international students at TU Ilmenau admitted in ... Ilmenau admitted in SS13 and WS13/14. Each focus ..... station and he had a car, what was very convenient.
Prof. Dr. Jens Wolling
Qualitative and Quantitative Methods
How Do Newly Admitted International Students Communicate their Problems in the German Reality? Yulia An ∙ Pablo Correa ∙ Ramona Gigl ∙ Jirata Tienphati
WS 2013/14 Institute of Media and Communication Science TU Ilmenau
Table of Contents Methods 4 Overview of the findings 6 Hypotheses 9 Guideline 10 Transcripts 12 Presentation slides 16 Notes form 20 Consent form 22
Illustrations by Ben Tolman | www.bentolman.com
How Do Newly Admitted International Students Communicate Their Problems in the German Reality? Yulia An ∙ Pablo Correa ∙ Ramona Gigl ∙ Jirata Tienphati
The research focuses on exploring the problems that international students encounter in the first year of their studies in Germany and the ways they communicate them. Under "communication" we imply the way students address their problems – whom do they seek help from, which mediums do they use to deliver these problems (as messages) and in which form do they deliver these messages. The research targeted at the international students at TU Ilmenau admitted in SS 2013 and WS 2013/2014, who were interviewed in the form of a focus group discussion. Relevance The topic resonates to a great degree with our team on a very personal level, since three of the four team members are international students who have just
embarked on their studies at TU Ilmenau and have already faced some problems. In 2012 the share of international students at TU Ilmenau was ca. 11.2 % (31.10.2012). And this number is gradually increasing with the university expanding its international cooperation with universities in East and Central Europe, Asia, Latin America, Middle East and USA (e.g. University of Central Florida). Though contributing to the growth and cultural enrichment of TU Ilmenau, the inflow of new students from around the world creates significant concerns about their integration into the German university community. Thus, the problems that students face right at the beginning of their study and the ways in which they communicate them represent one of the most vital issues being a sore point for hundreds of incoming students today and having further implications in future. ■
M ethods 1. Focus Group We conducted two focus groups formed on the basis of German language knowledge from the sample of students of TU Ilmenau admitted in SS13 and WS13/14. Each focus group lasted ca. 1.5 hours and was audio recorded. Each team member either moderated or assisted at one of the two sessions. We prepared the same set of questions and guidelines for both focus groups. However, due to the selection factor (based on German knowledge) we expected the results of the two groups to be different, what was actually true when we concluded the results of the study. 1.1 Before session Prior to the session we made a few important pre-arrangements. First of all, we developed a focus group protocol for a moderator and a focus group notes form for an assistant, and then distributed roles and decided who will moderate and assist at each session. Then we prepared handson materials, took photos for the second part of the session, and booked a room in Ernst-Abbe-Zentrum. We also prepared focus group consent forms and sent electronic versions of these forms to all participants. The consent forms informed participants about the goals of the study, confidentiality matters, benefits, as well as risks and discomforts of participating in the focus group. We asked the participants to read forms carefully through and give their agreement to participate. 1.2 During session To create friendly and informal atmos-
phere we prepared some drinks and ordered pizza. This made focus group participants feel more relaxed and open for discussion. Before starting a focus group discussion we distributed two copies of consent forms to each of the participant and asked to sign both papers. One copy of the form was a participant’s copy, while the other one was given back to the research group members. All group members were present at each session with one moderator, one assistant, and two observers. The moderator was guiding a group discussion, while the assistant was taking notes and made some concluding remarks at the end of each session. The two observers were not involved into the discussion as active participants. However, they could make their comments on a general flow of discussion at the end of the session that provided a fresh and relatively objective feedback.
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1.3 After session The research group discussion followed each of the sessions. We discussed general trends along with unexpected details and compared the results with our initial assumptions. This discussion was not conclusive but provided us with a general overview of the results. 2. Analysis of Transcripts We distributed our two audio recordings for transcription among all group members. Participants’ names were coded to avoid bias. For the analysis of focus group transcripts we used a traditional content analysis method conducted in the software MAXQDA.
2.1: We selected broad categories stemming from our initial assumptions and reflected in the focus group guideline. After a general review of the transcripts we added four more categories. Each category was color-coded. We put colors in brackets after each category. One color was used for both a code and its subcodes. We allocated particular phrases to each category. Intersections were possible to discover relationships between the categories.
