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Sociolinguistic research has yet to comprehensively address changes in the second language mediated identity, or second language identity (L2I), of English as a second language (ESL) students that take place as a result of traveling abroad and experiencing English in authentic circumstances. First, this study provides an outline of L2I and proposes a framework for evaluating L2I in authentic contexts (i.e. in a country where the target language is the primary means of communication). Second, personal narratives, formal reports, and observed classroom comments of international graduate teaching assistants (ITAs), who were placed in a required English Speaking course as a university requirement, are examined using the proposed L2I framework to determine how their experiences and interactions as graduate students and ITAs affected their L2Is. It was determined that the proposed L2I framework is an effective tool for identifying factors that may impact the L2I of ESL students in American university settings. Student reports revealed that there were potentially significant changes in L2I that resulted from specific interactions with members of their new community. It is concluded that this research has pedagogical implications for instructors and prospective ITAs in this specific educational institution as well as for any other institutions where there are stakeholders invested in the success of ITAs, foreign language study, and travel, work, or study abroad programs. It is suggested that follow-up research focus on identifying reoccurring shared experiences by ITAs that may trigger or facilitate the renegotiation of student L2I in comparable contexts.

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Louisiana State University