Monthly Archives: October 2013

Study Abroad in the Media

Last week I spent some time talking with Jeramy Johnson, VP of development, and Kim Karalekas, News Media & Research Coordinator, at Academic Programs International (API).  We discussed mass media, particularly the rise of social media use and what this has done for the field of international education.

MTV and Study Abroad

In 1999, the MTV show Road Rules cast Semester at Sea study abroad students as the show’s contestants.  The Semester at Sea program (also called “Seamester”) is a study abroad program based on a cruise ship which travels to various countries and continents.  Students take courses while simultaneously traveling.

The reality TV show Road Rules is about six strangers who complete various challenges in different locations.  The image that the TV show gave to study abroad students and the experience as a whole was not a very positive one, according to Jeramy.  Road Rules did not portray cultural immersion as an important aspect of international education.  Rather, it played on the drama, personal relationships, and game show challenges that the cast members faced.  MTV shows are notorious for dramatizing their reality TV shows, and Road Rules: Semester at Sea was no exception.  The show broadcasted a perspective that studying abroad is just a big party, and this became a common misconception about study abroad.

Study Abroad in the New York Times

A recent Room for Debate forum discussion in the NYT is titled “A Year Abroad vs. A Year Wasted”.  Allan Goodman of the Institute of International Education, and Stacie Berdan, co-authors of “A Student Guide to Study Abroad” are among the participants in the discussion supporting study abroad.  The other contributors are a graduate student, a professor, a former U.S. Ambassador, and a current college student.  The Room for Debate platform allows for each writer to take alternate viewpoints and provide reasoning.

This debate generated over 400 comments from readers, and the fact that a major news outlet like the New York Times is starting conversations about international education is one more step towards its advocacy.  The conversation is much more academic and two-sided than it was when portrayed on MTV’s Road Rules.

Berdan and Goodman write in their post, “Every parent, teacher, professor, adviser and employer should support making international experience an essential and affordable component of a well-rounded education.”  Discussions such as these will set new standards for viewing study abroad and its value.

Embracing Social Media

The study abroad field has since created a better image by embracing social media.  Websites like GoAbroad.com and companies like API have used social networking sites from Twitter to Google+ as voices that will speak positively to the field.  Because (most) social media is free and accessible, it allows everyone from study abroad students to universities to programs the ability to shape the field of international education.

GoAbroad.com was one of the first study sites to jump on the social media bandwagon by creating multiple channels to allow for counseling and consulting with different audiences, such as university study abroad offices, students, media, etc.  Their “Go Media” web division is an effort to offer digital marketing solutions for those in the international education field.  The campaign was developed exclusively for the field and the travel community.

GoAbroad.com helps find programs abroad, Go Media helps other international education companies/programs  with online marketing, and GoAbroad.net connects travelers and expats in “travel groups”.  The use of social media by international education programs is increasing and unlimited to certain mediums.

API is active on several social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram.  Additionally, API has a blogger program and an alumni development program.  These two programs are significant because they benefit not only API as a program, but the students and the study abroad conversation.

API selects students to be guest bloggers as well as official student bloggers.  They are to submit blogs before, during, and after their time abroad, as often as they would like.  Students are also able to submit content and receive feedback in addition to the opportunity to share their reflections on their experience.  Jeramy described the blogger program as API’s “crown jewel”.   The number of applicants for the blogger program had a 97% increase from the fall of 2012 to the fall of 2013.  Students are able to build their resumes and their personal brand online, while API is generating student-content in the study abroad field.

The alumni development program is also unique.  API alumni are chosen to act as campus advocates and peer mentors at their home institutions around the country.  By giving students incentives and resources to advocate for international education to their peers, API is finding the value in what students to do encourage others to do the same.  They are creating a positive feedback loop, and their social media use plays a big role in doing so.

API’s second most popular referral source is Facebook, suggesting that social media has an impact on how study abroad information is spread.  Facebook and Twitter are also their best referral sources for applications.  The more public the social account is, the greater the reach is.

Purpose

The use of media in the field of international education is for a variety of purposes.  It generates interaction with friends and family while students are abroad, and it reaches various audiences.  It advocates for a more understanding, globalized, and educated world.  Because students, alumni, professionals, and prospective students all hold interests in the field, their use of social media shows this, and advances it as well.

