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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