Nurdan FIDAN1 Cigdem KARATEPE2
1Uludag University, Bursa, Institute of Educational Sciences, Sivas Vocational and Technical Highschool, Sivas, Teacher of English, Turkey.
2Uludag University, Bursa, Turkey.
Purpose: Study abroad has been exceedingly popular among students, recently. Turkish youth have become even more willing to study abroad and improve their English language skills. As lingua franca (ELF), English is the main Language for interaction, particularly in international education. The current study investigated the language learning perceptions of Turkish students having participated in the Erasmus Exchange Program before.
Research Methods: The participants were 100 (58 females and 42 males) university students from different departments having been in the Erasmus Exchange Program in the last five years. The data were collected using two sets of questionnaires containing 41 items and an interview protocol. These aimed to elicit information about participants’ views on their English language learning process back then and at the time of data collection and their study abroad experience. Besides, ethics committee approval was obtained for the research on July 3, 2020 (Bursa Uludag University Social and Human Sciences Research and Publication Ethics Committee, 2020-04).
Findings: The findings indicated that this experience made a lasting impact on them. They have a positive outlook on their language learning experience. They seem to be eager to take part in intercultural communication. In addition, they said that they gained first-hand information on different cultures through the friends they made in Europe, which was an eye-opening experience. Also, students thought that they had improved themselves academically. The participants who are employed at the moment believe that they owe their current position to the qualifications gained abroad.
Implications for Research and Practice: The study’s findings indicated that the participants had developed positive thoughts during their one-semester stay in Europe. A longer study abroad experience might have affected their perceptions differently. They stated that they had not gone through an orientation programme before going to Europe. They all agreed that an awareness-raising orientation program would be a perfect start for any exchange students. For further research, it is advisable to organise a project whereby exchange students receive an orientation programme and are made aware of how to cope with cultural differences before travelling to Europe.
Keywords: Erasmus program, intercultural communication, study abroad, English as a foreign language.