In a social media saturated world, encouraging cultural awareness, globalization, and over all social good is increasingly common.  Websites like GOOD.is, Upworthy.com, Brain Pickings, and many viral posts are advocating for international education in very indirect ways.  Many mission statements and purposes of various websites and outlets share the same purpose of international education.  For example, GOOD.is’ about page states:

GOOD is a global community of, by, and for pragmatic idealists working towards individual and collective progress.

Part of the definition of international education highlights the importance of various cultures and peoples working together to create a sense of cultural awareness.  Many articles and blogs have content about traveling, going abroad, and positive lifestyles, and I think that these subjects have a lot to do with international education, study abroad in particular.   Although the influence is small, a lot of social media content is encouraging international education by advocating for a globalized world.

 

U.S. Public Policies: International Education

Like the digital divide of a generation ago, today we face a growing “global” divide, between those who will have access to an international education and will be primed for success in our globalized world, and those who will not.

The United States faces the global challenge that is providing its student population with international education.  Only 1% of American students study abroad, according to a study conducted by NAFSA, the Association of International Educators.   With minimal public policies and government funded programs to help students go abroad, the U.S. needs to begin encouraging the next generation of students to pursue an academic experience abroad.

The following are some of the key policies and programs being that can help to advance the progress of the international education field:

  • Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act

This program was inspired by late Senator Paul Simon, and it proposes that colleges and universities incentivize study abroad as part of its curriculum.  Its goals are:
1.  One million U.S. college students will study abroad annually for credit by 2020
2.  Study abroad participants will be representative of the undergraduate population in terms of gender, ethnicity, income level, and field of study
3.  A significantly greater proportion of study abroad will occur in nontraditional destinations outside Western Europe

Higher education institutions can apply for grants in order to provide its students with study abroad programs with the Simon Study Abroad Act.  The bill has been introduced in the Senate once and in Congress twice, and has been passed by the House twice.  However, it has never been passed by the Senate.

  • Commission on the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Fellowship Program

The commission published a report outlining the need for U.S. government programs for study abroad.  It proposed a vision and discussed the reasoning behind their proposal, such as globalization and economic competitiveness, U.S. leadership, and educational value of studying abroad.  The commission also addressed national security followed by six recommendations that will allow for “one million students to study abroad annually in a decade.”  The report was published in November of 2005 recommending the program,  which became the aforementioned Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act.

  • Fulbright

Fulbright is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs under the U.S. Department of state.  The program has several programs within it, such as teach or research programs, as well as student exchange programs.  Fulbright is extremely competitive between students, professional, teachers, and scholars, funded by appropriations from Congress.

  • Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program

This program provides academic or professional experience in the United States for students from designated countries.  The ten-month program offers awards to candidates who possess leadership potential and commitment to public service, and its aim is to foster an exchange of knowledge and culture between the United States and the Fellow’s country of origin.  Primary funding is provided by U.S. Congress in addition to other governmental, organizational, or private sponsors.

  • International Academic Opportunity Act of 2000

This was a bill to establish an undergraduate grant program of the U.S. Department of State to assist students with limited financial means to pursue international educations abroad.  It was written in hopes of establishing a scholarship program that would offer grants of up to $5,000 to each American students.  The Act was introduced and funded, creating the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program.

  • Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program

The Gilman Program was established by the International Academic Opportunity Act of 2000, and it provides awards for U.S. undergraduates receiving Federal Pell Grants to participate in study and intern abroad programs.  It is funded by Congress, sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, and administered by the Institute of International Education.

  • National Security Education Act of 1991.

Senator David Boren was the principal author of the National Security Education Act of 1991. This Act was signed into law by President Bush in 1991.  It mandated the Secretary of Defense to create the National Security Education Program (NSEP), which awards scholarships, fellowships, and grants to U.S. undergraduate students who held interests in study abroad areas critical to U.S. national security.  Under NSEP are the Boren Awards for International Study, which focuses on geographic areas, languages, and fields of study deemed critical to U.S. national security.

  • International Education Act of 1966

This established the first major funding for international education in the United States.  It provided funding to higher education institutions during the Cold War and was passed in October of 1966.  It was a major breakthrough in international education because it received a total of $140 million over three years to support American students in their international education pursuits.  It funded student work-study-travel programs, faculty training, language training, etc.

