Study abroad and the Internet: physical and virtual context in an era of expanding telecommunications

Coleman, James A. and Chafer, Tony (2010). Study abroad and the Internet: physical and virtual context in an era of expanding telecommunications. Frontiers: The InterdisciplinaryJournal of Study Abroad, XIX pp. 151–167.



Some well-known study abroad research fails to mention the date at which data was collected, while other papers aggregate studies undertaken a decade or more apart. This article suggests that the date at which a study was undertaken may significantly impact upon the study abroad context, and in particular that the varying availability and use of electronic communications across time and place can mean very different experiences for the students involved. The argument is illustrated by data from a 2009 questionnaire study of students undertaking a work placement in Dakar, Senegal, West Africa under a continuing programme organised for more than two decades by the University of Portsmouth, UK. The very different patterns of telecommunications development in home and host countries, and the related pattern of use by students abroad, highlight the variability of this element of study abroad context, and suggest areas to explore in subsequent qualitative studies. These include in particular the extent to which, thanks to links with the home environment, students may be physically in a study abroad location, but virtually – that is to say affectively and psychologically – back in the home context, a situation which might be expected to hamper acculturation and social integration, and thus reduce the benefits of the immersion experience.

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