• • • • • •
Background information Problems Message receiver Medium of communication Form of communication Communication barriers
• • • •
Experiences in Germany Improvements Solving problems Thoughts/Impressions/Knowledge/Opinions
2.2: We developed subcategories to obtain a more detailed picture of the content. As a result, the following codebook was created for the further analysis: • Background information (light green) ▶ Expectations • Experiences in Germany (dark green) ▶ Positive experiences • Problems (violet) ▶ Arrival to Germany ▶ Problems outside the campus ◉ Opening hours ◉ Financial difficulties ◉ Ausländerbehörde ◉ Trains ▶ Problems on campus ◉ Integration ◉ Information provided ◉ Technical problems ◉ Academic problems • Medium of communication (red) • Form of communication (orange) The codebook turned out to be widely elaborated in breadth and depth, as we tried both to cover as much different categories as we could and to get a more detailed overview of each category.
• Message receiver (dark blue) ▶ Lecturers ▶ Examination office ▶ International office ▶ Friends (other students) ▶ Others ▶ Buddy ▶ ASC ▶ we4you • Communication barriers (blue) ▶ Language ◉ German language skills ▶ Culture ◉ Cultural similarities ◉ Cultural differences ◉ Stereotypes ◉ Food and drinking • Solving problems (light blue) ▶ Suggestions for improvement • Thoughts/Impressions (yellow) ▶ TU Ilmenau ▶ Ilmenau (city) ▶ Germany and Germans
2.3: We used quantitative content analysis tools of the software to get the sense of general trends – observe frequencies of occurrence and inter-category relationships. This gave us solid basis for data interpretation. To interpret the data we used text excerpts for finding important hints and details for explaining results of quantitative analysis.
O v erv iew of findings 3. General findings We found that our decision to use German knowledge variables was quite important. As we expected, the results of two sessions turned out to be quite different, though similarities could be also observed. As shown in Graph 2, the predominant topics of the discussion in the session with non-German speakers were communication barriers which are closely linked to language and culture (coded in blue). The discussion of academic problems, however, was predominantly discussed among the German-speakers (shown in Graph 1, coded in violet). Interestingly, the non-German speaking group was generally more positive about sharing their problems, while the mood inside the German speaking group was more aggressive with participants being less satisfied with their current condition. Consequently, our initial assumption that students who speak German will face fewer problems and can easier integrate into the German academic system didn’t find a strong proof. Yet, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the German-speakers have more problems. Our new assumption will rather be that students who speak German and those who don’t face different problems. The mood of the group also depends on group dynamics. First, there were more participants in the first focus group (German-speakers) than in the second one. Second, there were few participants who were dominating the discussion. For example in the first group these “leaders” had a more negative attitude toward their
current problems. And finally, half of the students in the non-German speaking group were second-semester students enrolled in SS 2013 and, thus, had more time for dealing the most urgent problems and getting used to the new academic environment 3.1 Encountered problems As shown in Table 1 (next page), over half of the problems discussed during the two sessions were problems that students faced on campus. This may have several implications. One of them is that on-campus issues cover the most essential constituents of student life. For both groups these were technical issues, academic matters, and lack of information. However, for the two latter subcategories participants mentioned different concerns, while facing the same technical problems like Internet and phone connections: “The only problem was that I couldn’t connect to the internet when I came here. I needed to send an e-mail to my parents and I had no phone at this time.” (FG2, P3, p. 4, l. 95-96) In terms of information gap participants of the non-German speaking group generally mentioned lack of information in English, e.g. on the university website or email announcements: “Announcements are also really important because any announcements every year are done in German only, for example the ‘active students’ emails. So, whenever I see them in my mailbox I just click ‘delete’.” (FG2, P3, p. 14, l. 439-441) German speakers, however, complained
Graph 1: Document’s portrait: Session one
Graph 2: Document’s portrait: Session two
