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11 Short-term study abroad: motivations, expectations and experiences of students of Aalesund campus

Richard Glavee-Geo er førsteamanuensis ved Avdeling for internasjonal business ved NTNU i Ålesund. Han har ph.d. i logistikk fra Høgskolen i Molde, og hans arbeidsområder er internasjonal markedsføring, markedsanalyse og supply chain management.
Åse Mørkeset er universitetslektor og internasjonal koordinator ved Avdeling for internasjonal business ved NTNU i Ålesund. Hun er cand.philol. og arbeider innenfor fagfeltene interkulturell kommunikasjon, fremmedspråklæring og internasjonalisering.
SammendragEngelsk sammendrag

Sammendrag

Målet med denne undersøkelsen er å se nærmere på studentenes motivasjon, forventninger og erfaringer knyttet til utvekslingsopphold i utlandet. Kapittelet viser hvilke faktorer som påvirker studentenes holdning og intensjon om å dra på utveksling. Basert på dybdeintervju med to studentgrupper, en gruppe som ennå ikke har vært på utveksling, og en gruppe som har gjennomført studentutveksling, diskuteres motivasjon, forventninger og erfaringer gjennom komparative og kontrasterende analyser i hver av de to gruppene studenter. Denne analytiske tilnærmingen gir svært interessant informasjon om studentenes beslutningsprosesser. Kapittelet presenterer dessuten en konseptuell modell, basert på flere regresjonsanalyser av innsamlede data fra 294 respondenter. Det å forstå hvilke faktorer som påvirker studentenes holdning og intensjon om å studere i utlandet, kan gi nyttige retningslinjer til høgre utdanningsinstitusjoner når promotering og markedsføring av utvekslingsopphold i utlandet skal formuleres og gjennomføres.

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to explore students’ motivations, expectations and experiences in embarking on short-term study abroad and to investigate factors that influence students’ attitude and intention to study abroad. Based on in-depth interviews with two groups of students, yet to go abroad and have been abroad, this paper discusses the motivations, expectations and experiences of students by comparing and contrasting these two groups. This analytical approach reveals very interesting insights into the study abroad decision-making process. The paper also presents a conceptual model, which was estimated by use of multiple regression analysis based on data source of 294 respondents. Understanding the factors which influence attitude and intention to study abroad can provide useful guidelines for higher education institutions to consider in the formulation of effective study abroad programs and on how best to promote and market study abroad experiences to Norwegian students.

Keywords: student exchanges abroad,motivation,intention,bachelor,Norway,mixed methods

Introduction

Approximately, 15,700 Norwegian students studied at tertiary institutions in autumn 2013 with the U.K., Denmark, the U.S.A. and Poland as the most popular study abroad destinations (Statistics Norway, 2014). Norwegian students who studied abroad in the autumn of 2013 represented 5.8% of the total number of students in tertiary education in Norway in 2013. Some of the positive outcomes that accrue to students who have studied abroad include increased intercultural proficiency, increased openness to cultural diversity and more global mindedness compared to students remaining in a traditional campus setting. Students in home country tertiary institutions do not experience the complexity, diversity and cultural differences of living in another country as do those that studied abroad.

So what are some of the factors that affect students’ decisions to study abroad? What are the motivations, expectations and experiences of studying abroad? Based on in-depth interviews with two groups of students from Aalesund campus: yet to go abroad and those who have been abroad, this chapter discusses the motivations, expectations and experiences of these two groups of students. This analytical approach reveals insights into students’ decision-making processes and the factors that are of much importance to students’ intentions to study abroad. The paper also presents a model based on the data source of 294 respondents, which shows the key factors that influence attitude and intention to study abroad. Understanding these factors can provide useful guidelines for higher education institutions to consider in the formulation of effective study abroad programs and on how best to promote and market study abroad experiences to Norwegian students.

Appendix A shows outgoing exchange students on short-term study abroad from Aalesund campus from 2010 to 2014. Although annual student numbers have increased over this four-year period, the number of students, as a percentage, that went on study abroad decreased from 2.4% in 2010 to 1.5% in 2014. A chi-square test performed on the number of students that embarked on short-term study abroad from 2010 to 2014, was insignificant (p=0.342). This presupposes that the number of study abroad participants has been stable over the four-year period. Consequently, efforts should be made to significantly increase the number of study abroad participants if the benefits derived from study abroad is to be realized. The rest of the chapter is organized as follows: a review of the literature is done followed by the research methods used in the study. The qualitative results are subsequently presented. The research hypotheses and the conceptual model for the quantitative study are briefly outlined followed by the presentation of results of the quantitative study. Results of the overall study are consequently discussed, and the chapter ends with a conclusion.

Review of the literature

Social and cultural integration, personal development and career aspirations

The extant literature categorizes factors that affect a student’s decision to study abroad into two broad groups, namely: motivators and deterrents (and sometimes both). Motivating factors such as personal development, broader career opportunities, intercultural assimilation, fun or enjoyment and deterrents such as missing family and friends, family and work commitments, language, safety, financial, and graduation concerns have been documented (Payan et al., 2012). The predominant outcomes however appear to be culture-related constructs such as intercultural proficiency, openness to cultural diversity, international awareness, international activities, global-mindedness and environmental attitudes (Clarke et al., 2009, Gullekson et al., 2011, Payan et al., 2012, Rexeisen and Al-Khatib, 2009).

