Monthly Archives: December 2013

Conclusions

How does media help study abroad students?

PRE-DEPARTURE

  • Information resource: Students are able to seek out information and create their own expectations based on the content they find online and through social media resources, such as Facebook or blogs written by study abroad alumni.  Discovering study abroad providers, meeting alumni, and contacting various sources of information are benefits that the Internet gives students as they prepare to go abroad.

ON-SITE:

  • Communication: Maintaining contact with friends and family back home is a major concern for students who go want to go abroad for extended periods of time.  With social media and the Internet, daily exchanges with contacts are possible.  This reassures students that although home is physically far away, it is easy to stay in touch with friends and family in an online environment.
  • Adjusting: Today’s young students grew up in media and technology-saturated environments.  They are familiar with social networking sites, and websites like Facebook and Twitter play important roles in their social lives.  Instead of completely cutting off Internet and social media connections, going abroad often limits access.  However, having some online access helps in the adjustment process by remaining a constant form of communication.
  • Documenting: Taking pictures and sharing them with people is incredibly easy in today’s world.   Cell phones have cameras and can connect to the Internet.  Facebook photo albums and Instagram albums make for online scrapbooks, and Facebook Timelines and blogs tell chronological stories.  The result is a unique documentation of one’s experience, helping study abroad students organize their time abroad.

POST-STUDY ABROAD:

  • Reflection: Often times, reflection happens in retrospect.  In the case of international education experiences, it is the same.  Re-adjusting to life back home after living away for some time can be difficult, and the documented travels can serve as points of reflection for many students.  Blogs and journals are also commonly written and shared, and after returning from abroad, memories can return while examining these entries.
  • Sharing: One of social media’s strengths is its ability to provide people with the sense that they are sharing something of importance, whether it is personal or not.  Having a close social network online gives students the opportunity to share their experience even after it has already happened.  This also helps students to adjust to reverse culture shock and returning back home.

How does media help study abroad providers?

  • Communication/Engagement: Study abroad providers and offices at universities benefit from using media (social media in particular) because they can reach students in a practical way.  They increase their connections and engagement because most students use these platforms and are familiar with them.  They can also push out information, like due dates and deadlines, announcements, etc., in a manner that makes it easier for students to receive.  They can form and build relationships with people not just in person, but online as well.
  • Advertising/Marketing: Programs which have websites or social media accounts tend to reach more students because the content is available to any person who has an internet connection as opposed to specific students who are geographically near.  The internet enables study abroad offices and providers to expose their programs to a larger public audience.
  • Evaluation: Development of international education programs and providers depend greatly on student reviews and criticisms.  The tendency of social media profiles and content to be in the public domain makes it convenient for these programs to find various forms of student feedback.  This is information that programs might not otherwise directly receive.

How does media help the field of international education?

  • Advocacy: Advocacy for the field is happening every second, with so much information, blogs, tweets, and various posts about study abroad experiences and international education opportunities being shared online often.  Each student who goes abroad and writes about it is advocating for the field, and each program provider who shares information online with prospective students is doing the same.
  • Connecting: Thousands of students and higher education professionals in the field of international education are finding unique ways to get in touch with each other, and this strengthens the field’s community.  E-mail, LinkedIn, and various social networking sites enable millions to connect, regardless of location, time, etc.  Developments in the field can be shared by and with programs around the world, which makes for a very transparent network.

Conclusions

The benefits that the Internet and social media outlets provide for the international education field are invaluable.  For students, adjustment to the host country and communication with those at home are made easier and more convenient with media. For university programs and independent providers, there are major gains in student engagement and marketing.  Finally, for the field itself, advocacy and building a community are favorable outcomes of Internet and social media use.  The development of the field of international education and the growth of the study abroad experience is greatly affected by media use.

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Does social media help or hurt study abroad offices?

In articles by Wayne Myles for the Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, and Kristine Murray and Rhonda Waller for the International Educator, the pros and cons of the Internet and social media use by study abroad providers are debated.

Benefits

Source of information/opportunities to interact and learn. Social media is an incredible opportunity for study abroad offices and program providers to communicate with students.  Henry Jenkins’ theory of “participatory culture” is present because both parties (students and providers) are creating and consuming content rather than playing separate roles.  The growth from this interaction creates a community and in this case, ideally, a study abroad community.  Study abroad offices benefit by increasing connections with students to platforms they are familiar with, instead of only face-to-face communication.

Ability to edit/censor/approve content.  On certain platforms, such as Facebook, a study abroad provider or individual adviser would have the ability to maintain the content in the groups.  They can select the audience who can join or view the group and its members, send messages to the members, and edit any member-posted content.  This is helpful in cases where students attempt to change or lead the conversations in inappropriate directions.  This keeps the group and the content professional.  Study abroad office benefit by leading and controlling the conversation.

Gain better understanding of students’ needs/opinions.  Because social media platforms and the Internet are environments in which students were raised beginning at young ages, they are, in many ways, “student’s turf”.  Students feel comfortable sharing opinions, ideas, and questions, and the information they share with each other is information that advisers and study abroad program offices might not otherwise receive.  Study abroad offices benefit by using this student feedback to develop their programs.

Publicity/marketing. Having program information online makes a study abroad office or provider more convenient and focused on the needs of the students.  Engaging students online by posting facts, pictures, videos, or event information on websites like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc., exposes study abroad offices to a greater public audience.  They benefit by increasing their student reach and focusing on targeting the desired audience.

