Culture shock is feeling unsettled when one person moves from one culture to another unfamiliar one. This is usually seen amongst immigrants, expatriates or when a person goes to visit another country. The most common cause of culture shock is individuals in foreign environments.
There are four main stages subscribed to the phenomenon of culture shock, and for those who go through it. Not everyone is subjected to the four stages as many people skip stages. The first phase of culture shock is the ‘’Honeymoon’’ phase. In this phase, individuals see the difference between their old culture and new culture through tainted lenses, and in a favourably romantic light, and are fascinated with the culture.
The honeymoon period eventually ends, and the ‘’Negotiation’’ period begins. The honeymoon period usually lasts for around three months, before the negotiation phase starts. In this phase individuals notice the huge gap amongst their new culture and their old one, and this creates anxiety within them. The cause for this is usually due to the negative points about the new culture that the individual sees as evident, which contradicts their positive view during the honeymoon period. An example is language barriers, which can create anxiety.
The ‘’Adjustment’’ period follows usually after 6-12 months, where one becomes accustomed to local traditions and values. After an individual is set in a routine, the cultural differences provide less anxiety and shock, and they reasonably know what to expect in different situations, and start viewing the cultural differences in a positive light again.
The last phase, known as the ‘’adaption’’ phase, occurs when the individual is fully integrated into the new culture and actively participates in many aspects of it. It does not, however, mean that they lose some of their traits from their old culture, as they keep many of them such as accent and language.
Many people do not overcome culture shock, and as a result, are lef idolizing their old culture, while living within another entirely different culture, which is alien to them. This leads to the establishment of ghettos, where minority groups who have not assimilated well live. This has led to many impoverished areas around the world, as ghettos are isolated from the host society, and are neglected in return. Many ghettos are areas with high level of poverty and crime.
Culture shock is a major phenomenon around the world, as the world has become globalized and more people travel to different countries for economic reasons and tourism.
1.2: Statement of the Problem
Chapter Two: Literature Review
2.1: Culture shock
Chapter Three: Methodology
3.1: Research Methodology
3.1.1: Qualitative Research Methodologies and Grounding Theory
3.1.2: Selection of Qualitative Research Rationale
3.1.3: Ethical Considerations
3.1.4: Thematic Analyses and In-depth Semi-Structured Interview
3.1.5: Data Collection
3.1.6: Data Analysis
3.1.7: Transcribing and Translating the Interviews
Chapter Four: Findings and Discussion
4.1: Culture shock among international students during studies.
4.1.1: Elements of the culture shock:
4.2: Stress among international students during studies
Chapter Five: Conclusion
5.1: Conclusion and Recommendations
5.2: Recommendations of the Study
5.2.1: Further Study Proposals
The main aim of this research is to describe the culture shock and stress, to explore the means of reducing the cultural shock and pressure that is experienced by international students in the United Kingdom and to explain the benefits of studying abroad. In addition, the research design employed a qualitative methodology. After getting consent, in-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with male participants and the data gathered from three interviewees chosen on the basis of different demographic backgrounds, being from the United Kingdom. The thematic analysis method is to analyse transcribed data.
The results of this exploratory research of culture shock and stress; many themes have been specified and explained; such as language, food, weather, dress, education system, technology, and transportation. They are related to the sources of the culture shock, the effect of shock on the international students and the attempts to reduce the culture shock. Also, several themes have been specified, explained and analysed below in terms of sources of pressure, that influence of international students in the UK during studies such as language, academics, differences of culture and homesickness. Also, some benefits of study abroad and methods to decrease stress have been given.
To the people of Kurdistan, who changed the course of my life
Firstly, sincere thanks to my darling (Bewar), she has supported me every time, especially when I was facing stress to complete my thesis.
Secondly, sincere thanks to my family: Mum, Dad, brothers and sisters, who have provided me with every opportunity to fulfil my ambitions, and without them, none of this would have been possible.
I would like to mention my friends, who have contributed massively to me remaining focused and confident through stressful times.