Media and Int’l Ed. History

The history of international education seems to be complicated, messy, and a little bit unclear.  Professor Bob Sylvester at Bridgewater State College suggests that the field “suffers primarily from a lack of definition” (Sylvester, 1).   However, a general consensus between the attempts to document its history is that the roots of international education can be found in the early 20th century, and that its aim is an understanding and acceptance of world cultures.  Below I have outlined some of the important events in the field’s history beginning in the 1920s.

Although the timeline begins in the 1920s, I should not that here have been documented students and expatriates who have gone abroad, as well as earlier attempts in creating education programs with a global perspective.  The following timeline focuses on events, public policies, and scholarly research/articles about international education:

  • Organizations like the Institute of International Education (IIE) and the World Federation of Education Associations (WFEA)  were established in 1919 and 1923, respectively.
  • In 1921, the IIE began helping international students obtain scholarships, work, and other means of education in the United States.  Student exchange programs were established  between the U.S. and countries like Czechoslovakia, Great Britain, China, France, and Russia, as well as some Latin American countries.
  • In the 1940s, scholars began defining “international education”.
  • The secretary of the Educational Policies Commission in Washington, George Carr, wrote in a report in 1943:  “Education for understanding of international affairs and world citizenship must begin as soon as possible, in each of the United Nations, in order to develop a clear understanding of the common purposes of these nations and to preserve their unity through the trying years ahead.”
  • The Fulbright Act of 1946 provided “that currencies and credits of certain countries acquired by the United States from the sale of war-surplus materials could be used for international educational exchange”.  This became the flagship U.S. higher education exchange program operating in about 155 countries across the globe with 200,000 students participating to date, including 42 Nobel laureates.
  • The Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES) was founded in 1947.  Today it is the scholar division of the Institute of International Education, and it administers the Fulbright Scholar Program.
  • The first meeting of record by the world education body which discussed international education was held in Sevres, France on July 21, 1947 for six weeks.
  • In a joint report published in 1949 by the National Education Association (NEA), the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, and the National Council for Social Studies, international education was defined as “a broad term and necessarily encompasses many things…it includes the process of making students informed and loyal citizens of their own country – aware of the nature of the world in which they live, the relationship of their nation to the world as a whole…”
  • An article in the Journal Education Leadership from 1950 by Lavone Hanna, a professor from San Fransisco State College, states that international education must follow the following 5 basic principles, the first two being: “1) Science and technology have made all people increasingly interdependent, 2) All people have the same basic needs but have learned different ways of satisfying their needs”.
  • The first and only Documentary History of International Education scholarly article is published in 1960, written by Professor David Scanlon of Columbia University.
  • In 1963, Howard Wilson and Miller Collings attempted to clarify the meaning of ‘education for international understanding’ which was the common definition for international education for most of the 20th century: International understanding involves sensitivity to human relations, adherence to ethical goals…a deep loyalty to one’s own nation and the expectation of comparable loyalties in the citizens of other nations.”
  • Semester at Sea (SAS), a study abroad program, is founded in 1963 by the Institute for Shipboard Education.
  • In 1968, J. J. Scanlon and D. G. Shields publish “Problems and Prospects in International Education”, in which they propose a three part schema for the organization of the activities that ‘international education’ in the United States embrace. It included the following aspects: 1) Promoting Self-Image Abroad, 2) Promoting International Understanding and World Peace, and 3) Promoting Human Knowledge and Competence.
  • In June of 1969, James Becker of the Foreign Policy Association published a research study of the “objectives, needs and priorities in international education” in U.S. public schools.
  • UNESCO made a second attempt to define international education at a meeting in August 1970.  The document states: “Everywhere, directly or indirectly, an effort is made to initiate young people into the life and values of their national communities.  This is a part of moral and civic education in both its cognitive and its affective aspects.”
  • In Paris in November 1974, “international education” was defined at the UNESCO General Conference:  “The terms international understanding, co-operation and peace are to be considered as an indivisible whole based on the principle of friendly relations between peoples and States having different social and political systems and on the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
  • In 1977, the International Dictionary of Education defined international education as: “1) Study of the educational, social, political and economic forces in international relations. 2) Education involving the international exchange of students/staff or educational materials. 3) Synonymous with comparative education.”
  • Willard Kniep distinguished the field of ‘global education’ from ‘international education’ in 1985, stating that  “Global education appears to be the primary descriptive term for the field and it is taken to include education with a global perspective, global studies, world centered education, and global awareness, but not necessarily international education.”
  • The European Union initiative program that facilitates international education across Europe is called the EU Erasmus program.  It has facilitated international study for about 2.2 million students across Europe since it was founded in 1987.
  • In the 1990s and 2000s, study abroad and international programs began incorporating comprehensive courses relative to all learning variables, like longer durations abroad and housing options.  Programs also increased focus on intercultural and global awareness, professional development, and academic discipline.
  • Established by the International Academic Opportunity Act of 2000, The Gilman Scholarship Program began offering awards and grants to undergraduate study abroad students to fund participation in study/intern abroad programs.
  • International Education Week was first held in 2000, as a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Education that provides an opportunity to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide.
  • In 2000, a memorandum sent to the heads of executive departments and federal agencies from the Clinton administration provides a glimpse into the importance of supporting international education: “To continue to compete successfully in the global economy and to maintain our role as a world leader, the United States needs to ensure that its citizens develop a broad understanding of the world, proficiency in other languages and knowledge of other cultures.”
  •  According to NAFSA, 260,351 American students studied abroad in the 2008-2009 school year
  • In the 2009-2010 academic year, about 690,923 international students were studying in the United States–record high number which maintains the USA’s status as the most popular destination for international students.
  • The University of Southern California had the largest number of international students in 2010; about 8000 international students.