about lack of clarity about their study program and the APC that they need to take: “But I was really disappointed that the system is not clear. I don’t know when the introduction or welcome [session] from the faculty is. Everything is unclear, for example, when the study starts or what courses you should register. It’s not clear at all.” (FG1, P7, p. 4, l. 112-115) Problems outside the campus included the complicated train connection. Moreover this was the first problem that students of both groups experienced as they just arrived to Germany (cf. FG 1, P5, p. 5, l. 126-127; cf. FG 2, P2, p. 3, l. 79-80). The opening hours were another unexpected issue mentioned by both of the groups and part of the problems they have to face outside the campus (cf. FG 2, P3, p. 7, l. 198; cf. FG 1, P5, p. 5, l. 131-132). 3.2 Influence of cultural background The results from two focus groups showed no differences in patterns of communication across different cultures. However, we observed higher unanimity in terms of expectations and social behavior from students coming from similar cultures. “My country is in the eastern part of the world. How to adapt myself with this Western culture where people are freer to express themselves? You can do whatever you want, but, for example, in Indonesia you cannot buy or drink beer and other alcoholic drinks freely in the middle of the society.” (FG 2, P4, p. 6, l. 165-168) or “For them [Germans] the personal area is important, they are more individualistic. Like for us, I can easily go and make a joke to Ratna [Indonesian] but I need to think when I do it to Ramona [German].” (FG 2, P3, p. 11, l. 324-326) However, the language concern was mentioned as even more important than
Frequency Percentage 6 8,6 Arrival in Germany 45 64,3 Problems on campus 19 27,1 Problems outside the campus Total 70 100,0 Table 1: Frequency and percentage of the mentioned problems
cultural differences. This partially supports our assumption that non-German speakers experience culture gap to a greater extent than those speaking German and, thus, have more communication barriers too. The following quotation shows this clearly: “Basically I would say it is more than different culture. In fact, Europeans are geographically close to Germany, like France, and have similar culture. So, I think it is more about the language base. As international students we have a stronger need to establish social links and friendships than German students because even if they are not originally from Ilmenau, this is still their country, so they feel safer.” (FG 1, P5, p. 10, l. 276-280) 3.3 Forms of communication and use of media To solve their problems non-German speaking students mostly referred to other people and used body language and Google Translate (cf. FG 2, P2, p. 4, l. 83-85). Yet none of the participants mentioned that they preferred Internet over personal communication. Even the non-German speakers didn’t express any preference to either personal or (electronically) mediated communication. Participants of both focus groups were unanimous in their way of communicating problems. Thus, we observed a general two-step communication pattern: first, to send an email; second, to visit personally. “For me it is more effective when you go directly to the person. At least you can send an email first to arrange an appointment, and then you can tell everything. If we just rely on the email, I don’t think it will be effective if you need to solve the problem urgently.” (FG 2, P4, p. 17, l. 512-514) or
“In first step you write an email. […] If you just go it’s scarier, besides, if they are in a meeting, or not available, we are going to waste our time.” (FG 1, P3, p. 14, l. 411-412) 3.4 Message Receivers In general, message receivers mentioned throughout two discussions were international office, examination office, we4you, buddies, friends, ASC, lecturers, Studentenwerk, Ausländerbehörde, sports complex, language center, Hausmeister, program manager, and student counselor. Regardless a variety of message receivers mentioned, we found a tendency that students preferred to communicate their problems to their peers, friends or buddies. As shown in Table 2, the frequencies of occurrence of these two subcategories comprise the highest share of message receivers mentioned. Very popular for international students to communicate their problems is the we4you association. Another important message receiver is the international office. However, this university body is perceived rather negatively (cf. FG 1, P5, p. 7, l. 181). 3.5 Other interesting results A strong relationship was found between form and medium of com-munication. The further implication of that may be designing two categories as a single category rather than having them as two distinct variables. Another interesting relationship was discovered between the students’ experiences and thoughts about Germany. The positive experiences are more related to impressions and thoughts about Germany and Germans rather than on the study program or the university. The expectations the students had regarding Germany and the Germans were also fulfilled. In general, expectations were mentioned in both groups as an important condition
Frequency Percentage 4 7,6 ASC 7 13,2 Buddy 3 5,7 Examination Office 8 15,0 Friends (other students) 6 11,3 International Office 4 7,6 Lecturers 7 13,2 we4you 14 26,4 Others Total 53 100,0 Table 2: Frequency and percentage of the mentioned messsage receivers.