The primary aims of this qualitative study are to illustrate some of the effects of the culture shock and stress, to explore the means of reducing the cultural shock and pressure that is experienced by international students in the United Kingdom and to explain the benefits of studying abroad. Currently, more and more international students came to the United Kingdom to study different courses. When they leave their homeland and travel to study in a new environment, and in another country, they could be stressed and feel shocked and stress because of their new life experiences. As Phuong (1993) states, a culture shock and stress is a real phenomenon that is facing everybody who is living in a new culture. Furthermore, it changes following the age and gender (Mcleod, 2008). Nevertheless, international students constitute one group of people regarding the culture shock and pressure. According to Zhou, et al. (2008) most of the students who come to an English speaking zone face many challenges, because the environment and culture is new especially for the students whose culture is greatly different from that of the new country culture. Furthermore, as can be seen, numerous international students are leaving their own country for studying. They regarded it as a turbulent period and they may probably experience upsurge in their emotions. Because of the new environment, international students feel more interested in going on a sight-seeing tour and enjoying the food, language, weather, the new sounds of the language and clothes. Ryan (2005) observes that, the new environment comprises many physical elements such as, food, weather, transport, and dress among others.
In addition, the development of globalization worldwide has its own effect on students who study abroad. There is also an increase in the number of international students who go to the United Kingdom to study in various fields. Evans and Mail(2011)observes that, the numbers of international students in all universities of the United Kingdom have increased to 11.7% from 2008-2009 t0 2009-2010. Some of the students might have had experience with the English culture before they came to the United Kingdom. On the other hand, some of them might not have knowledge about this culture. Moreover, many researches also demonstrate that students should have some information about the English culture before travelling to a foreign country in order to avoid potential ‘culture shock’. Oberg (1960) introduced the term “culture shock” to refer to the emotive distress caused by an overseas culture. When students leave their home and travel for studying to a new country with different environment and culture, they might become shocked by the new norms, values and environment surrounding them. According to Thomson (2006) there are particular issues facing those students when they leave their own country and travel to a foreign one to study, they should be shocked and stress. Furthermore, Pyvis and Chapman (2005) argue, culture shock is the process of influence students that move from family culture to new culture also, it is a sense of deprivation that results from loss of country, friends, and family.
1.2: Statement of the Problem
According to Islam (2001) the researcher has identified some of the issues of the culture shock and pressure phenomenon in this study. He has also explained the major factors of the culture shock that affect international students in the United Kingdom as well as the students who come for a temporally stay. Students who come to study need to stay several years in order to complete their study. Furthermore, when students travel to a foreign country where the culture might be almost the same or close to their own, the shock and stress will be less. However, if the culture of the students is slightly different, the shock might be stronger due to differences in language, religion and geographical phenomena. Vesajoki (2002) observes that, students are shocked and have stress when they leave their country, customs, and families and to come to another country with different lifestyle. Sometimes they are entirely get immersed in the new environment without experience. According to Barron,et al. (2010) the United Kingdom is one of the countries to which a large number of students travel every year to enter higher education; each of the students has his/her own culture; that is why, in this study, the researcher wants to identify the factors that affect international students in the United Kingdom and the differences among the students who come from diverse countries and the type of shock and stress they face upon arrival in the United Kingdom. “Their culturally diverse backgrounds, international students may experience adjustment strains within their host environment that are unique to them, such as differences, language constraints, and social behaviours” (Araujo, 2011). The question research is: What in your opinion could be done to help international students overcome their culture shock and stress? What are the factors that the British culture has and that affect the international students? Also, what are the differences in the attitudes of the students who come from various countries regarding the cultural shock and stress? How do they balance benefits with these experiences of stress? How might this research into their experiences help future students?
Chapter Two: Literature Review
Chapter two provides the background literature of culture shock and stress among international students during studies. The literature presented in this chapter frames the research questions of this study.