Even today, less than 1% of American students study abroad.  The field of international education has a long way to go, and I think that media can help.  Although there is not one universal definition for international education, there is one universal understanding that its purpose is to increase global cultural awareness.

Next, I have outlined the history of media, which moved much quicker than the field of international education.  Media’s development is also much easier to understand, and through its examination, we can make some applications to how it has affected the field of international education and how it can continue to do so.

  • 5000 BC: clay tablets and evidence of writing date
  • 2500 BC: papyrus scrolls served as writing surfaces, and each was handwritten
  • 150: introduced codex binding for books, which replaced scrolls
  • 1450: movable type and printing was perfected with Johannes Gutenburg’s invention of the printing press
  • 1455: first printed book is published (the Bible)
  • 1476: the first print shop is opened in England
  • 1500s: printing and book publishing developed rapidly throughout Europe
  • 1600s: newspapers are produced in Germany, France, and Belgium
  • 1638: the first printing press in American colonies is used
  • 1702: the daily newspaper is first established in London
  • 1810: first steam-powered press is created, allowing for more production in a faster manner
  • 1837: Louis Daguerre invents daguerrotype (the first process that can produce photographs)
  • 1844: the telegraph links cities together in the United States; networks are established in France
  • 1850s: news agencies begin operating
  • 1866: transatlantic telegraph cables connect North America and Europe
  • 1879: Thomas Edison patents electric light
  • 1891: Thomas Edison perfects the projection of motion pictures and films
  • 1895: the first wireless signals are transmitted
  • 1900: first broadcast of music and voice sounds
  • 1910s: telephones become widely used in large cities
  • 1920s: private radio stations begin rapid development and radio networks develop
  • 1926: television is demonstrated in London
  • 1927: the Federal Radio Commission (FRC; later to become the Federal Communications Commission) is established, and transatlantic telephone services begin
  • 1937: first digital computer is invented
  • 1940s: the radio is the primary source of news during World War II
  • 1949: network television starts in the United States
  • 1958: U.S. government establishes Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) to promote research in the telecommunications field
  • 1962: the first commercial satellite is used
  • 1960s: television becomes the primary source of Vietnam War news; color comes to television
  • 1979: First cellular phone communication network started in Japan
  • 1987: control and regulation of national data network is transferred from the Department of Defense to the National Science Foundation
  • 1990: HTML is created in Geneva, Switzerland, by Tim Berners-Lee–allowed for citizen use of internet/websites
  • 1990s: development of the internet into a new mass medium, internet browsers are created, and control of the internet is not in the hands of one single government agency, department, or corporation
  • 1992: first text message is sent
  • 1998: Google is founded
  • 2000: Sixty percent of U.S. households own at least one computer
  • 2001: Apple released the iPod and opened the iTunes Store
  • 2001: Wikipedia launched–now the website has over 17 million articles written collaboratively by users
  • 2002: Bloggers began to be recognized as members of the press/media
  • 2004: Facebook launched, limited to Harvard students only
  • 2005: YouTube launched; the website used more bandwidth in 2010 than the entire internet did in 2000
  • 2006: Twitter launched–today it has over 200 million users
  • 2012: There are 1 billion smart phones used worldwide

