Sense of Place, Imaginative Mobility, and Intercultural Awareness Through a Map Making Project in a Study Abroad Program


  • Per Urlaub Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Eva Dessein Massachusetts Institute of Technology



Maps, collaboration, sense of place, imaginative mobility, intercultural awareness


This article analyzes the perceptions of two undergraduate learners’ regarding the educational impact of a collaborative map making project in the context of a summer study abroad program in France, focused on language learning. Over the eight-week long program, students created a digital map with textual and visual annotations that helped them to reflect on their prior associations with a location or landmark in the host country, the associations that members of the host country had with this location, and finally their own experience after visiting the location. The objective of this project was to help students to experience a more nuanced sense of place, to articulate imaginative mobility, and, as a result, to develop an increased level of intercultural awareness. The participants’ reflections after the end of the program suggest that through the engagement with the tasks associated with the project students engaged in imaginative mobility and developed a more nuanced sense of place. In particular, the experience of eliciting perspectives from local informants had a positive impact on their development of intercultural awareness.


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Author Biographies

Per Urlaub, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Per Urlaub (PhD, Stanford University) is Director of Global Languages at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His scholarly interests are located at the intersection of second language studies, language and literacy education, intercultural communication, and applied linguistics. Before joining MIT in 2022, he held tenured faculty appointments at the University of Texas at Austin and in Middlebury College, where he also served as Associate Dean of the Language Schools.

Eva Dessein, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Eva Dessein (PhD, Vanderbilt University) is a Senior Lecturer in French at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her scholarly work engages broadly with questions related to language and identity, intercultural competency, language learning in immersion settings, and instructional technology to explore the intersections of second language learning, intercultural education, and study abroad. Her current scholarship analyzes the role of the digital humanities in intercultural education and the impact of machine translation technologies on cross-linguistic communication.


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How to Cite

Urlaub, P., & Dessein, E. (2023). Sense of Place, Imaginative Mobility, and Intercultural Awareness Through a Map Making Project in a Study Abroad Program. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 35(1), 305–324.



Research Articles