2.1: Culture shock
Such experiences have been referred to as culture shock in the literature since the Early 1950s when anthropologist Oberg (1954:1) first used the term. He portrayed culture shock as mental disease, affecting persons who are uprooted abroad triggered by anxiety resulting from the loss of all the familiar signs of social interaction. Hall (1959:156) added a new parameter: the element of unknown stimuli from the novel milieu in his account of culture shock as an elimination or misrepresentation of several familiar signals one meets at home and their replacement by other signals one meets at home together with the substitution of other strange signals. Besides the change in the signals, Adler’s (1975: 13) incorporated the reaction of the person: culture shock is principally a collection of emotive reactions to the loss of perceptual backups from one’s own culture to new cultural incentives which have little or no meaning, and to the misinterpretation of novel different experiences.
There are many research studies that address the culture shock facing international students. There is a relation between these papers and my research because they are all focus on culture shock in different areas. One of these studies was carried out at University of Western Australian and at the Curtin University of Technology in Australia by Pyvis and Chapman (2005). The major aim of this research is to highlight the risks of the culture shock that international students may face when they travel abroad to study. The sample of this study included 26 students who were interviewed: 12 male and 14 female. The interview of each one of them lasted for approximately 90 minutes. The interview was an in-depth, semi-structured one; data were collected from each participant and they were transcribed. Grounded methods were used to analyze the data. The findings suggested that the culture shock could be experienced by students learning in their own country and that programs should be designed by the universities for students from other countries.
Kelly and Moores (2012) carried out another research study about culture shock and higher education performance: implications for teaching, in the UK at the University of Liverpool Business School. The size of the sample of this research was 15 postgraduate students. They found out significant differences in the performance between international students who were studying abroad and the students who were studying in their home country. The main objective of this research was to demonstrate the variations between the international mobile students and the home country students. The results of this research displayed that the home country students performed better than the international students.
Another study was undertaken at King College London in the United Kingdom by Craig (2006) about the culture shock and the social support, a survey on Greek migrant students. The main objective was to survey and determine the relationship among the culture shock, social support, quality of support received and the variety of the social networks. It encompasses a sample size of a total of 133 international students using a questionnaire. The results indicated that the quality of social support received and the gender were strongly related to the culture shock. At the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, another research study was carried out by Louise (2004) on the difficulties involved in the development of the social skills: a model of culture shock for Graduate international students; the sample size of this research was 156 male of international students. Its aim was to clarify the influence of the different cultures on the students and on their social interaction and to analyze the influence of the various cultural shocks on international students and Canadian students. A questionnaire was devised for this purpose. He found out that social interaction within one`s own culture plays an important role in international students adjustment.
Gaw (1999) conducted another study at University of Nevada in USA about the reverse culture shock for students returning from overseas. The main objective of this research was to assess the relationship between the personal problems and the reverse culture shock. The sample size of this research was 66 overseas experienced students. The researcher used a survey for his research. The results found out that the returnees experienced a high level of reverse culture shock and shyness problems.
Several research studies are undertaken to highlight the culture shock of international students. Oberg (1960 as cited in Kelly and Moores, 2012) first defined a culture shock as the “anxiety resulting from the loss of familiar signs and symbols; when a person enters a new culture, familiar cues disappear.” According to Oberg (1960) shocks may be experienced in connection with the national culture variance and the differences in the educational system between the home and the visited country including difficulties in study skills essential to complete their graduate programs. Newton (2002, as cited in Kelly and Moores, 2012) identifies four key adjustment issues for international students. These are: general living adjustments that include accommodation issues and payment of living expenses, academic adjustments that comprise language problems and unawareness of the education system, socio-cultural adjustment that embraces experiencing culture shock, discrimination, conflict between home and host standards and personal psychological adjustment involving homesickness, alienation and loss of identity.
