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Keywords:

  • Arabic;
  • communities of practice;
  • imagined communities;
  • investment;
  • study abroad

Abstract

Previous research on study abroad has documented extensive variation in the amount of contact students have with members of the local community as well as in their linguistic outcomes (Kinginger, 2009). This article uses the theoretical concepts of investment, imagined communities, and communities of practice to interpret data obtained from students studying abroad in Egypt. Data show that these students wanted to belong to an imagined community of study abroad in the Middle East by demonstrating the identities of cross-cultural mediator and dedicated language learner. However, the communities of practice in which they participated while abroad afforded differential opportunities to demonstrate these identities, resulting in both alignments and misalignments between reality and imagination. The degree of alignment between students' expectations and the realities that they encountered may help explain the extensive variation in students' access to Egyptians and their use of the Arabic language.