The statistics and numbers of media use today is incredible, and there is not doubt that the media we use and consume influences us.  With this belief as support, I believe that the media has the power to spread the word and advocate for the field of international education.  With the growth and development of the internet and social media is increasing popularity and support for ideas that are at the core of international education’s purpose.

The post World War era led to a rise in human interest in world peace, which I think has impacted the international education field and its programs, related public policies, and media coverage.  As the world moves toward globalization and a more international interest, I think we will find that the power to inform people about and encourage international educations will be found in our use of media.

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Ball, Corbin. 2012. “1980-2012 – A 30+ Year Timeline of Meetings Technology Innovation”. Retrieved from http://www.corbinball.com/articles_technology/index.cfm?fuseaction=cor_av&artID=8878

Connecting Our World. The History of International Education Quiz. NAFSA 2013. Retrieved from http://www.connectingourworld.org/get-involved/international-education-week/the-history-of-international-education-quiz/

Hofstra University. (2010). Mass Media History Reader. Pearson Learning Solutions.

Institute of International Education. History. Retreived from http://www.iie.org/Who-We-Are/History

Sylvester, Robert. Defining International Education A History of Attempts in the 20th Century (1944-1998). Retrieved from http://webhost.bridgew.edu/rsylvester/inted/def_chrono.doc

OUTdoctrination of INternational Education

The above TED Talk is very fascinating to me and probably anyone interested in how media affects education and vice versa.

First, Mitra talks about remoteness and the quality of education.  By remoteness, Mitra specifically means geographic location in relation to an urban center–slums, poorer, less developed areas in both economical and social terms.  From his tests, it was found that generally, “the remoter the school was, the worse its [standard test] results seemed to be.”  However, the results relate more to teacher motivation than it did to poverty levels, classroom size, or even infrastructure.

Then, Mitra relates these results to education and technology.  We are making the mistake of piloting new education technology (ET) in schools who already have strong teacher motivation and technology.  “ET would be far greater at the bottom of the pyramid than at the top, but we seem to be doing it the other way about,” Mitra says.  In many ways I think that the model he suggests is correct–we need to begin providing access or at least testing some new ET where the education/school system is weaker.  It would make a much greater impact than it would in private schools where technology and access is abundant.

The experiments that Mitra held in India in 1999 were conducted to find out “what an alternative education might be like”.  He went to various towns in India and embedded PCs into walls in public spaces, similar to the way an ATM is set up outside for the public’s use.  They left the PCs and soon enough there were children trying to figure out what the PCs were.  Incredibly, children slowly learned by self-teaching how to use the PCs.  One child taught another child, and by the end of the first day, there were 70 children who knew the basics of how to navigate the PC.

One of the conclusions Mitra came to during these experiments was that children in groups can self-instruct themselves to use computers and the Internet, and also the English language.  During his experiment in Madantusi, India, the children learned English when they discovered that the machine only communicated in English.  “Language is not a barrier,” Mitra says.

Overall, Mitra found that:

  • 6-13 year olds can self-instruct in a connected environment; if they have computer access, they will teach themselves
  • Over 300 children will become computer literate in six months with one computer
  • Children learn as much by watching as they learn by doing
  • Primary education, or at least parts of it, can happen on its own; it can be a self-organizing system
  • Children can self-organize and attain an educational perspective
  • Outdoctrination: “minimally invasive” form of education
  • SOLE; self-organizing learning environment

Mitra’s findings relate to the field of international education in a very direct way.  The international aspect in this type of education is in many ways the SOLE.  The social situations and events that expatriates find themselves involved in while abroad teach them about the culture that they are in.  International education students get first-hand experience, and like the children in Mitra’s experiments, learn as much by watching as they learn by doing.