Kelly and Moores (2012) investigated whether the traditional approaches are effective to meet the needs of international students. They used data from the last ten years (1999 to 2009) collected from a post-1992 University in the North West of England analyzing over 15,000 postgraduate assessments. They found out an important performance difference between home country students and international students: home country students perform expressively better than international students, although the latter perform better in examinations than in coursework. The authors recommended that higher education institutions should adapt their resources (staff and organizational) to meet the needs of overseas students, and to fulfill their expectations since cultural diversity has its influence on pedagogy, the staff and the students` welfare. Since students find it difficult to adjust themselves to the university educational systems, the universities need to change their traditional systems to allow students to fit into their systems and to interact effectively with the host country.
Currently, many undergraduates or postgraduate students worldwide leave their own country each year to study overseas to gain professional attributes and knowledge. The UK higher education is one of the main destinations for some of the international students. Some students regard stress as being because of custom, culture, environment, social lifestyle and tradition which vary differently from that in their own country (Kuh, et al., 1997). Pressure is a physiological response to a potential threat (Pinel, 2003). According to Lazarus and Folkman (1984), the cause of pressure, including the change of lifestyle, chronic stress, and the environment of daily interactions is essentially a negative. Any alteration of life, needs several adjustments which may be seen as pressure (Holmes and Rahe, 1967). Chronic pressure is a problem experienced by different people in different ways, with both psychological and physiological symptoms (Misra and McKean, 2000). Sometimes when the students face culture shock they might be not able to get rid of some degree of pressure, because culture shock cause of new life, a different culture and new environment (Pedersen, 1995). The adaptation is a psychological concept and independent between the environment and students when they leave their home country because the different environmental impact of emotions of students such as homesickness (Hannigan, 1990). While, international students usually face stress, because they are living temporarily residing in a host country and everything was different with home country such as the educational system, culture, and language, as a result they face a higher level of shock and stress, because they may not experience about the new environment (Peterson, 1995). Moreover, from various countries, international students involve several challenges, including looking for a place to live, selecting a bank and withdrawing money, finding buses, trams and trains, etc. The pressure on the international students are with social support systems, learning overload, different educational expectations (Sandhu, 1994), communication barriers, culture shock and loss. International students from various cultural backgrounds have a tendency to examine their learning experience overseas as pressure (Mallinckrodt and Leong, 1992).
The international student undergraduates or postgraduates who decide to study in a foreign country face challenges and stress, because these challenges and stress often arise from the variations of their home culture and host culture, besides other ethnic and smaller groups in a pluralist community (Sodowsky and Plake, 1992). The investigators have shown that students are extra likely to increase the pressure on themselves, so that they adapt to the university environment more slowly than students from the host country ( Abe et al., 1998). According to Berry (1997), culture distance is a predictor of how accumulating persons and groups adapt to a new culture. The variations may be attributed to language, traditions, values/ideologies, preferences, foods, and climate. The study showed that the larger variations between the country of origin culture and the host, the greater the stress (Yeh and Inose, 2003; Berry, et al, 1987). When the international students move to the new environment they will face common problems such as language, academic, loneliness, and homesickness difficulties (Klineberg and Hull, 1979). Arubayi (1980) stated that, other modifications to face international students are things such as health issues, food, housing and transportation. According to Sandhu (1994), homesickness becomes a problem for international students when they try to remember and maintain their own culture while in the host country. In addition, when international students leave their own nation and their friends and family to study overseas they feel unhappy as they are homesick, missing family and facing problems of modification to a new social environment (Kegel, 2009). Therefore, several researchers claim that homesickness has a bad influence on the student's behavior, physically and psychologically, and that the results lead to depression (Poyrazli, and Damian, 2007). Also, the English language ingenuity might have an influence on how international students communicate with native students and lecturers during lectures (Chen, 1999; Aubrey, 1991). This stress may worsen for students in the host country, the lack of cross-cultural communication skills such as respect for variations and understanding who speaks various languages (Malcolm, 1996). In addition, international students usually have academic stresses; these are stress relating to the relationship between students and supervisors, teaching styles, the methods of becoming a teaching helper and the stress of doing well academically. Although, the hospitality students acknowledged the friendship and guidance of their superiors, they expressed concern about how much dependence and respect they should show their academic supervisors. Fear and self-confidence may be misinterpreted as aggression (Lewthwaite, 1996). According to McNamara (2000) international students often have stress for fear of failing examinations, homework and worrying about marks (grades). Also, the challenges that face international students when they leave home country are social, cultural and educational system. In academic studies, pressure may develop with poor academic performance. For that reason, international students can always feel the pressure to do well (Chen, 1999). However, studying overseas is usually a great opportunity in a person's life to learn a new language and grow information (Lafford, 2006)
The primary aims of this qualitative study are to illustrate some of the effects of the culture shock and to explore the means of reducing the cultural shock that is experienced by international students in the United Kingdom.
