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Questionnaire, Focus Groups & Interviews

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Questionnaire, Focus Groups & Interviews

The value of intercultural learning experiences is not realised until well after the event and attitudes change through time. As well as being used as an instrument of data collection, the questionnaires, focus groups and interviews organised by The Interculture Project can be used for debriefing purposes.  Discussion with interviewers and with other students can cause new light to be shed on students' experiences, or lead them to assess their experiences in a different way. 

One of the sub-projects looked at integration and debriefing and the integration of the residence abroad experience into the curriculum  in detail.  The final sub-project report, Integration of the Period of Residence Abroad and De-Briefing, including some suggestions for debriefing and integration activities, can be downloaded as an RTF file, approx. 434K.

The questionnaire was designed in order to serve as a precise instrument for gathering data from individuals about their PRA and raising their own level of reflexivity about it. It is administered in the first weeks after students return to the university after the PRA. During the course of the project the format has gradually been refined.  Although the project used it for data gathering, it can also be used as an initial debriefing tool, to gain an overview of student experiences while away, or as a stimulus for further discussion and reflection, in tandem with other activities suggested on this site.  The questionnaire can be downloaded as a Word file, approx. 51K.  Samples of responses can be seen under data gathering.

Below are three sample extracts of focus groups.  The interviews and focus groups conducted by the project are all available in full in the SARA database.  The project produced guidelines for conducting interviews with students who had already completed questionnaires and / or diaries for us.  An adapted version of these guidelines can be downloaded here as an RTF file, approx 25K.

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Photo: Juliet Manners
The Same the World Over? Drinking habits are not necessarily the same abroad as in the UK. 


Extract 1:

Interviewer: Right, OK. Right, Iíd just like to start with something that came up, I canít remember in whose, but in some questionnaires about what you enjoyed, about your experiences, and something that came up frequently was the social life [laugh] er in Italy, as opposed to in Britain, so I just wondered if you could say anything more about that?

Student 2: Mmmm, well what I really like about the social life in Italy is first of all it starts later which gives you (a) ample time to have dinner and get ready as opposed to, you know, going out at 6 oíclock, which Iím really not very much used to. Um, and you know, the night goes on later, as opposed to finishing at 2 oíclock, which is another thing which I quite enjoyed. So, you know, maybe youíd meet your friends say round 10:30 or 11:00 as opposed to at 8:00. So there is a lot of difference in that way. And um, the Italians have a very different way of going out, um, theyíd go out to see friends as opposed to go out to drink. [general agreement]

Student 3: Itís more civilised.

Student 2: Yes exactly you know. And maybe if you go to bars you know, you can have food, they have, I donít know, games if you want games, you know itís not just a drinking thing, um, which is what I preferred really, since Iím not really a big drinking person.

Interviewer: Is that something, I see lots of nods, is that very much +/Ö?

Student 4: Yeah, yeah, just going out doesnít consist of getting drunk. And when they go out, like if they have nice weather which they usually have in Italy, itís like going to the Piazza and meeting people, whereas everybody goes to the Piazza.

Student 2: Yeah, yeah exactly.

Student 4: And then you are sitting under the starry sky and just having a good time with friends without touching alcohol.

Student 2: You donít necessarily have to go to a bar, you could just be like in the middle of nowhere, on a bridge, or on a sidewalk, or whatever. Itís very relaxed um +/.

Interviewer: Did you, did you find the social life like that or+/Ö?

Student 1: Yes, I think I enjoyed it for a different reason perhaps because Bologna is a very particular place, well, I found, cause Iíve lived in Milan as well. And when I went in Milan, I mean this, er, then you're talking about going out with a big group of friends and going to a place where you can get a sandwich and just one beer and sit around all night, and thatís it. But I found that a bit boring in Milan [laugh] cause I do like to have a few beers, so. In Milan Iíd be going out and literally the Italians are exceptional for being able to keep like one glass of beer for like 5 or 6 hours [general agreement].

Student 2: I did.

Student 3: The campari can last for days [laugh]. One campari!

Extract 2: 

Student 1: Yeah, well I think first. I thing they are a lot more concerned with their appearance over there.

Student 2: Mmmmm, definitely.

Student 1: I mean, they are in that sense more effeminate, like they sort of really take care about doing their hair and what clothes they wear, itís all got to be absolutely perfect. And they do like to come over as really macho [laugh] which can be quite amusing sometimes. [laugh].

Student 3: Which when they smell like a bunch of roses is kind of difficult, you know. [laugh]

Student 1: But itís a fact, so theyíre really concerned with their appearance but then it also, I think a lot of it is only appearance, I think thatís really the general thing about the whole of Italy, generally though, is that appearances is more important than substance.

Interviewer: In what sense?

Student 1: In the sense that it's what things look like, what people look like, what cars look like.

Student 4: Itís this fada bella figura

Student 2: Yes, itís like nobody will go out and you will find no female that will go out even to buy some bread in jogging pants, no way [general agreement - over talking]. Yeah, people would stare at me as if to say "Oh my God you poor girl" and they would say "Are you sure you want to wear that to come out?" And Iíd be like "Iím going to buy bread for Godís sake, weíre not going anywhere", you know that kind of thing.

Interviewer: Really?

Student 2: Yeah, yeah, thereíd be like people would get on their full make-up kit to go out.

Student: I was so conscious when I arrived and everything, I mean, it was warm as well, but I was so conscious of what I was wearing and I'd never feel that in England, it just shows we donít care. [laugh] But I mean, if you could find a happy medium between the two.

All: Yeah, yeah.

Student 3: And so um, for safety, itís a safety thing isnít it, I suppose you just want to blend in to a certain extent and so um, like and I donít have dark hair or whatever, and so in winter I'd definitely wear a hat or a hood, but I do that anyway, but I was just, I thought, oh at least I look more Italian almost, cause you just want to, well I did.

Extract 3:

Interviewer: Um, and feeling frustrated by that and also lonely I think you said, it had the potential to make you feel very lonely, if you just say a bit more about that?

Student 3: Well I know there were definitely occasions, certainly early on, say you bumped into, I met, bumped into a lady in the street and I was with one of the other English girls and she had a little puppy with her or something, so we just made, "Oh cute puppy" or whatever and she just started talking and talking and talking and we were just standing there smiling and nodding [laugh] and thinking maybe sheís talking about her bag of onions but you're just standing there [laugh] "yes, yes, oh yes" and you know, and she was smiling and looking at us, so presumably it was positive. But you, there, you're not just equipped to talk, I wasnít equipped with the speed and the level, I wasnít prepared at all.

All: Mmmmmm

Student 3: Even when I first arrived and I just wanted to get a taxi from the bus terminus to the university and I had to ring twice cause I had to check the map in between to see where I wanted to go [laugh] and er, and he said "Where are you?" and I said "Iím not sure" [laugh]. You know you're just, itís like suddenly a big opaque glass comes down and you're behind it saying ÖÖÖÖ.(silent gestures) but nothingís coming out.