Innovation in Language Learning

Edition 17

Accepted Abstracts

Breaking the “Cultural Bubble” through the Immersive Model

Nicoletta Peluffo, Kent State University Florence Center (Italy)


The 2018 Open Doors Report on International Education Exchanges shows that Italy has been the second destination chosen by U.S. students who have decided to study abroad for academic credit in 2016/17, immediately after Great Britain. While in Great Britain the use of the same language makes the study experience and the cultural immersion easier, the choice of Italy exposes students to a totally different impact. This paper is based on an observation conducted on a population of around 700+ US students (yearly) in some study abroad programs based in Florence, mainly Kent State University Florence Center (KSUF). Observing KSUF students for over a decade has allowed to conduct some reflections about their way of adapting to the new environment. Approximately 70% of these students have not traveled outside the United States before, some have not experienced significant cultural differences and most have not studied Italian before coming (80%), while they have studied other languges, mainly Spanish. The official language of the program is English and students share apartments and courses for the entire semester. The result is that students enter a “cultural bubbble” where they feel comfortable and one of the few contacts with the outside is represented by the Italian language class. In order to stimulate their resilience process to the new culture, KSUF has developed an immersive model that proceeds in two different ways: using the city as a learning framework and connecting students to local institutions following their desire and inclination to act as volunteers. This paper describes the model used by KSUF to bridge the inside of the program to the outside, guiding students towards integration and resilience thinking beyond course requirements and adopting an holistic approach.

Keywords: resilience, cultural bubble, immersive model, holistic approach.

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