Chapter Three: Methodology
3.1: Research Methodology
The purpose of chapter three is to describe the qualitative research methodology, theoretical groundings, qualitative research rationale, in-depth semi-structured interviews, thematic analysis, data collection, data analysis and interview transcription involved in the research.
3.1.1: Qualitative Research Methodologies and Grounding Theory
The aim of this study is to get an in-depth understanding of culture shock and stress among international students during studies. This in-depth understanding calls for the use of qualitative methods. More specifically, semi-structured interviews were judged to be the most appropriate method for data collection. Even though other qualitative methods might have given rich and detailed information about the candidate’s actions, what they say and do they would not reveal what Kvale (1996) calls the subject’s “everyday world”. With its openness and flexibility, the semi-structured interview serves this purpose well (Fog, 2004). Moreover, as most studies on sojourners and expatriates have employed quantitative methods, exploring the topic with qualitative methods might contribute to other understandings than those found in earlier studies (Fog, 2004). In this research, a qualitative methodology was employed to explain culture shock and stress among international students during studies.
Furthermore, the other methodology strategy adopted is the case study method. Case study approach is neither purely a qualitative research method. According to Punch (2009) the general idea of a case study method is the study of one or several case(s) in detail to develop as full an understanding of the case(s) in its/their natural setting(s), recognising the significance of context and the complexity within the case(s). “Case study is an exploration of a ‘bounded system’ or a case (or multiple cases), over time, through detailed, in-depth data collection involving multiple sources of information and rich in context” (Creswell and Maietta, 2002, p. 162). Moreover, in this research after getting consent, the life history interview was conducted with three international students who are from Kurdistan. They spent about two years living in the United Kingdom to learn the English Language and to gain their master's degrees.
Case study approach provides insight into an issue or theme by understanding the issue or theme in-depth (McMillan and Schumacher, 2010; Punch, 2009). “Case study method attempts to discover unique features and common traits shared by all persons” in the study (Miller and Salkind, 2002, p. 20). As the nature of the case study approach is to investigate a topic in-depth, (Punch, 2009) highlights the characteristics of case study approach such as having boundaries set to define the study, specificity of the case to give focus to the research, and intentional attempts to preserve originality (wholes, unity and integrity) of the case.
The constructivist only suggests ideas or individual judgments about the nature. The majority of constructivists would argue that this research is a kin to fiction while positivists aspire to a science of community (Marsh and Furlong, 2002). The constructivism of qualitative is emphasis on the real event through empirical (Amare, 2004). On the other hand, a qualitative approach is supported by constructivist ontology. According to Merriam (1998), this assumes that meaning is embedded in the participants’ experiences and that this meaning is mediated through the investigator's own perception. I will use qualitative methods to explain culture shock and stress among international students during studies. The main aim to using qualitative research is to get answers for the research questionnaires which I have outlined in chapter one. Furthermore, from a constructivist point of view, most of the theoretical of qualitative investigations are constructed based on the interactions between people, as well as with the broader social system, and how people see the world (Maxwell, 2006). Farzanfar (2005) argued that the nature of constructivist paradigm believes that the main purpose of the investigations is to understand the special phenomenon, rather than extending to the census. Investigators in the construction paradigm are natural group and they have to be a group of experienced individuals, to allow constructivists paradigm apply to the real world. Qualitative research approaches frequently rely on individual contacts between researchers and groups being studied (Ulin et al., 2004). The information obtained from the research and in-depth background may lead to a deeper understanding and to established partnerships with the participants of the study. The research within a constructivist paradigm for collecting data uses in-depth interviews.
