This qualitative phenomenological study sought to explore the experiences of emergent bilingual refugee-background [1] students in Florida and their self-perceptions as bilingual learners. Data were collected through in-depth, semi-structured interviews with seven participants learning English both in-person and virtually in high school or adult education programs during the pandemic. The researchers completed content analysis individually and, in subsequent collaboration, identified patterns, and themes. Findings indicated that students took pride in their bilingual skills, demonstrated metalinguistic awareness, and were resilient and proactive learners with strong determination to succeed in the new country. The following recommendations for teachers are offered: (1) building on student resiliency, (2) recognizing, using, and providing opportunities to engage students’ meta-linguistic awareness, and (3) providing learning environments that are supportive and inclusive of students’ heritage languages and cultures. Overall, the study contributes to the knowledge base that focuses on the psychological, intellectual and linguistic assets that refugee-background students represent.



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