International Students’ Smartphone Usage During the First COVID-19 Lockdown


  • Emilie Magnat Lyon 2 University
  • Nicolas Guichon University of Quebec at Montreal



international students, transition, study abroad, smartphone use


Smartphones accompany international students as they adapt to different contexts during their stay abroad. In this empirical study, we examined how a group of international students (n=10) in France used their smartphones during the eight-week lockdown that imposed on everyone a stay-at-home order and allowed minimal physical contact (April and May 2020). We collected data about students’ use thanks to a self-tracking app and interviews. Drawing on literature from the fields of language education, communication, and psychology, we considered advantages and limitations of smartphone use by international students pertaining to three aspects of their lives: (1) emotional management, (2) language and culture learning, and (3) sociocultural adaptation. Since international students were in the host country, but without the social life on campus that usually makes immersion abroad so special, this study led us to reflections about immersion and inclusion in education abroad.

Abstract in French

Les smartphones accompagnent les étudiants internationaux dans leur adaptation à différents contextes pendant leur séjour à l'étranger. Dans cette étude empirique, nous avons examiné comment un groupe d'étudiants internationaux (n=10) en France a utilisé leurs smartphones pendant le confinement de 8 semaines qui a imposé à tous de rester à la maison et a engendré un contact physique minimal (avril et mai 2020). Nous avons recueilli des données sur les usages des étudiants grâce à une application d’auto-suivi et des entretiens. En nous appuyant sur la littérature dans les domaines de l'enseignement des langues, de la communication et de la psychologie, nous avons examiné les avantages et les limites de l'utilisation du smartphone par les étudiants internationaux en ce qui concerne trois aspects de leur vie : (1) la gestion des émotions, (2) l'apprentissage de la langue et de la culture, et (3) l'adaptation socioculturelle. Étant donné que les étudiants internationaux se trouvaient dans le pays d'accueil, mais sans la vie sociale sur le campus qui rend habituellement l'immersion à l'étranger si spéciale, cette étude nous a amenés à réfléchir à l'immersion et à l'inclusion dans l'éducation à l'étranger.


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Author Biographies

Emilie Magnat, Lyon 2 University

Emilie Magnat is a lecturer in language learning and ICT in education at Lyon 2 University (France) and a member of the ICAR laboratory. In her PhD, she considered the benefit of interactive whiteboard to develop phonemic awareness at school. She trained primary and secondary school teachers. Her current research deals with cognitive ergonomics and the impact of a multimodal approach on memory (with and without ICT) in first and second language education.

Nicolas Guichon , University of Quebec at Montreal

Nicolas Guichon is a professor in second language research at the Université du Québec à Montréal (Canada). He carries out his research at the Centre de recherche interuniversitaire sur la formation et la profession enseignante (CRIFPE) on the integration of digital tools in language learning and teaching. His research interests include teacher education in technology-enhanced language learning, the study of online interactions, additional language learners’ multimodal digital literacies and learner identities. He has written two books and coedited two other books and one special issue.


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How to Cite

Magnat, E., & Guichon , N. (2023). International Students’ Smartphone Usage During the First COVID-19 Lockdown. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 35(1), 392–416.



Learning from COVID-19