Qualitative methodology is a progressively significant method and it can be practically applied in different social sciences. Moreover, the qualitative method is useful because it deals with descriptive data and it richly analyses the recorded data (Bogdan and Biklen, 1998). A qualitative research has specific characteristics that are different from other methods. As Marshall and Rossman (2006, p.2) noted, '' qualitative research methods in general are pragmatic, evolving, naturalistic and emergent''. The research methods applied should be based on a thorough discussion of the theoretical grounding, studying a particular environment to generate or discover a theory that describes it. For example, it would be important to understanding the meaning of "inclusion" from the perspectives of the special needs student, the regular student, and the teachers (Allyn and Bacon, 2010). Huff (2009, p.182) defined research methodology as “the principles behind the set of methods used”. It is not possible to carry out research without firstly explaining the methodological grounding. Different methodologies are based on diverse theoretical assumptions that illustrate how a specific method is applied to disclose information. Huff (2009, p.181) observes that “the method and how it is used (in research) are part of the warrant that justifies the leap from data to claim”.
Grounded theory means making and discovering a theory (Glaser and Strauss, 1967). It is the exploration of theory from data systematically gained from social research (Glaser and Strauss, 1967). Furthermore, focus of the methodology is uncovering basic social processes. Firstly, ideal for exploring integral social relationships and the behaviour of groups where there has been little exploration of the contextual factors that affect individual’s lives (Crooks, 2001). Also, get through and beyond conjecture and preconception to exactly the underlying processes of what is going on, so that professionals can intervene with confidence to help resolve the participant's main concerns (Glaser, 1978)
Grounded theory in social science research has some advantages and disadvantages. The plentiful data from individuals’ experiences, a systematic and accurate procedure are the advantages (Charmaz, 2006). However, the disadvantages are in overcoming subjectivity of reliability and validity of approaches and information. It is hard to detect and overcome investigator-induced bias in showing results; the one thing which makes them hard to present in a manner that is suitable for use by practitioners is the highly subjective nature of the results (Offredy and Vickers, 2010).
3.1.2: Selection of Qualitative Research Rationale
The research pattern was a central or generic qualitative study that "wants to find and comprehend a process, a phenomenon, or the worldviews and the visions of the people concerned" (Merriam, 1998, p.11). The basis for this decision stemmed from the individual character of the enquiries that I wanted to reply to, as well as from my faith in the subsistence of the social constitution of multiple validities. Via individual interviews in a safe place and a methodical review of the magazine entries of the three participators for more than a 4-week period, the knowledge of these individuals was able to be stated in a more inclusive and meaning-sensitive style than an assistant alone could have achieved. This in-depth expedition of a selected small number of professional people, rather than a surface level study, caused many people to give a more perfect "picture" of the phenomenon for these individuals, that assisted to reveal "concrete", i.e., the attendance of the common in the uncommon (Erickson, 1986, pp. 119-161).
The second point is that in qualitative research the flexibility inherent left me persistently open to the appearance of dilemmas and/or perceptions in the study. The proficiency to vary (or alter thoroughly) inquiries in interviews, for example displayed the developed nature of the research. Through transcribing and translating the information assembled from these two devices on a regular basis, as well as regularly monitoring with myself as the interviewer, I have the ability to continually contrast the discoveries with my suppositions and creating variances accordingly if and when required. Potentially valued insights would have been lost without having this freedom to search.
3.1.3: Ethical Considerations
Apart from the theoretical and methodological considerations, ethical consideration was another important tenet that guides the design and practices of this study. The ethical considerations undertaken in this study embraced the principles of participation, and protection.