Risks

Discovery of inappropriate student behavior/Privacy invasion.  Many professionals approach social media and the Internet carefully because they are weary of coming across inappropriate content related to students.  Additionally, some students feel as though being connected to professionals or university departments online is an invasion of their privacy.  Information discovered on social media or on the Internet about students can affect their academics and relationship with the study abroad office.

No guarantee of student participation. The Uses and Gratifications theory assumes users to be selective in their media choices, and that the purpose of each media use varies for each person.  While a study abroad office or program provider might utilize social media platforms for a specific reason, the students might not reciprocate.  Some students might not even have social media accounts or be active on the Internet enough to have an equal online representation of the student body.  This can skew or bias a study abroad office or provider in opportunity offers or information sharing.

Potentially decreased quality of service.  Student needs are the first priority for most study abroad offices and providers.  As a result, it is crucial that they are always available for students to contact, whether it is online or offline.  Furthermore, many individual student needs are best addressed in person and with face-to-fact interaction.  The moving of services and demand to an online environment potentially decreases study abroad advisers’ ability to meet these in-person needs.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Internet and social media platforms serve undeniable benefits to study abroad offices, program providers, and individual advisers across the world.  In many ways, this type of communication is faster, less formal, and helpful to students.  However, it is also argued that other students are not getting the attention they need in order to make the process of study abroad convenient.  It is important for providers and higher education professionals to recognize that maintaining a balance between online and offline services is met.

 

 

Murray, K. E. and Waller, R.  (2007).  Social Networking Goes Abroad.  International Educator, Vol. 16 (56-59).  Retrieved from http://www.cobses.info/Oenbring/engl282/downloads/article2.pdf

Myles, W.  (1996). Quality of Service Through the Strategic Use of Technology. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, Vol. 2.  Retrieved from http://www.frontiersjournal.com/issues/vol2/vol2-06_Myles.htm

Branding International Ed.

Branding, in terms of marketing, is a popular practice among individuals and businesses in today’s media environment.  While reading an article about cultural stereotypes held by Americans about the British culture, I began thinking about how media is used to brand much more than just products and businesses, but entire countries and cultures.

TV shows, movies, and celebrities are all modern examples through which media portrays various cultures.  In an article by Dominic Janes, a lecturer at the University of London, he cites that many internationals associate the class system with the British.  Perhaps this is because Britain’s royal family is often a topic in the media and popular culture.

In my own experience and in my peers, I have noticed that Americans associate the following with London, Britain, and its people: tea time, politeness, wealth, royalty, sarcasm, The Beatles, boy bands, and accents.  It makes sense that people around the world relate these subjects with Great Britain because the country itself is often portrayed in the media with strong relations to these ideas.

For example, on the talk show Ellen, hosted by American talk show host, there is a segment called “Tea Time with Sophia Grace and Rosie”.  The segment is hosted by two British girls Ellen discovered on YouTube.  The popular idea that the British love tea is supported by this popular talk show broadcasting the tea time segment.  For decades, The Beatles has been somewhat of a representative group for the country.  Today, international pop sensation One Direction, a British boy band, has been the latest media export from England.

There are many examples in the media where these stereotypes are continuously enforced, and Janes suggests in his article that we should “engage [students] in discussion about brand values” (Janes 67).  According to Janes, by approaching cultural views and international education with a marketing perspective, students might find it easier to gain cultural knowledge.  I agree with Janes’ theory, because I think that it can affect students in the same memorable way that brands like Levi’s or Coca Cola do.  Janes suggests that students are more engaged when they are inspired to explore on their own rather than be told what to learn.

This concept applied to international education can be very useful.  In another article from Frontiers Journal, the Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, Gary Rhodes discusses the Internet and its uses for the field of study abroad.  The Internet benefits study abroad in several ways according to Rhodes.

  • It allows administrators around the world to communicate much quicker and for less cost.
  • It allows for quick updates on program information online.
  • It helps the Higher Education community develop by allowing interactive online communications.

By combining Janes and Rhodes concepts, I believe that branding international education using social media will benefit the field itself.  In many ways, it is already happening.  Students like myself who go abroad and have positive experiences, post and share their experiences online, thus advocating for the field.

The study abroad brand, in my opinion, is a positive one.  In 1999, when MTV show Road Rules portrayed students’ experience on a reality show, the audience certainly did not get an academically centered perspective on study abroad.  It became a common misconception that studying abroad was just a semester-long party in another country.  However, with globalization being such a predominant idea in today’s world, studying abroad has become an opportunity for personal, professional, and academic development.

I think it is important that students and other members of the international education field continue to brand study abroad as an academic experience that helps students develop as young professionals and as people.  By using Janes’ pedagogic approach and Rhodes’ methods to develop the field, branding international education and study abroad would be a combined effort resulting in what could be the study abroad brand.

 

 

 

Janes, D.  (2011).  Beyond ignorance: using the cultural stereotypes of Americans studying in the UK as a resource for learning and teaching about British culture.  Innovations in Education and Teaching International, Vol. 48 (61-68). 

Rhodes, G. M. (1995). The Internet and World Wide Web: Uses for Study Abroad. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, Vol. 1.  Retrieved from http://www.frontiersjournal.com/issues/vol1/vol1-06_Rhodes.htm