The IEREST questionnaire includes a fair number of open questions, which provide us with a rich collection of student reflections and accounts of experiences. A thematic analysis of these open responses will help us interpret the quantitative findings. Take the question where students are asked if their own experience confirms earlier research that found a reported lack of contact with the local students. On the basis of a closed question in the questionnaire, it appears that 63% of the respondents indeed agree that they too experience(d) a lack of contact with the local students during their studies abroad. However, it shall be through the open question – in which we asked student to explain why they did (or did not experience this lack of contact - that we hope to understand why students answered in the way that they did.
By exploring the open answers through qualitative analysis, we are gradually learning about the topics that students name when discussing contact with local students, and the causes to which they attribute the (lack of) contact they are experiencing. Here is a preview.
"On the very first day we were told that local students don't usually make friends with international students. They said it's because they are more shy and introvert but to be honest I think it's because they don't care. The reason may be that they have their own friends, friends who are not going to leave in a year."
"When talking with many local students they will switch into the local language and it leaves me feeling ostracized."
"One had to make an effort to befriend local students. There were not enough opportunities (or forced situations) to interact (social, living, etc) and they seemed to already have friends and as such were not as interested in meeting international students. Buddy programs were great- it provided a local student as guide and opportunity to befriend them, gain their perspective, get recommendations and proved to be an outlet to meet other local students."