184.108.40.206: Principle of Participation
Embracing the principle of participation, participants were invited to volunteer in this research in a non-coercive manner. Respondents who were interested to volunteer were emailed copies of the participant consent form. This information disseminated was meant to help potential participants to have freewill and make informed decisions about their involvement. All participants who agreed to volunteer for this research completed and signed the consent form before any interview recording took place. The signed Consent Forms were stored in a secured place.
220.127.116.11: Principle of Protection
The second principle of protection was incorporated by taking an active role to consider the safety, privacy, and confidentiality of the research participants. Participants were protected from harm and deceit. The interviews were arranged in places of minimal physical risk upon agreement with the participants. At the start of every interview session, each participant was briefed on the right to withdraw from participation at any point of time, even after the interview session was completed. In addition, pertinent points on the Information Sheet on participant’s rights and protection were highlighted. Opportunity was also given to participants to clarify any inquiry one may have concerning the study. It was agreed upon with the participants in this study that their identities would remain confidential and pseudonyms were used in the reporting of their sharing. Furthermore, identifying features such as names were removed from the transcripts to maintain the right of privacy and confidentiality of the participants. All digital interview recordings were deleted after this study was completed and the transcripts were stored in a secured place.
3.1.4: Thematic Analyses and In-depth Semi-Structured Interview
The thematic analysis method is to analyse transcribed data, because it is not a complex method, but it allows complex issues to be highlighted clearly from the data; it is also flexible, relatively easy, and a quick method to learn (Braun and Clarke, 2006). The research also considers the process of conducting focused in-depth interviews (May, 1957). Semi-structured interviews were conducted with three participants who have experience in the culture shock and stress. Besides, the in-depth interviews have several advantages, the most important of which was to secure confidentiality whereby the informants felt secure and at ease in sharing sensitive information with the interviewer. In an interview, informants usually provide details of their personal status, skills, viewpoints, and conducts. Interviewers need to be confidential so that they do not affect the informants’ responses (Sharp and Healey-Etten, 2010).
In addition, in-depth interviews permit researchers to gather a great deal of information within a limited period of time; they also allow the researchers to work with a population who are geographically detached. Lastly, interviews adjust to the diverse circumstances, allowing the researchers to gather data from, for example, both the city and the countryside (Bowles and Wisconsin Univ, 1978). In this study, the focused individual interview will be employed. The focus was on in-depth interview that can be used to gather information on what participants think and why they think as they do about, for example, preparation and shared experience. It is a qualitative research method that can be integrated within other research procedures or be used alone.
3.1.5: Data Collection
Doing semi-structured interviews, the topics to be discussed were decided upon in advance, but the ordering of them varied between the different interviews (Kvale, 1996; Fog, 2004). Each interview started with an introduction to the general aims of the study and the information given in the invitation letter was repeated. After this, respondents were asked to sign a consent form. The interview guide consisted of two main parts. In the first part, general questions about background information were asked for; in the second, the participants’ experiences about culture shock and stress among international students during studies. Topics to be discussed were the same and included questions about: What in your opinion could be done to help international students overcome their culture shock and stress? What are the factors that the British culture has and that affect the international students? Also, what are the differences in the attitudes of the students who come from various countries regarding the cultural shock and stress? How do they balance benefits with these experiences of stress? How might this research into their experiences help future students? At the end of the interview the participants were asked if there was something else they would like to tell. This was to assure that aspects they thought important were not left out. However, although all respondents were introduced to, or introduced themselves to, the main topics, the specific questions were not meant as fixed or obligatory, and in most interviews, the questions turned out to be redundant.
All the interviews were tape-recorded. Because body language sometimes is crucial for understanding the meaning of an utterance I also took notes. Sometimes this was done during the interview, at other times right after. Another preventive action taken to avoid direct misunderstandings was that I often summarized what they said during the interview and asked whether or not my interpretation was correct.