for integration and problem solving. The lack of information and high expectations are increasing uncertainty. The learning curve can be also applied: “It’s also about your expectations. At the beginning when you come here you have higher expectations. But after a while you just say: ‘Come on, I must have been be so stupid to think in that way.’ ” (FG 2, P3, p. 20, l. 629-631) Furthermore, we were delighted that all participants were very active in sharing their opinion, especially in suggesting ways to improve. One of these suggestions was to create better conditions for integration of English speaking students by introducing welcome tours in English and courses about German culture. “I think that they should have [better] introductory tours for English speaking students.” (FG 1, P5, p. 12, l. 361) or “I have one suggestion. When I was studying about different courses in the universities in different countries I found some courses related to their culture. For example, here in our master program we have to take four credits for nontechnical courses. And some universities in some countries offer courses about their culture. I think it’s a good idea to have some mandatory courses about German culture.” (FG 2, P2, p.23, l. 702-706)
hypotheses H1. The worse a student speaks German, the more will he use non-verbal communication to solve his problems. Independent variable: German skills; Dependent variable: type of communication to solve problems. H2. The worse a student speaks German, the more will he use smartphones, electronic dictionaries and other electronic devices in communicating his problems. Independent variable: German skills; Dependent variable: use of electronic devices in communicating problems.
In the following section you can find a list of hypotheses based on the results and findings of our focus group research. The hypotheses will be further tested in a quantitative research (online questionnaire).
H3. The better a student speaks German, the more will he seek help directly from official university agencies. Independent variable: German skills; Dependent variable: seeking help from officers (compared to friends and buddy). H4. The worse a student speaks German, the more will he rely on the help of other students rather than official university agencies. Independent variable: German skills; Dependent variable: other students being communicated. H5. If a student has good German skills, he will prefer to communicate problems face-to-face. Independent variable: German skills; Dependent variable: seeking face-to-face communication. H6. If a student communicates his problems to other students, he will solve them more effectively than communicating them to official agencies. Independent variable: communicating problems to other students; Dependent variable: effectiveness of problem-solving. H7. If a student communicates a problem to an official university agency, then he will follow a two-step approach (first, mediated communication, e.g. send an e-mail; second, face-to-face communication, e.g. meet personally). Independent variable: problems communicated to official university agencies; Dependent variable: a two-step approach.
transcript 0 1 P7: My name is Olivia Deskarina, I am 25 years old from Indonesia. [...] Germany is modern and has the best image for education. Why TU Ilmenau? Because it’s the only university that has media and communication programme in English. P3: My name is Vivien Chandra, I am 22 years old. I come from Indonesia. I will be studying mechatronic for my master and I chose germany in particular because they have a very good preference course in mechatronic study and Ilmenau is one of the universities that have mechatronics as a master degree. P2: My name is Reza, i come from Indonesia. I am 24 years old. [...] I have the scholarship to study in Germany and I chose Ilmenau because the programme is the only research programme in my interest. P4: My name is Sayoko Kodera, I come from Japan. I am 23 years old. I am studying electric engineering, the reason why I chose germany is because I wanted to study renewable sources of energy and Germany is really famous for this area, that’s why I chose Germany. But for the bachelor student there are not so many opportunities to study this subject. So that’s why I chose to study electric engineering. And the reason why I chose Ilmenau is because this university, was the only that gave me an acceptance. P1: I am Kafeel and I come from India. The reason why I chose Germany is that when you want to get the best you have to get it from the best. So, I came to Germany. In TU Ilmenau the curriculum suits me very well. I’m doing my master in media and communication.
TRT: 1:14:00 Session 1: “German speakers” Moderator: Pablo Correa Assistant: Jeera-Pa Tienphati
Transcript 01 contains 17 pages. In this preview we included pp. 1-5. Full text is available as a separate document.