The attributes of study abroad destinations attract students to destinations abroad. Students are likely to compare the attributes of destinations when deciding on where to go. Attributes of a destination significantly influence the image formed of the destination, and this significantly affects behaviour (Kim, 2014). Study abroad involves social interaction with destination residents, which increases students’ understanding of people who are culturally different. Students who expressed an interest in improving their understanding of other cultures and countries had more intention to study abroad compared to those who did not (Stroud, 2010). Twombly et al. (2012) found that students who are interested in interacting with people of different ethnic and racial backgrounds and are interested in improving cross-cultural understanding, are more likely to go abroad. Another common rationale for participating in study abroad is career related. Many students want to go overseas while in tertiary education, in order to improve their future job prospects (Dessoff, 2006, Relyea et al., 2008). Social and cultural capital affect predisposition to study abroad positively.

Information sources, awareness and support mechanisms

Much of the literature cites lack of awareness of study abroad programs as a reason for low participation among all students (Brown, 2002, Brux and Fry, 2010, Stallman et al., 2010). This may be attributed to an inability to find appropriate information stemming from ineffective marketing, few peer models or simply not knowing where to look for information. Where and from whom students get information or encouragement to study abroad is also important (Twombly et al., 2012). Hamir (2011) found that friends and family were good sources whereas faculty members were disturbingly poor. Major social factors which influence potential study abroad participants are peers or significant others, past participants and family members. Goel et al. (2010) identified family support as a subjective/normative belief that is a precursor to the intention to study abroad.

Institutional factors such as funding/sponsorship organizations are also key influencing factors documented in the literature. Goel et al. (2010) study shows that students report cost and location as the most important considerations when choosing a study abroad program. Cost is an important factor, and lack of funding is a key obstacle for going abroad. Doyle et al. (2009) conclude that a key attraction is financial support in the form of a scholarship, and this study identifies funding/sponsorship agencies as key to study abroad. Lånekassen is the main Norwegian public organization that supports educational sponsorship/funding of qualifying Norwegian and non-Norwegian students both within and outside Norway, and is crucial in funding study abroad destinations. Additionally, embassies/consulates, health authorities (e.g. for vaccination), study abroad coordinators and lecturers are identified as constituting critical support mechanisms for study abroad intentions. The level of support from these actors have an impact on attitudes towards studying abroad as well as the intention to do so.

Attitude and intention

Beliefs and attitudes are distinct: beliefs function as indicants of attitudes (Fishbein, 1963, Pyun and James, 2011). Beliefs are immediate determinants of a person’s attitude. Attitude is determined by an individual’s evaluation of the attributes associated with a concept and the strength of these associations. Students as consumers may have favourable or unfavourable attitudes toward study abroad, and those who have positive attitudes towards study abroad will exhibit a higher intention to do so. It is important to note that the factors which influence intent to study abroad, also influence attitude towards study abroad. Thus, while personal motivations expose a range of impetuses to study abroad, these are not mutually exclusive. Most likely it is a combination of all the factors that have been discussed above which impel individual students or groups of students to participate in study abroad (Lucas, 2009, Allen, 2010). According to Twombly et al. (2012, p. 48), these factors ‘… interact in complex ways with students’ human, economic, social, and cultural capital to produce an interest in study abroad’.

Methods

Research design: sequential mixed-method approach

This research utilized sequential mixed-method approach. Our choice of this approach was motivated by the contribution of each method (i.e. qualitative and quantitative) such that one method contributed to the other in a preplanned fashion. The goal was to use what we learn with one method to enhance the other such that the qualitative data provided further insight into the quantitative data. The sequential mixed method approach offers the most successful approach to integrating the results from qualitative and quantitative studies (Morgan, 2014).

Research setting and sample for qualitative inquiry

The study participants are students from Aalesund campus. Aalesund is a popular tourist destination on the western coast of Norway and is internationally known for its location in the fjord region of Sunnmøre County. The city is the hub of Norway’s maritime and fishing industry. NTNU in Aalesund is a satellite campus of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Norway’s largest university with an estimated student population of 38,000 (Berglund, 2015). The Aalesund campus has about 2,250 students and 200 employees. The study took place before the merger, which occurred on 01.01.2016. An initial qualitative phase of this study involved individual face-to-face interviews with two groups of students: five students who had been abroad and five students who were yet to go. The face-to-face interviews enabled a ‘rich and deep’ insight (Eriksson and Kovalainen, 2008, Lincoln and Guba, 1985) into students’ motivations to study abroad. The face-to-face interviews were primarily useful in developing the scales for the survey. However, the narratives from the interviews gave substantial information that served as background for the overall study.