For example, during my semester abroad in Spain, I learned some parts of the traditional Sevillana dance by watching followed by practicing.  In many cases, especially with media, people can learn and educate themselves just by watching.  What I think media does for international education in this sense is that it promotes it.  People learn from each other’s use of media, and people can also learn actions and opinions from what they find on media.

Social media in particular is a form of media where international educators or students can advocate for the field and share it with the world.  In the same way that Mitra suggests that over 300 students will become computer literate in six months, students can learn about international education much quicker as each one passes on the information that they have discovered.  Students who are friends with other students who go abroad are more exposed to the effects of study abroad.  They are also more likely to be encouraged to go abroad themselves.

The quality of education abroad can teach people more if teacher motivation is strong rather than if the education system is strong.  Learning about a specific culture while immersed in that culture with locals who are passionate about it will help students incredibly.  For me, learning about the city of Sevilla in Spain was more engaging and memorable while being in the city itself  than it was reading about the city during the pre-departure period of my time abroad.

Mitra suggests that the use of ET in schools where the education systems are weaker will have a much greater impact.  With the same idea applied to international education, I think that international education and global perspectives are needed in parts of the world where violence, racism, and cultural intolerance are dominant.

In conclusion, I think Sugata Mitra’s findings about SOLE and outdoctrination are very helpful in making sense of the ways that media affects international education.  We can say that the learning that occurs with media and internet use is incredible, and to add an international aspect to that can make it much more effective.

Related articles

Applying Media Theories

“In an era of convergence, consumers become hunters and gatherers pulling together information from multiple sources to form a new synthesis.”

–Henry Jenkins

Henry Jenkins, a successful American media scholar, describes “participatory culture” in terms of a new media framework, in which producers and consumers of media are now interacting and forming relationships with each other, as opposed to “occupying separate roles” (Jenkins, 3).  Some consumers have more access and ability to take part in this convergence than others do,  and this concept can be applied to the way that we view international education.

Jenkins suggests that our personal and individual uses of media encourage conversations among each other and about the media that we each consume.  “None of us can know everything; each of us knows something; and we can put the pieces together if we pool our resources and combine our skills” (Jenkins, 4).  Similar to the approach of international education is the recognition that all parts make up a whole; that separate cultures and nations are in the process of integrating and working together to build a global community.  

This collective intelligence is a media power, according to Jenkins.  People are working together using various forms of media–the internet, social media, blogs, videos, etc.–to share ideas and information.  Ideally, what would follow this sharing of information is the active growth of a knowledgeable community.  For example, a group of study abroad alumni students create a Facebook page.  They share short posts about their experiences, write about the importance of study abroad, create albums of photos from around the world, and ask others to share stories as well.  The Facebook community grows and has a following; people contribute, interact, and participate in this participatory culture.

“The media industries are undergoing another paradigm shift” (Jenkins 5).  Convergence and participatory culture are the realms of media in which our current generation is entering.  These types of interactive and collaborative media environments are extremely helpful in advocating for international education.  One of the leading international education organizations, NAFSA, has a website for their online community called Connecting Our World, where people can share their stories and discuss international education.  This example of participatory culture is crucial in this field because it is through word of mouth (or media in this case), especially for younger generations and students, that this knowledge is passed along.  

Through participatory and convergence cultures, mass media is helping to advance international education advocacy.  Its impact is only just beginning.  Jenkins states that the two cultures will continue to expand as new technologies are introduced, as international education is recognized, and as we continue to grow into a more interconnected world.

Jenkins, Henry. (2006).  Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide.  New York: NYU Press.

“Variations exist in the ways that audiences interact with media” (Kremar, 239).

The purpose of an international education is to build mutual understandings between the world’s nations and people.  However, each culture and lifestyle differs from the others.  As a result, each individual consumes, interprets, and values the information received through media in a different way.  A 21-year-old American student will have different ideas and thoughts about international education than an 80-year-old farmer in Mongolia.  In “Individual Differences In Media Effects”, Kremar discusses variations in message selecting and processing that vary between each individual.

