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Studying Internationalization on Campus: Lessons From an Undergraduate Qualitative Research Project

By: & Published: 2017 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases in Education
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International and study abroad student programs are generally understood to be opportunities for students to gain important new knowledge from international travel, including how to become responsible and effective global citizens in possession of "cross-cultural competencies." Similar benefits are anticipated from the lesser known process of "internationalization at home," defined as any on-campus activity whereby international or study abroad students engage with and thus enrich the lives of domestic students. In the qualitative research project under discussion here, we investigate the lived realities of internationalization on an Australian university campus. This project is integrated into two qualitative coursework units in Anthropology and Sociology, in which students undertake a semi-structured interview and focus group with or about international or study abroad students. Describing and reflecting on students’ research practices, as well as our own observations while developing and teaching the units in 2014 and 2015, in this methods case we explore the challenges and possibilities faced by first-time (student) qualitative researchers, within and beyond coursework units. These relate to the practicalities of carrying out research in a short timeframe and with limited resources, the validity and comparability of analyses based on a single interview or focus group, and the difficulties of recruiting international or study abroad student participants. Student research findings indicate that international and domestic students rarely interact with each other on campus, highlighting a gap between the rhetoric and realities of the international student experience, with loneliness being a major issue among these students.

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