Survey questionnaire development and data collection for quantitative inquiry

The survey questions were first developed in English, then translated into Norwegian and finally back translated. These translations were checked by two other lecturers with expertise and knowledge in business communication, English and Norwegian, to ensure equivalence. A professor of International Business with knowledge and expertise in higher education research helped examine the question items to ensure face validity. Hence, survey questionnaire, though initially formulated in English was translated to Norwegian in order to achieve a higher response rate. Participants were informed about the purpose and objective of the study at the beginning of each data collection session. In all, 350 respondents participated in the survey and completed the questionnaire. Completed questionnaires were examined for missing values leading to 294 (84 percent) valid responses. The sample comprised 58.5 percent women (172) and 41.5 percent men (122). 85.4 percent of respondents are within the age bracket 18–26 and the mean age is 23. The respondents represent all the faculties and year groups, but most are first year bachelor students (72.1 percent) followed by 22.1 percent from the second year (Appendix B). These year groups are usually the target group for study abroad promotional campaigns.

Measurement of constructs

Nine latent variables were measured using a Likert scale from 1 to 7 where increasing values correspond with higher levels of agreement with the question item so that 1 is strongly disagree/ of less importance and 7 is strongly agree/of much importance. Subsequent analysis was based on thirty-four items (indicators), most of which were adapted from the extant literature to preserve content validity. Items measuring group conformity were adapted from Chung and Pysarchik (2000). Information source items were adapted from Llodra-Riera et al. (2015). Host institution image were adapted from Dib and Alnazer (2013). Behavioural intention and attitude items were based on Ajzen and Fishbein (1980). New items for support mechanisms were developed based on Goel et al. (2010) and Kasravi (2009). The question items (indicators) are listed in Appendix C.

Results

Qualitative results

The results of the analysis of the qualitative study are presented as follows:

Motivations to study abroad

The extant literature identified some motivating factors for students who may want to go on study abroad, such as personal development and career aspirations, developing English language skills, having relevant industrial experience and being ready for the job market (Payan et al., 2012, Relyea et al., 2008). Getting away from the home campus and experiencing different cultural settings (Twombly et al., 2012) are other reasons. The following are quotes from the interviewees who are yet to go on study abroad:

English … to be able to have courses in English … A semester in Budapest with English might help me towards a master in England or a master where most courses will be in English.
I think what triggered it was that we wanted to get away for a little while. We have heard a lot from people in the industry that it is positive to get out of the area and see things from the outside as well.
We can get a greater academic benefit than what we would have gotten here (Second year engineering students).

The following are quotes from the interviews from study participants who have been on short-term study abroad:

Yeah, yeah that was my goal, I wanted to get new experience and I wanted to go someplace that nobody has said something about so …
Experience … go someplace where I could travel a lot and still go to school.
For me it was the experience because I was stuck in this school for three years and wanted to do something new … that was my first motivation to get away and experience something new (Third year business students).

Students from both groups demonstrate motivations for study abroad that are consistent with the literature.

Expectations

Students’ motives for studying abroad are often closely linked to their expectations of the benefits/outcomes of doing so. Students have varied expectations regarding events prior to, during, and even after embarking on study abroad. They also have expectations regarding the outcome. These expectations influence decision-making about whether to study abroad as well as the choice of destination. Potential study abroad participants (yet to go) have some expectations concerning short-term study abroad. For example, they have expectations in terms of information needs, safety and convenience of the destination, the image of the host institution and its programs and even expectations concerning funding and support from friends, home and host institutions. In response to questions concerning awareness and information sources about study abroad opportunities, the following are the responses elicited from potential students who are yet to go on study abroad:

Yes … I knew they had exchange possibilities here at the school, so I sought out information about it. … I also sought out those who have participated in an exchange program before (Second year engineering student).
Yes, for me it’s basically the same. I was aware that it was possible. A bunch of us also visited the homepage of the University College and checked there, and we also consulted Student service. We contacted them, and then we went there and got more information. I also have acquaintances, who are in the third year of their bachelor degree and who have been abroad, and they were helpful, so I got information from them too.
… but I have talked to students who have been there, and they were very content with their stay (Second year engineering student).

In response to questions concerning awareness and information sources about study abroad opportunities, the following are the responses elicited from students who have been on study abroad:

In my case when I got a tip from the people who have been there already, I started looking on the internet …
I had the internet yes, because you can find a study abroad where you can go. It depends on your bachelor degree. Yes, mostly internet.
Hials [Høgskolen i Ålesund] website then … you can look where to go.
Yes, I went to the internet for Bangkok university to look at their webpage and to see what courses I could take …
Yeah of course friends … those who already [have been there] talked about it and suggested this is a good place to go (Third year business students).

Information on the websites of most schools, colleges and universities elicit awareness of destinations. Information from peers, acquaintances and students who have been on study abroad are some of the informal sources of information. Previous study abroad participants are therefore credible sources of information for potential study abroad participants. Information from previous participants who have experienced cultural diversity and were ‘immersed’ in the local culture of destination institutions, can be considered as highly credible and useful sources of information for potential study abroad participants.