Kremar’s ideas are extensions to the uses and gratifications theory (UGT) of communication.  “Uses and gratifications researchers focus on media use and assume…users to be selective in their media choices” (Kremar, 239).  Kremar is suggesting that there are actually variations in media’s effects rather than “powerful and uniform effects” (Kremar, 237).  This means that for each person, media’s influence will vary.

A benefit of this individualistic perspective is that each person with an international education experience can share his or her own story in a unique way which will in turn be received in a variety of ways by different audiences.  Someone interested in sociology would be more inclined to read about the cultural and sociological aspects of an international education, while a male college freshman interested in sports would prefer to read about an international student playing sports abroad.

The ideas that people have about international education vary because of this individualistic aspect of the UGT theory.  Kremar discusses the process that occurs after one is exposed to media; the interpretive assessment, and the value assessment.  Interpretive assessment is a process in which a media consumer attempts to make sense of the media; value assessment is asking “Did I enjoy or like the content?”  The results of the two evaluations are what determine the cognitive, psychological effect on the consumer, ” leaving the user with a “positive or negative perception of the media” (Kremar 243).

Media users are more likely to enjoy content if it is relatable or geared to their personal interests.  If the international education content found through various media outlets are somewhat diverse, the greater ability there is to spread awareness about its importance.  Kremar states that “our response to these media is based on our evaluations of characters and their actions” (Kremar, 239).  Because different subjects are more or less important to different members of society, it is important that the media provides a variety of content.

The influence and power that mass media has to educate people becomes increasingly significant as technologies, economies, and cultures advance.  This power can be even stronger and more influential on an individual level according to Kremar, because there are variations in the audience it aims to make an impact on.

Kremar, Marina. (2009). Individual Differences In Media Effects.  In Nabi, Robin L. and Mary Beth Oliver, The SAGE Handbook of Media Processes and Effects (p. 237 -250). United States of America: SAGE Publications, Inc.

“Perceptions shape how we feel about our own lives.  Even when it comes to issues of self-identity, issues about which we have the most direct knowledge, our perceptions of what others think about us are influential.”

In a study published by the International Communication Association, it was determined using the third-person effect that the perceptions that people hold about us and where we live affect our own perceptions.  The third-person effect is a hypothesis which suggests that people “perceive others as more influenced by the mass media than they themselves are” (Tsfati, 711).  A component of the theory “suggests that people’s expectations regarding media impact lead them to take action” (Tsfati, 712).

In the study, researchers investigated development towns in Israel.  These development towns were not covered often in the media, but when they were, the focus was on “violence, crime, unemployment, poverty, and economic hardships; positive stories were relatively rare” (Tsfati, 714).  The study determined that “the more negative the perception of the conditions in the town, the more residents contemplate leaving” (Tsfati, 722).

It concluded that regardless of the direct or personal knowledge that people have on subjects, the perceptions of what others think remain influential.  If the third-person effect is applied to an aspect of international education, it is likely that students or people pursuing international educations will be influenced by the media’s depiction of opinions.  For example, it is not likely that a student develops a desire to study abroad in Syria after seeing a news report covering Syria and its current civil war and violent uprisings.

If this theory works with negative perceptions, then it is likely that it works for positive perceptions.  Positive reinforcement is the strengthening of a behavior using a stimulus in order to increase that behavior.  Just as negative perceptions or depictions by media influence the public’s opinion, positive perceptions and media stories do the same.  A professor who sees a newspaper article about a successful international education conference that he or she attended in London will likely be encouraged to continue attending these conferences.  The positive newspaper article is the stimulus that will reinforce the behavior of attending this particular conference.

In this context, media is influencing one’s opinion using the opinion of a third party .  People care about what others’ think, and this sociologic idea applies to international education as well.  If international education is being encouraged by the public, the media, or any third party, it is likely that one will feel supported in pursuing one.

Combining the third-person effect with positive reinforcement and applying it to media and international education makes sense in that it explains the psychological and sociological ideas behind the driving factors that help people make decisions.

Tsfati, Y. and Cohen, J. (2003), On the Effect of the “Third-Person Effect”: Perceived Influence of Media Coverage and Residential Mobility Intentions. Journal of Communication, 53: 711–727.