The interviews were conducted at the University area. The length of the interviews lasted from one hour. The participants decided if they wanted to be interviewed in Kurdish or English.
The data generated from individual interviews cannot be generalized to a large population, but can give detailed information about the individual interviewed. The focus interview is an in-depth, face- to- face interview of a purposive sampling of a target population (Connaway, 1996). As Connaway (1996) puts it, the discussion is carefully planned and focused on a particular topic to explore the perception of the interviewees in a non-threatening, environment. Each interviewee took a part on a moderated interactive discussion and responded to ideas and comments based on the topic supplied by the researcher. In addition, one participant provided extra information, it is part of the ethical awareness that the researcher clearly understands his/her goal in the interview process and follows the basic guidelines. Connaway (1996) observed that, during an interview, the researcher asks questions and guides the discussion, but she/he remains neutral, she/he selects the statements and questions and explores the topic in order to obtain the desired information. She/he needs to be trained in focused in-depth interview techniques, be a good communicator, who puts the interviewees at ease and encourages them to share their ideas; she/he needs to introduce any observers, to discuss the purpose of the interview and to inform the group about the use of audio tape recording equipment, as well as introducing the note taker. The sample should consist of seven people chosen with a homogeneous background, rather than homogeneity in attitudes toward the topics discussed in the interview. The participants must be screened and chosen with care in relation to the research question. The literature suggests the coordinators of the focused in-depth interviews to develop a screening questionnaire, identify more potential participants than actually needed, and notify the selected participants again before the scheduled interviews for confirmations (Connaway, 1996).
3.1.6: Data Analysis
This study employed what is generally referred to as theme-centred (Thagaard, 2003) or category-based analysis (Holter, 1996). Braun and Clarke (2006) describe a specific theme-centred analysis they call thematic analysis. One of the advantages of this type of analysis is its theoretical freedom (Braun and Clarke, 2006). Thematic analysis can be either inductive or theory-driven. This analysis was driven both by theoretical interest and the nature of the data, consequently, the thesis reports a type of abductive analysis (Thagaard, 2003; Alvesson and Sköldberg, 2009). This means that the analysis recognizes the dialectical relationship between theoretical perspective and data analysis. At the same time, the focus is on the respondents’ own experiences, and the study thus builds on principles from inductive research.
Moreover, the analysis took a semantic approach, that is, the themes were identified from the explicit or surface meanings of the data (Braun and Clarke, 2006). This is in contrast to analyses at the latent level, where the researcher goes beyond what the respondents actually said in order to identify underlying ideologies or ideas that govern what people say.
For the analysis I started with reading through all the interviews to get an overview, whereupon I went back to each interview transcript and read them carefully. In this second reading a line-by-line coding was done ascribing each sentence in the interviews a code that described the main essence of it. In this study, the initial codes were both inductive and deductive, which means that they originated both from my own theoretical understandings and from the respondent themselves (Miles and Huberman, 1994). Thus, I do not argue that the codes emerged exclusively from the data, a claim that would have been criticized by many scholars practicing thematic analysis (Holter, 1996; Fog, 2004; Braun and Clarke, 2006).
In the guidelines for conducting thematic analysis made by Braun and Clarke (2006) all data are coded, and codes are gathered into more and more abstract codes until they represent a theme or a pattern. In this analysis, the coding of the material was based on the principles described by Braun and Clarke (2006). After the initial coding, codes were merged into larger units organizing those that were similar in meaning content. This merging of codes into larger units persisted until there remained only a few. However, the next step in the analysis integrating codes into themes proved to be more difficult as the authors do not specify how codes becomes themes, or what constitutes a “pattern”. In this study, a theme was defined as the smallest unit that in a meaningful way could express the codes that were included in it. For instance, a theme could represent an underlying concept that the included codes could be seen as an expression of, or it could give meaning to “similar” codes with divergent content by pointing directly to the inconsistency. At the end, themes were formed, describing how the participants experienced about them and what their point of view was.