Experiences

Experience is about creating a memorable and unique event. Emotions and memories are related to experience, place attachment and intention as outcomes (Loureiro, 2014). Emotions are mental states that arise from the evaluation of events or from a consumer’s own thoughts (Jan and Namkung, 2009, Lee et al., 2008). Thus, a study abroad experience may refer to events that elicit positive or negative emotions, which in turn contribute to creating memories. An experience in a study abroad destination (e.g. a place – host institution, local cultural context, unit of accommodation) leads to enhanced memory. In fact, though study abroad is about helping students academically, it is also an occasion to construct stories and collect memories. Memories, as in remembering a particular event, can be formed based on positive or negative experiences of services and goods at a study abroad destination. Memories are likely to act as mechanisms linking the experience to outcomes such as recommendations to others, the intention to return or even post-visit experiences with family and friends (Martin, 2010).

An understanding of the ways in which study abroad participants experience the places and people they visit is key to the marketing of study abroad to students. Their experience provides a focused analysis into motivations, and destination institutions provide the means through which participants avail themselves of the opportunity to have these unmet needs fulfilled. Thus, study abroad destinations that orchestrate memorable events for these students have the highest chance of attracting future participants. The experiences of study abroad participants make them credible sources of information for potential study abroad participants. The following recall the experiences of previous study abroad participants:

I think everything was new … I got a cultural shock.
They [local people] ate dinner … all their meals like … breakfast … was spaghetti. I was like where is the bread and milk so yeah I think everything was new. I had to start with blank sheet … to learn everything from scratch …
We had to learn Thai the language and then we had … to learn how to behave … in different situations and yes … learn how to say ‘hi’, ‘goodbye’ … because that is … polite.’
I was travelling to ten different islands … I experience new cultures … they did different things at different islands.
… and I think that we have learned more English somehow.
So I think the study abroad is important to take a semester … maybe just to have something on your resumé.
… I wanted to experience something new so I was travelling to ten different islands so I think my expectations went really good … yeah, I got home and was really happy (Third year business students).

Study abroad can therefore be described as a memorable event, which can best be marketed as an experience-based offer. Study abroad participants seek authenticity, genuineness and excitement.

Expectations, motivations and experiences

Students’ motives for studying abroad are often closely linked to their expectations of the benefits/outcomes of doing so. In any context, expectations reflect an individual’s anticipation of future events and conditions (Byrne et al., 2012). Experience is about creating a memorable and unique event in the minds of consumers. Study abroad participants seek appealing, unique and memorable experiences shaped by their motivations, expectations, individual perceptions and behaviours. Students going on study abroad generally have high expectations and events and conditions elicit expectations. For example, students have expectations concerning information about study abroad.

The study abroad decision-making process begins with an information search. Most Norwegian students expect the availability of information on study abroad destination options. Despite the availability of formal information sources provided by home and host destination institutions, most students look to previous participants who have been on study abroad. Study abroad participants also expect that the study abroad institutions presented by their home institutions have academic credibility and are accredited. Formal agreements between home and host institutions makes the information search phase of the study abroad decision-making process a manageable task. The following are quotes from students about their expectation of institutional accreditation and teaching at the host institutions.

First, that … there is an agreement with AAUC [Aalesund University College], so that the courses will be accredited here when we come back … that is the most important (Second year engineering student).
I thought of accreditation of the courses and financing and Erasmus and how much it costs, and then it was the place that was further away in Europe … then we started investigating, and then we talked to the two students who had been there (Second year business student).

Study abroad participants also have expectations of financial support by funding agencies. Study abroad involves the incurring of expenses, and the cost of studying abroad is one of the most important influencing factors in the study abroad decision-making process (Goel et al., 2010). Lack of funding is a major limitation in participation in study abroad. Hence, the financial support provided by Lånekassen is crucial not only in enabling travel, but also on the choice of study destination as can be seen from previous participants’ comments:

Then it is also important that expenses are covered by scholarships or loans – how much you have to spend yourself if you go out (Third year business student).
In England there was a big chance that we had to pay tuition fees … which is the main reason why we didn’t choose England … (Third year engineering student).

Career related goals and objectives are common rationale for participating in study abroad. Many students want to go overseas in order to improve their future job prospects (Dessoff, 2006, Relyea et al., 2008). They are motivated by the prospect of personal development in terms of language skills and career aspirations. An undergraduate business student who had yet to go on study abroad said:

I think that if anyone looks at your papers [resume/cv] and sees that you have done an exchange abroad, then they see that you take initiatives, that you actually dare going abroad, that you can adapt … can do things in new ways. Then the language acquisition – important with [increasing level of] globalization. Everybody should consider that positively (Third year business student).

An analytical model was developed based on the literature review and the narratives, as shown in figure 1 to highlight the findings from the qualitative inquiry.


Figure 11.1: Expectations, motivations and experiences.

Research hypotheses and conceptual model for the quantitative inquiry

Factors influencing attitude toward study abroad

Study abroad destination attributes attract students to a study abroad destination. Students are likely to compare the attributes of destinations when deciding on where to go; such attributes significantly influence the formation of the image of the destination. Potential study abroad students may form images about host institutions and the study programs offered, which may influence their attitudes and intentions to study in those institutions. A favourable image is likely to be one important factor in students’ decision to study abroad.