Participants: 7 (2 male | 5 female) Coding: M = Moderator A = Assistant P1 = male, India P2 = male, Indonesia P3 = female, Indonesia P4 = female, Japan P5 = female, Spain P6 = female, Vietnam P7 = female, Indonesia
P5: My name is Silvia Sanchez, I am 23 years old, I am from Spain. I am in the preparation course to join the master in media and communication next semester. And the reason I chose germany was because Germany seems to be monopolize[r] in the debate in Europe and plus compared to Spain it’s much cheaper for me to study here and I chose Ilmenau because they have master in media in English. M: We are going to talk now about your previous experiences. I want you to think back on your first week or even months in Germany. Which was the most positive experience of that time and which is the most troublesome experience? We don’t have any order, so, anyone who has a thing about it can share... P5: [...] I arrived on October, 2 and was
on campus around 3 p.m. By that time the only office that I could find open was we4you. They were nice enough to let me know about the procedures but then they told me that in fact all offices are closed and tomorrow is the holiday. So it took me more than a week to even do what they consider as basic first step for all the students and this was a huge surprise for me. For me my arrival in Ilmenau was kind of like impovising because I received the admission letter on September, 17. So it arrived very late. [...] M: And any positive experience? P5: My most positive experience would be some of the activities when I got to know more people. P1: My arrival was different because I joined the buddy programme from the university. The buddy was very helpful because I arrived in Ilmenau around 3 a.m. It was the first week of April, so it was snowing and he came along near mensa to take me and arranged everything, like getting the room key. We did everything in a very next day. So, one thing which might be kind of negative was that he was so interested in finishing everything that even I had to say, “I am so tired.” [...] P3: My arrival is quit similar because I joined this buddy programme as well. I missed the train because I had to transit in Frankfurt. I only had 7 minutes and a lot of luggage. So I missed the train and arrived quite late in Ilmenau but luckily I joined the buddy programme and my buddy was wating for me at the station and he had a car, what was very convenient. So it’s quite positive. The difficulty, currently I try to figure it out how to get by this programme. Actually I have something to do with my faculty and on my acceptace letter they state that
I need to stay here for two years to take extra subjects. [...] So now I am trying to get them let me do my master degree without having extra subjects being done by me. So right now it is my difficulty. Above that I don’t have any problems. P4: I got the acceptance at the beginning of October, it too late, and so came here in the second week of October. I mean that I missed whole [introductory] stuff. That’s why I have no friends in my class, it is a really big problem right now. We have a lot of international students, but in my faculty there are just Germans and so that it’s a bit difficult to get used to the Germans, because they are not so friendly as compared to other people, international students. But positive, we have a lot of opportunities to get to know other people. P7: I also joined the buddy programme and I think it really helped me a lot because before I came here I already delt all the procedures that I had to go through to get my insurance and other things. I also asked an Indonesian student about the procedures and my buddy was really helpful. And then same like Kafeel she was really obsessed to get all the things done in one day. [...] because she also said that it’s not easy to deal with German bureaucracy. [...] but I was really disappointed because the system is not clear. I don’t know when the introduction or welcome [session] from the faculty is. Everything is unclear, for example, when the study starts or what courses you should register for. It’s not clear at all. But as the time goes by it becomes clearer, but still it’s not clear with some subject that I have to take and then you need to do self study. Then the point of having self study, is that it depends on your moods, your motivation. [...]
transcript 0 2 P4: My name is Ratna. I'm from Indonesia and this is my second semester with Mona. I'm studying media and communication science because I'm told to do so by my scholarship programme. They chose this university for us and I just applied for this university and here I am. P3: I'm Salih Günay. I'm from Turkey, Istanbul and it is officially my second semester, but my third semester here in Ilmenau. I'm also studying media and communication master programme. Actually I was interested to go abroad and I heard that Germany is pretty good for education. You don't have to pay any fee and then I've searched on the DAAD webpage and this was the only English programme. Then I applied and I'm here right now. But another factor is that one of my professors in my Bachelor university was here as an exchange professor. She gave some lesson here during one year and she also wrote me a reference letter. I think this was affecting to get acceptance here. P2: I'm from Iran. I'm 31 years old and I'm studying master of science in communcation and signal processing in English language. And one of the most important reasons that I've chosen Germany and this university are about free education in Germany. Also I'm so interested in German engineering thoughts. I searched for different communication programmes in Germany and I found this programme very close to my interests. Then I've chosen this university and this country. P1: I'm from Bangladesh. Basically why I've come here: In Bangladesh people
TRT: 1:52:50 Session 2: “Non-German speakers” Moderator: Yulia An Assistant: Ramona Gigl
Transcript 02 contains 29 pages. In this preview we included pp. 1-5. Full text is available as a separate document.
