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SARA Learning Activities

Search by Expectation 

    Structuring students' searches of the database in terms of the expectations they have about going abroad has many benefits.  It enables students to share any concerns they may have with peers and tutors.  It asks them to reflect explicitly on their existing knowledge and expectations about the particular contexts in which they will be living and working, helping them to become more aware of what these expectations are.  The variety of responses about different topics in the database can challenge the idea that any particular set of expectations is 'right' or 'wrong', and can prepare students for the wide variety of intercultural experiences that may lie ahead.  Finally, the idea can be introduced that the quality of their experiences abroad may be affected by the expectations which they bring to that experience.

General expectations

1.  Working in pairs or small groups, students are asked to discuss their expectations about residence abroad, taking  notes under the following headings:
  • What do I expect from my period of residence abroad? 
  • What am I most looking forward to? 
  • What are my main worries and concerns?
  • How am I going to meet people?
  • Do I have any expectations about what people will be like?
  • What aspects of the culture do I think will be similar to or different from what I am used to?
  • How do I think I am going to respond to these differences?
  • How am I going to spend my time?
  • How am I going to communicate with people?  Do I expect to find communication easy or difficult?

2.  Using the database as a resource, students are asked to find out whether their expectations are justified, by searching the database to find out whether other students' reports match their expectations.

3.  Students feed back their findings in group discussion.  Were their expectations confirmed or challenged?  How have their expectations changed as a result of doing the search?  Were there any surprises in the database?

4.  Students are asked to address the question: 'How do students' expectations affect their experiences abroad?', by doing searches which combine 'expectations' (under the 'How did I react?' menu) with other options on the database.  This can be done in class or as a homework assignment.  Responses are fed back to the group in discussion.

Expectations about placement

The database includes interviews, diaries and focus groups from students who went abroad as foreign language assistants, on work placements and as university students.  It can therefore be used as a resource for finding out about some of the common experiences of people who are doing the same type of placement as outgoing students.  (A small amount of data from students on other types of placement, such as au pair work and voluntary work, is also available by selecting the 'other' category under 'Activity of residence abroad'.)

1.  Working in pairs or small groups, students are asked to discuss and make notes on their expectations about the activity they will be doing whilst abroad.


  • What do you expect to be the roles and responsibilities involved in being an [assistant / worker / student]?
  • What do you think the advantages and disadvantages of going abroad as an [assistant / worker / student] are?
  • What do you think might be good ways for [assistants / workers / students] to meet people?

Foreign language assistants

  • What will your role be in the school?  What sort of relationships do you expect to have with staff?
  • What sort of relationships do you expect to have with your students?  What potential difficulties might arise in relationships with students?  How could these be resolved?  What difficulties do you think foreign language assistants might experience with classroom discipline, and what are good ways to resolve these difficulties?
  • What are you planning to take with you as teaching materials?  What do you think might be good materials?  What topics do you think students might find interesting?
  • How will you spend your time when you are not teaching?

University students

  • What do you expect the student lifestyle in the host country to be like?  Will it be similar to what you are experiencing now?  If not, what differences do you expect?
  • What relationships do you expect to have with staff at the university?  What do you expect the workload to be like?
  • Where do you think you will live, and how will you find accommodation?
  • Who do you think you will spend most of your time with?
  • How do you plan to meet host culture members, either within or outside the university?

Work placements

  • What will your role and responsibilities be at work?
  • What sort of relationships do you expect to have with colleagues?  What factors might contribute to having a positive or negative relationship with colleagues?
  • What do you think you will find challenging in the work situation?
  • How will you meet people outside work?

2.  Using the options at the top of the search form, students select data only from students who were working in the country to which they are going, and doing the same activity.  They then search the database to find out whether their expectations are confirmed or not.

Discussion of the results can be stimulated with questions such as the following:

  • Was there anything surprising or unexpected about the information you found?
  • Have your expectations changed as a result of doing these searches?
  • What would you recommend as being good preparation for being an [assistant / worker / student], after reading the data in the database?


The information generated by doing these searches can be presented in various different forms.

Advice leaflet: Produce an advice leaflet, based on this research, to be given to students like yourselves going abroad.  This can be a collaborative activity done in small groups or in the group as a whole.  (See also the search for advice activity for more information on this.)

Letter to yourself:  Write a letter to yourself, giving yourself advice about the placement, that you can look back on at the start of your time away.  (Departments could also arrange to have these sent to students in the first couple of weeks of their time abroad.)

Presentation: Make a presentation to the group about the expectations that you now have about your period of residence abroad, and how these have changed through working with the database.

Interview with returnees: Use the information that you have generated to write questions for an interview or focus group with people who have just returned from being [assistants / workers / students].  (Returnees can prepare for this by doing the reflection on experience exercise.)

Essay: Write an essay relating to one or all of the questions you investigated.