Voices from Palestine
: An Investigation of the Sociolinguistic Trajectories of Palestinian Postgraduate Students in English HE

  • Rawand Elhour

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Located at the intersection of the fields of study abroad (SA), sociolinguistics, EFL, and mobility, this doctoral project provides a sociolinguistic investigation of the mobility trajectories of study abroad among nine Palestinian postgraduate students in English HE. The purpose of this research is to understand the consequences of mobility on sojourners’ perceptions of their Englishes, identity (trans)formation with specific reference to social class construction, and social practices and networks in the new context. This study springs from the need to qualitatively document the under-researched experiences of Palestinian sojourners in the UK and privilege their voices. Hence, this research adds more diversity to the SA literature which has been criticised for over-representing certain departure zones such as the USA and Europe. Moreover, the research addresses many calls for widening the scope of investigating sojourners’ lives abroad. It attends to Coleman’s (2013) call for embracing a holistic perspective towards sojourners’ experiences, viewing them as ‘whole people with whole lives’. Also, the study responds to calls which stress the importance of sojourners’ histories and contextual antecedents (Surtees, 2016) by touching on participants’ language history, motivations, statuses, and im/mobilities back home to provide a thorough understanding of their journeys to and in the UK. To this end, data were longitudinally collected over a period of nine months through two initial focus groups and three waves of individual interviews, resulting in a total of 27 interviews. Thematic Analysis (TA) was devised to interpret the nine cases under study. TA generated commonalities as well as singularities/differences in the sample. Findings revealed that participants’ perceptions of their Englishes were affected by crossing borders and changing contexts. While sojourners perceived their linguistic repertoires as competent by virtue of their successful language histories back home, their views on their Englishes were subject to ongoing negotiation and reconceptualisation upon mobility. Participants started to view their Englishes as ‘less distinguished’ and ‘not enough’ in the UK. Sojourners’ perceived linguistic limitation (relatively) disturbed their perceptions of themselves as EFL/ESL speakers, thus leading to forming new reflexive linguistic identities. Other reflexive identities, such as ‘foreigner identity’ were triggered as a result of participants’ mobility and its encounters. Class-mediated constructions were complex and fluctuating, but they generally featured more moments of moving down (i.e., declassing) than elevating up. Participants’ socialisation practises centred around their co-national circles which provided the necessary support, security, and familiarity, although other outer social spheres were mentioned by some participants towards the middle of the sojourn. Sojourners’ accounts also featured supportive and obstructive factors underpinning their decisions to establish social connections, such as sharing cultural habits and intense academic work, respectively. Both sets of factors contributed to a sort of ‘ghettoisation’ which was perceived in this study as a necessary strategy for coping and handling complexity, strangeness, and difference in the UK.
    Date of Award1 Nov 2022
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Roehampton
    SponsorsHESPAL studentship
    SupervisorEva Eppler (Director of Studies) & Marie-Pierre Moreau (Co-Supervisor)


    • Study Abroad
    • student ghettoisation
    • international students
    • Im/Mobility
    • cross-cultural interaction
    • Sociolinguistics
    • Identity work
    • English language

    Cite this