Participants: 4 (3 male | 1 female) Coding: M = Moderator A = Assistant P1 = male, Bangladesh P2 = male, Iran P3 = male, Turkey P4 = female, Indonesia
regard Germany as a country of engineers and there are two reasons and one is that the degrees of Germany are valuable. They have value all over the world. And another thing are economic reasons. Right now when people go to USA, or Australia, or Canada, that would be much costly. But if they come to Germany it will be affordable. So this is another reason. And I'm here in the course MSCSP, masters of communication and signal processing. This is my first semester and I choose this university because of the course modules. This is pretty similar to my course. In Bangladesh I have completed my BSc in information and communication engineering after that I worked for two years and then I came here. Basically Ilmenau is a nice place and the course module is so attractive for communication engineers. M: Thank you. So now let's think back about the first weeks because some of
you are a bit longer here, but can you remember the positive moments that struck you when you came to Germany? What kind of problems did you face during the first weeks or maybe months of your presence here? P4: The biggest problem for me was that I don’t really speak German. Once I got here at Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof I still felt this is the real world, because there are English words everywhere. But when I got to the Erfurt Hauptbahnhof I just was like, «Where the hell is it? Is it a kind of an alien [planet] or something?» I didn't even know one word. [...] When I got here I expected that Ilmenau is kind of a middle or medium or medium-sized or big city, not as big as Berlin, but maybe it is a typical German city. But when I came here: «Where is it? Oh, so this is the city?! The city I have to live for about one and a half year?» Okay, it is a nice city, but it is really quiet and is very different from where I used to live in Jakarta, Indonesia. When I got in touch with the ASC's officers, the girls are not very nice, but the others are nice. I first met my German student [buddy] here, he is Peter. Peter was the first person that I knew at the time and he is really nice. And he has been to Indonesia before, so we had a nice conversation. I also finally got to know my other friends [...], and they are all nice. So first I've heard that German people are cold, have individualistic personality, but I don't know, I think I don't find that kind of persons here. P2: I have the same problem as she, I didn't know any German and I was so confident of entering a country without knowing the language. When I was at the Hauptbahnhof I was lost for the first time. In Erfurt I lost my train and I didn't know how to get the next train. I asked
everybody, young people, old people, asked them how to catch the next train and they couldn't answer to me. They said I'm sorry I just know German. They don't know English and I don't know German. And another problem is that many of the letters and e-mails are in German language and I usually use Google translate... or some friends to translate it, but actually it is very hard to understand the concept of the e-mails or letters. It is one of the most important problems that I have. P4: Yes, even when you want to ask the officers in the information center in Erfurt. They don't speak English at all. P3: Come on, in the Ausländerbüro they can't speak English, but you're expecting. I heard also from other people they had a lot of problems when they came here. But I feel I'm so lucky because when I came here I flew from Istanbul to Leipzig and I didn't know how to buy a train ticket. So I just asked someone and they showed me those terminals. I just changed the language and bought one. And before I came here, I arranged a buddy for me and she picked me [up] from Erfurt with her car. One day before she came to Studentenwerk and took my key and gave it to me. The only problem was that I couldn't connect to the internet. I needed to send an e-mail to my parents and I had no phone at this time. So I went out and asked an Indian guy, «How can I use the internet?» He gave me his TU Ilmenau username and password and then I could connect to the internet and send an e-mail to my parents. So this was my only problem. But for us, for Turkish people, we just kind of, before we come to Germany, come on, it's Germany, it's Turkish everywhere. But when I came to Ilmenau there were no Turkish people at all. [...] P1: Well, actually, the main problem is language problem. It is a barrier [...].
presentation slides In the following section you can find the slides of a presentation that we delivered in class. The presentation explains our research question, main assumptions and the expected workflow of our qualitative research.
notes form We didn’t include pages 4-7 and 9 for this preview, as they follow the pattern of the page 3 (4-7) and page 8 (9)
Page 2 (top): Description of the session, including information on date, location, number of participants, group category and names of a moderator and an assistant. Page 2 (bottom), 3: Questions as written in the protocol with blank spaces for a brief summary (left) and notable quotes (right).
Page 8: Notes for the jam session include a name of each photo and blank space for comments and quotes. Page 9 (top): Question 20 was skipped as we didn’t have enough time to discuss it. (bottom): Space for making notes of the discussion summary highlighting main points of the session.