Method

Design

This project was longitudinal in design, with participants being invited on 9 occasions to complete an online survey. For each participant the study lasted approximately 18 months, with surveys distributed before, during and after their year abroad. The first survey was assigned approximately 2 months before participants arrival to the host country, and the final survey approximately 6 months after participants return to the home country. The timings for the control participants survey assignments replicated those of the AFS student who nominated them.

The figure below describes the specific timing of the survey assignments (timewaves) distributed around participants travel dates (aeroplane icons). Green diamonds represent surveys assigned pre- and post-exchange. Red diamonds represent surveys assigned during the exchange.

Discribution of surveys over time Distribution of timewaves on a timeline

Procedure

The exchange student participants were initially recruited by the project partner, AFS Intercultural Programs. That is, prospective sojourners were informed about the project and invited to take part. Basic demographic information of interested participants (i.e. name, email, travel dates) was then collated and transferred to the research team.

These participants received an email from the researchers inviting them to learn more about the project. A range of materials were developed to introduce the project to participants including a Facebook page and a Flash website. Further, participants were encouraged to invite up to two non-travelling peers to participate in the study. About two months before travelling, participants were invited to complete the first survey.

A total of 2,480 sojourners and 578 controls took part in the study. Over the duration of the project a total of 17,463 surveys were completed, resulting in a total of 2.5 million unique responses. The following graph shows the frequency of survey completions over the duration of the project, at pre-, during and post-exchange phases.

Peaks in the graph reflect when each of the nine surveys were assigned. Each peak rises quickly and then slowly trails off, showing that large numbers of participants responded soon after the initial invitation (steep rise), while others responded at a later stage, sometimes following email reminders (slow decline in slope).

From the graph we can also discern that the second survey received the most responses in any single week, with almost 1,200 participants responding within a 7 day period. Over the course of the timeline, the peaks get gradually shorter; a natural result of attrition as not all participants remained in the project to the end. Nonetheless, this graph shows that high levels of participation were maintained throughout the project.