Author ORCID Identifier

Date of Award

Spring 5-14-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Middle and Secondary Education

First Advisor

Dr. Peggy Albers

Second Advisor

Dr. Diane Belcher

Third Advisor

Dr. Janice Fournillier

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Jayoung Choi

Fifth Advisor

Dr. Laura May


Despite the increase of diversity in transnational youth in the United States, little research has studied this unique population of transnational youth and their transnational contexts. In particular, little research has been conducted to investigate the identity of transnational youth in adolescence with their own voices in terms of language and culture. Thus, this study aimed to explore the linguistic and cultural experiences of 1.5 generation and 2nd generation Korean American transnational adolescents as well as their sense of identity in transnational contexts. Drawing on Norton’s (1995) identity theory and Vertovec’s (2007, 2017) transnationalism, research questions that guided this study were as follows: 1) How do 1.5 and 2nd generation Korean American transnational adolescents self-identify? 2) What resources do participants say that they draw upon and that have shaped their identity across transnational spaces? 3) What conflicts do they experience in transnational spaces? 4) To what extent does investment interconnect with their identities? Using qualitative case study methodology, this study provides a rich and in-depth description of 1.5 and 2nd generation Korean American transnational youth’s language, culture, and identity. Participants were five Korean American transnational youth aged from 13 to 16. Primary data for this study were semi-structured interviews collected over a five-month period. Data were analyzed following the steps of coding, adopted from Saldaña (2016), and looking across participant interviews to generate themes. From the cross-analysis of data, several key findings emerged. First, transnational youth self-identified as Korean Americans with both a sense of belonging and a sense of distance. Second, transnational youth moved fluidly across transnational contexts. Third, transnational youth experienced tensions within their sociocultural contexts without articulating them as tensions. And, fourth, transnational youth leveraged language and culture within varied contexts. This study extends current literature and explains how transnational adolescents constructed their identities informed by the role of language and culture. Thus, this study significantly informs educators, practitioners, parents, and researchers who interact with transnational youth, and broadens the perspectives on transnational youth in light of the value they place on their language and culture in transnational contexts.


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