Social network formation and development during study abroad in the Middle East


study abroad, language learning, social interactions, social network


Research has shown that those who build strong social networks during study abroad (SA) tend to benefit linguistically, but little is known about how learners develop social networks during their time abroad. This study documents how 71 learners of Arabic developed these networks and what factors contributed to their formation during SA in Jordan or Egypt. The most common strategies learners used to develop social networks were cold contacting (striking up conversation with unknown individuals in public places) and referrals (meeting new friends through existing friends). Two key factors influencing social network formation were location and program interventions. Students in Jordan were located near a university campus, which facilitated the formation of friendships with college-age peers. Students in Egypt were often housed near small shops or a sports club, which allowed them to form friendships with individuals such as local shopkeepers and club staff members. Students noted that the most helpful program intervention was the requirement to speak to locals for 2 h per day. Finally, time spent with native speakers and personality were two of the most salient contributors to the formation of strong social relationships with native speakers.

Original Publication Citation

Dewey, D. P., Ring, S., Gardner, D., & Belnap, R. K. (2013). Social network formation and development during study abroad in the Middle East. System: An International Journal of Educational Technology and Applied Linguistics, 41, 269-282. https://doi: 10.1016/j.system.2013.02.004

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Elsevier Ltd







University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor