Words into worlds : the role of narrative in identity formation via cultural exploration a qualitative study of college-aged students studying abroad.


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Humans bear the capacity to form worlds from the words we use. As past literature affirms, these words take on the role of story or narrative and constitute our individual and collective identities. As individuals encounter different cultures, and take on the role of ‘cultural other,’ their stories expand, creating room to be more cohesive individuals who in turn become more positive community members. Using a group of eleven participants who embarked on a semester long study abroad in Europe, this thesis followed their identity formation in a new cultural context via narrative tools. Through this, I confirmed that in a new cultural context, individuals will use self-narration to restructure their identities and increase resilience while forming a strong group identity that will help navigate cultural challenges. Results illustrate how the process of identity fragmentation and identity restructuration worked together to produce resilience among the participants. Ultimately, individuals reported feeling more empathetic and open-minded towards others. This research adds to current literature on narrativizing and resilience in communication while promoting practical applications for higher education study abroad programs and offering tools for fostering bridge-building in diverse communities.