The predisposition to study abroad is influenced by social and cultural capital with students who are interested in interacting with other people of different ethnic and racial backgrounds and are interested in improving cross-cultural understanding being more likely to go abroad (Twombly et al., 2012). Kasravi (2009) identified three main categories of factors that influence the decision to study abroad for coloured students in a U.S context; these are personal, social and institutional. Goel et al. (2010) identified family support as a subjective/normative belief that is a precursor to the intention to study abroad. Institutional factors such as funding/sponsorship organizations are key influencing factors documented in the literature. The level of support from these actors has an impact on the attitude towards study abroad and the intent to study abroad. Hence, we hypothesize that:

H1: Host institution image positively influences attitude to study abroad.
H2: Awareness positively influences attitude to study abroad.
H3: Social and cultural image positively influences attitude to study abroad.
H4: Support mechanisms positively influence attitude to study abroad.

Factors influencing group conformity

Lack of awareness about study abroad opportunities may be attributed to an inability to find appropriate information, as mentioned earlier. The internet constitutes an important communication channel that leverages many traditional information sources (Llodra-Riera et al., 2015). For example, many institutions and study abroad providers transmit information about study abroad opportunities and destinations using web platforms to publish content, including details about study abroad destinations, information on health and safety, study abroad policies and administration; travel registration and information for faculty, parents, families and incoming exchange students among other information services. Information from friends and family; students who have been on study abroad, official websites of home and destination institutions differ in terms of their level of importance. These information sources do not only impact on the extent to which students are aware of study abroad opportunities, but more so on whether they will conform to the social pressure that is brought to bear with the decision to go or not to go on study abroad. In accordance with the discussion above, this study proposes the following hypotheses:

H5: Friends and acquaintances as information sources positively influence group conformity.
H6: Home and host institutions as information sources positively influence group conformity.

Factors influencing intention to study abroad

Beliefs and attitudes are precursors to intentions, which in turn lead to behaviours. Subjective/normative beliefs are an individual’s perceptions that behaviour is influenced by the judgement of significant others. A person’s intention is not only determined by his/her personal characteristics but more so by social influence. The personal factor is the individual’s positive or negative evaluation of performing the behaviour. The subjective norm refers to the person’s perception of the social pressures put on him to perform or not to perform the behaviour in question. Thus, a person’s normative belief, whether important referent individuals approve or disapprove of the behaviour, weighted by his/her motivation to comply with those referents (Montano and Kasprzyk, 2008) is a key influencing factor. Accordingly, subjective norm is related to a ‘social pressure’ to comply.

Potential study abroad participants’ awareness of opportunities may not only induce positive attitudes towards study abroad as a concept, but may also induce a positive disposition towards a behavioural intention to study abroad. Motivation associated with the benefits of going abroad such as cultural assimilation, career and personal development are strong impetuses to study abroad. Expectations of experiencing local culture, learning a foreign language, gaining an international experience and developing oneself for future career opportunities can be considered as the key ‘driving forces’ regardless of the duration of the sojourn abroad. Thus, the social and cultural image of study abroad destinations can neither be ignored nor underestimated. While support from funding organizations, family and friends, study abroad coordinators from home and host institutions among others, provide very strong impetus for the intent to study abroad.

The evaluation of the attributes associated with study abroad and the strength of these associations are key in the decision-making process. Students as consumers may have favourable or unfavourable attitudes toward study abroad, and this may influence their decision to go abroad or not. Hence, students who have positive attitudes towards study abroad will exhibit higher intentions to do so. Based on the above arguments we propose the following:

H7: Group conformity positively influences intention to study abroad.
H8: Awareness positively influences intention to study abroad.
H9: Social and cultural image positively influences intention to study abroad.
H10: Support mechanisms positively influence intention to study abroad.
H11: Attitude positively influences intention to study abroad.

Conceptual model

Based on these hypotheses, a model was developed for testing. The model conceptualized the host institution image, awareness of study abroad opportunities, the social and cultural image of a study abroad destination and support mechanisms as key factors that influence attitude towards study abroad. Friends and acquaintances as information sources, home and host institutions as information sources are hypothesized to influence positively group conformity. Group conformity, attitude towards study abroad, awareness of study abroad destination, the social and cultural image of a study abroad destination and support mechanisms are modelled as key factors that influence the intention to study abroad. The conceptual model is shown in Figure 2.


Figure 11.2: Conceptual model.

Quantitative results

Appendix E shows the mean, standard deviation and composite reliability of the constructs/factors under study. All the composite reliability values are above 0.7. All constructs have mean values greater than four (4) except intention and group conformity, which have mean values of 3.26 and 3.76 respectively (see Appendix E). To test the conceptual model (Figure 2), three multiple regression models are estimated as shown in table 1, table 2 and table 3. The overall fitness of Model 1 is acceptable with F (7, 285) = 38.64, p<0.0001, R2 = 0.49 (R2adj = 0.47). Model 2 is acceptable with F (6, 286) = 8.04, p<0.0001, R2 = 0.14 (R2adj = 0.13), while Model 3 is also acceptable with F (8, 284) = 17.04, p<0.0001, R2 = 0.32 (R2adj = 0.31). All three models give adequate description of the data set. The collinearity diagnostics revealed acceptable tolerance measures and low VIF values for all of the independent variables. VIF values above 10 and tolerance values less than 0.1 are concern for multicollinearity (Hair et al., 2014, Pallant, 2013). Residuals were also inspected for heteroscedasticy. No particular pattern was found. Appendix D presents the discriminant validity coefficients.

