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SARA Learning Activities
Searching the Database
Search by Expectation
Search for Advice
Fictional Diary
Intercultural Incidents
Academic Activities
Reflection on Experience




SARA Learning Activities 

Searching the Database: Introduction 

    Allowing students time to simply search the database for issues of interest to them is a valuable learning activity in its own right.  It offers the chance for outgoing students to develop their expectations about the variety of experiences the period of residence abroad can offer.  It can be a valuable resource for students currently abroad, offering information about how others have dealt with the issues they are currently dealing with.  And it can offer returnees the opportunity to reflect on their experiences in comparison to those of a large number of other students.

    The ICP SARA database holds a set of diaries, interviews and focus groups which can be accessed using this search form.  Diaries were written while students were abroad, and interviews and focus groups were conducted after their return.  The form offers two main search options which can be selected either alone or together.

    What sort of students would you like to read about? allows the reader to select accounts sorted by students' age and gender, and / or by the activity they were involved in, and / or by the country they were visiting. 

    What intercultural issue(s) would you like to read about? allows the reader to select accounts by topic.  Search options are available for twelve main topics, with drop-down menus used to select the options associated with each.

  • How did I meet people? relates to contacts with other people.  The drop-down menu covers issues such as meeting people, maintaining relationships with people, contacts with British people and contacts with host culture members. 
  • What were they like? is about host culture member's attitudes and behaviour, as perceived by the students in the database: were they friendly? helpful? tolerant? patient? interested? respectful?
  • What was the culture like? deals with the different aspects of the host culture which were commented on by students, covering amongst other things dress, eating and drinking, attitudes to time, religion and gender.
  • How did I react? generates results relating to students' own responses to the situation: their expectations, their reports of achievement and acculturation, and their emotional responses, both positive (enjoyment, confidence, independence) and negative (stress level, frustration, depression). 
  • How did I spend my time? relates to the various leisure activities that students engaged in.
  • What was the place like and how did I get around? includes descriptions of the areas where students lived, accounts of how students travelled to and from the location, and accounts of their use of transport facilities whilst there.
  • How did I talk to people? deals with linguistic and communication issues: what students reported about their linguistic capabilities and experiences in reading and writing, listening and speaking; how they coped with the specific features of the language such as dialect or different terms of address; and how they used different technologies of communication such as the telephone and e-mail. 
  • What were the health issues? describes students' experiences of health and illness, dealings with the medical profession, safety and security.
  • Where did I live? relates to accommodation: finding it, changing it, and different types.
  • How did I sort out the paperwork? covers students' experiences of bureaucracy: funding, banking, immigration and the like.
  • What was the work like? describes students' placement experiences, either at work, at university or as a foreign language assistant. 
  • Where was I? generates students' accounts where they have been talking specifically about a given country..
    The database can also be searched by keyword, which can be particularly useful for students searching for accounts relating to given towns or regions.
These searches can all be combined.  So if, for example, a student is going to Germany as an assistant and wants to read about what similar students said or wrote about teaching conditions, they would select 'Country: Germany', 'Activity: Foreign language assistant', and 'What was the work like: Teaching placement'.  Or if a student was investigating attitudes towards minority groups as reported by students in France and Germany, the search would include ticking the Germany and France check boxes and selecting 'Minority groups' on the 'What was the culture like?' menu. 

The option 'All or Any' is by default set at All, returning searches which match all the search criteria, but can also be set to Any, returning searches matching any of the criteria in order of relevance.  So if you find no hits for a complex search involving several criteria, try setting this option to 'Any' and searching again.

The search generates a list of the first few words of extracts which match your search criteria.  Click on the extract to read it in full.  If the extract is short, or you want to see more of the document it came from, click on ‘This text in context’ to see the 10 text units surrounding it.  If you want to read the diary, interview or focus group through from the beginning, click on ‘Beginning of sequence’ and then on ‘This text in context’.

Note: Some of the focus groups include contributions from students who have not yet given us permission to use their data on the Web.  Where this is the case, their interventions have been substituted with the words "[consent withheld]".