural communication in study abroad context. First, quasi-permanent communication with home through social media induces the emergence of an additional social network that has not, until now, been addressed in the literature: the online co-national network. Indeed, participants’ interactions with home directly influence the way in which they adjust to their host environment and socialize during their sojourn. Second, the social tie composed of multi-national students who are proficient or native speakers of the target language should also be considered as an extra category owing to their buffer position between second language learners and the host community. Third, the multi-national and the co-national networks were largely compartmentalized from the host national network shedding light on the issues that study abroad students face in socializing with local people.

Keywords: study abroad, social networking, social media, intercultural communication, globalization

Suggested Citation:

Compiegne, I. (2021). At the crossroads: Rethinking study abroad students’ social networking and intercultural communication in the age of globalization. Intercultural Communication Education, 4(1), 56–74.