Discriminant validity indicates the extent to which a given construct is different from other latent constructs. Fornell and Larcker (1981) suggest the use of Average Variance Extracted (AVE) where a score of 0.5 for the AVE indicates an acceptable level. Appendix D shows that the average variance extracted by our measures ranges from 0.53 to 0.87, all above the acceptable value of 0.5. Fornell and Larcker’s (1981) criterion requires that the square root of each latent variable’s AVE be greater than the latent variable’s correlation with any other construct in the model. A comparison of the square root of the AVE (diagonal values) with the correlations among the constructs shows that each variable meets Fornell and Larcker’s (1981) criterion in support of discriminant validity. Convergent and discriminant validity was achieved by examining the construct/factor loadings and cross loadings, which shows that all constructs were more strongly correlated with their own measures than with any other construct suggesting good convergent and discriminant validity.

Hypothesis H1 which states that host institution image positively influences attitude is weakly supported (β = 0.07, p<0.10). H2 states that awareness positively influence attitude is also weakly supported (β = 0.06, p<0.10). However, H3 which states that social and cultural image positively influence attitude is strongly supported (β = 0.52, p<0.001). Support mechanisms were hypothesized to influence positively attitude; this hypothesis (H4) was supported (see Model 1, table 1).

Table 11.1: Multiple regression model 1. Dependent variable: Attitude (R2 = .49, n = 294)
Unstandardized coefficient T-value Collinearity tolerance (VIF)
Constant 1.63 5.22***
Host institution image (H1) .07 1.60a .69 (1.44)
Awareness (H2) .06 1.68a .92 (1.09)
Social and cultural image of destination (H3) .52 12.67*** .81 (1.23)
Support mechanisms (H4) .10 2.36* .71 (1.40)
Group conformity .01 .35 .86 (1.17)
Friends and acquaintances as information sources –.05 –1.07 .61 (1.63)
Home and host institutions as information sources .06 1.06 .60 (1.66)
*** P<0.001 **P<0.01 *P<0.05 (two-tailed) ap<0.10 (one-tailed)

In order to test hypotheses H5 and H6, the multiple regression model 2 was estimated. Hypothesis H5 states that friends and acquaintances as information sources positively influence group conformity, while H6 states that home and host institutions as information sources positively influence group conformity. Support was found for H5 (β = 0.39, p<0.001) and H6 (β = –0.19, p<0.05). However, the hypothesized positive association between home and host institutions as information sources and group conformity was found to be negative. Table 2 shows the multiple regression model 2 that was estimated.

Table 11.2: Multiple regression model 2. Dependent variable: Group conformity (R2 = .14, n = 294)
Unstandardized coefficient T-value Collinearity tolerance (VIF)
Constant 2.05 4.33***
Friends and acquaintances as information sources (H5) .39 5.68*** .68 (1.46)
Home and host institutions as information sources (H6) –.19 –2.30* .61 (1.63)
Awareness –.02 –.47 .92 (1.08)
Social and cultural image of destination .06 .87 .81 (1.23)
Host institution image .04 .55 .69 (1.45)
Support mechanisms .09 1.44a .72 (1.39)
*** P<0.001 **P<0.01 *P<0.05 (two-tailed) ap<0.10 (one-tailed)

Hypotheses H7, H8, H9, H10 and H11 were tested by estimating multiple regression model 3 (see table 3). Hypotheses H7 and H8 hypothesized a positive association between group conformity and intention to study abroad, and awareness and intention to study abroad respectively. Both hypotheses are supported: H7 (β = 0.27, p<0.001) and H8 (β = 0.15, p<0.05). Hypothesis H9 states that social and cultural image positively influence intention to study abroad, while H10 states that support mechanisms have a positive influence on intention to study abroad. Support was found for H9 (β = 0.31, p<0.01) and H10 (β = –0.21, p<0.05). However, the positive association between support mechanisms and intention that was hypothesized is negative. Consistent with the literature on theory of planned behaviour (Ajzen and Fishbein, 1980, Ajzen 1991, Ajzen, 2006), H11 states that attitude positively influences intention and this is strongly supported (β = 0.64, p<0.001). Table 3 shows the multiple regression model 3 that was estimated.

Table 11.3: Multiple regression model 3. Dependent variable: Intention (R2 = .32, n = 294)
Unstandardized coefficient T-value Collinearity tolerance (VIF)
Constant –3.49 –5.08***
Group conformity (H7) .27 3.35*** .86 (1.17)
Awareness (H8) .15 2.16* .91 (1.09)
Social and cultural image of destination (H9) .31 2.85** .52 (1.93)
Support mechanisms (H10) –.21 –2.33* .70 (1.42)
Attitude (H11) .64 5.13*** .51 (1.95)
Friends and acquaintances as information sources .04 .46 .61 (1.63)
Home and host institutions as information sources .08 .66 .60 (1.67)
Host institution image .00 .47 .69 (1.45)
*** P<0.001 **P<0.01 *P<0.05 (two-tailed)

Discussion

The qualitative phase of this study, which involved individual face-to-face interviews with two groups of students (yet to go and have been on study abroad), enabled a deeper insight into students’ expectations, motivations and experiences concerning study abroad. The follow-up survey helped in the modelling of the factors that influence attitude and intention to study abroad. Although the motives to study abroad may vary from one student to another, motivations for personal development such as learning a new language or developing proficiency in another language, intercultural assimilation, or getting away from home to experience something new (socially and culturally) are common motives for students to study abroad. Consistent with the extant literature, the predominant outcomes of studying abroad appear to be culture related: intercultural proficiency, openness to cultural diversity, intercultural communication apprehension, international awareness, international activities and global-mindedness (Clarke et al., 2009, Gullekson et al., 2011, Payan et al., 2012).

The motives for studying abroad are closely linked to students’ expectations. Expectations regarding events and conditions shape the decision-making process students go through. They expect to have information when they seek it. They also have expectations concerning funding, support from home and host institutions, friends and family members. In seeking information, the internet is an important medium, while friends, acquaintances, and previous participants as information sources cannot be ignored. Students also have expectations concerning the image of the study abroad destination. Thus, the cultural-social image and the host institution image are attributes that are key to the study abroad decision-making process. Students also expect that formal collaboration exists between host and home institutions so that the home institutions will recognize courses taken at some of these institutions. The partial support for the effect of host institution image on attitude lends credence to this assertion. Hence, the image of the host institution is one important factor that influences attitude towards study abroad.

While some of these expectations are partially fulfilled prior to study abroad, most are fulfilled during the period that students are abroad. The fulfilment of expectations are linked with the experiences of going on study abroad. It can also be argued that these are variously evaluated in terms of the extent to which they have been fulfilled. Thus, the motivation for going on study abroad cannot be isolated from students’ expectations and experiences. Motivation is the glue that binds study abroad expectations and experiences. The memorable and unique events experienced by previous participants is what potential participants expect to experience/relive.

It is well documented that a large proportion of students in general view study abroad in positive light (Relyea et al., 2008, Schnusenberg et al., 2012). From this survey, the mean value of the construct attitude is 5.83 while intention has the lowest mean of 3.26 (table 1). Study abroad is considered an enjoyable thing to do and beneficial to personal development. Mean values for individual question items on attitude are all above 5.0 with I think going on study abroad is pleasant having the highest value of 6.05 and the least I think going on study abroad will improve my career aspirations, with a mean value of 5.44 (see Appendix C). Thus, students’ attitudes towards study abroad as a concept or an idea is seen in a positive light and this is consistent with the literature. However, the low mean value for intention could be because of the many deterrents and limiting factors that prevent most students from participating in study abroad programs. Missing family and friends, family and work commitments, language problems, safety and financial concerns are some of the factors that deter students (Payan et al., 2012).

The extant literature alluded to the fact that the predominant outcomes of study abroad appear to be culture-related (e.g. Clarke et al., 2009, Gullekson et al., 2011). This is consistent with the findings of this study where the social and cultural image of a study abroad destination significantly influences attitude towards study abroad. This image also significantly influences intention to study abroad. Thus, a student’s favourable attitude towards study abroad is informed by the social and cultural image of the study abroad destination. The prospect of socially and culturally related experiences is one of the drivers of the intent to study abroad.

The lack of awareness about study abroad opportunities may be attributed to an inability to find appropriate information as well as issues with those from whom students receive information or encouragement to study abroad (Twombly et al., 2012). Friends and family were good sources, whereas faculty members were poor (Hamir, 2011). This study finds partial support for the effect of awareness on attitudes towards study abroad and strong support for the positive effect of awareness on intention. Students cannot avail themselves of the opportunity to go on study abroad if they are not aware of these opportunities. For example, the question item I know that I can go on an exchange program if I want to do so has the highest mean value of 5.35 followed by I am aware of study abroad opportunities with a value of 4.27 while I have information on study abroad is the least (mean 3.51).

The sources of information are grouped into two broad categories in this study: friends and acquaintances (mean 4.69), and home and host institution (mean 4.99). Home and host institutions as sources of information on study abroad thus have a higher mean value than friends and acquaintances as sources of information. However, specific sources of information on study abroad (see question items Appendix C) show that, recommendation from students who have been abroad, has the highest item mean value of 5.41, followed by websites of destination institutions/university, with an item mean value of 5.30. Aalesund University College (AUCC) website with a mean of 5.24, and AAUC International student exchange coordinator with a mean of 5.20.

In terms of importance of information sources, students rank highest recommendations from fellow students who have participated in study abroad programs. This is not surprising and is highlighted in the face-to-face interviews; one interviewee said: so I sought out information about it … I also sought out those who have participated in an exchange program before. It is worth stating that this study does not seek to belittle the important role that information from formal sources and channels on study abroad opportunities communicate to students. Information from these formal sources such as institution websites and study abroad coordinators are important and useful sources of information which set out the parameters on how and when in terms of the procedures and processes which have to be followed in order to embark on study abroad. Information from these formal sources is very useful in helping students plan the study abroad journey.

However, in terms of influencing the decision-making process, these formal information sources seem not to be useful beyond a certain stage in the decision-making process. This study finds significant positive association between friends and acquaintances as information sources and group conformity; while the association between home and host institutions as information source and group conformity is negative and significant. Information from friends and acquaintances plays a much stronger role in helping students to conform to the social pressure that is brought to bear with the decision to study abroad.

This study finds a positive significant association between group conformity and intention. In other words, friends and acquaintances as information sources positively influence group conformity, while group conformity in turn positively influences the intention to study abroad. The negative association between home and host institutions as information sources and group conformity could be explained by the fact that home and host institutions as information sources are useful up to a point beyond which any more information provided from these sources has a diminishing effect in terms of the social pressure these institutions exert on students to conform. Hence, in terms of the social pressure to conform to study abroad intentions, information from friends and acquaintances (specifically recommendations from past study abroad participants, blogs from students who have been abroad and friends and family members) is considered much more influential.

In the same way, this study finds a significant negative association between support mechanisms and intention. Support mechanisms such as financial/sponsorships from funding organizations such as Lånekassen (highest item mean value of 5.86 Appendix C), health authorities, embassies/consulates, study abroad coordinators and lecturers are useful up to a point beyond which further input from these supporting mechanisms do not increase intention to study abroad. Lecturers as information sources or as a support mechanism in encouraging students to study abroad fall short of expectations. This is consistent with the extant literature where the role of faculty members is reported to be low (Hamir, 2011). Lecturers as sources of information obtained a minimum item mean of 4.54 and lecturers as support mechanism a mean of 4.01 in terms of their importance/usefulness. However, it is our view that lecturers have an important role in stimulating positive attitudes towards study abroad and encouraging students to take advantage of study abroad opportunities.

This study also finds a significant association between attitude and intention, consistent with the theory of planned behaviour (Ajzen and Fishbein, 1980, Ajzen, 1991, Ajzen, 2006). Thus, positive attitudes towards study abroad by students should lead to an intention to study abroad.

Conclusion

The goal of this study was to explore students’ motivations, expectations and experiences in embarking on short-term study abroad and to find out the key factors that influence students’ attitudes and intentions to study abroad. The chapter consequently presents a conceptual model, which was developed from the data source of 294 respondents from Aalesund University College. From the face-to-face interviews, it is evident that most students go on study abroad because of the beneficial outcomes.

Understanding the factors which influence attitude and intention to study abroad can provide useful guidelines for higher education institutions in the formulation of effective study abroad programs and on how best to promote and market study abroad experiences to Norwegian students. For example, in terms of marketing, study abroad can be positioned as an experience ‘product/service’, while, depending on the outcomes or benefits that students sought from embarking on these trips, potential participants can be effectively segmented and targeted.

Previous study abroad participants are very credible sources of information, since they have experienced the social and cultural setting of study abroad destinations. Thus, previous study abroad participants can be used as credible advocates in study abroad promotional campaigns. This study has some limitations. The use of a single institution makes it difficult to generalize the findings to all college students. Attitudes are dynamic and thus change at any point in time. Thus, further studies using longitudinal case study designs or surveys may be able to capture some of the changing dynamics as they unfold.

APPENDIX A

Outgoing exchange students on short-term study abroad
Destination 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 Faculty1
FH Hannover Germany 1 AIR
Örebro university Sweden 2 2 2 ABF
James Cook University Australia 2 4 4 AHF
Robert Gordon University United Kingdom 2 1 2 2 1 AHF
VIA university college Denmark 2 AHF
Bangkok University Thailand 3 4 5 12 4 AIB
Newcastle University United Kingdom 3 AIB
Ocean University of Qingdao China 2 2 3 AIB, AMO
Suffolk University USA 7 1 1 2 AIB, AMO
UC San Diego USA 6 5 2 2 AIB
University of the Sunshine Coast Australia 2 2 1 2 AIB
Novancia Business School Paris France 1 2 AIB
Université catholique de Lyon, esdes France 2 1 4 3 3 AIB
Portland State University USA 1 AIB
Business Academy Aarhus Denmark 3 AIB
FH des BFI Wien Austria 1 AIB
Hogeschool Rotterdam Netherlands 3 4 4 AIB, AMO
Universidad de Cadiz Spain 1 1 AIB
Universidad Nova de Lisboa Portugal 4 3 AIB
City University of Hong Kong China 1 AMO
Hong Kong Polytechnic University China 1 3 3 - AMO
University of Tasmania Australia 1 AMO
Chalmers University of Technology Sweden 3 AMO
Vysoka skola economie a managementu Czech Republic 2 AIB
No. of study abroad students (a)Yearly student population (b)Study abroad students as % (c) 3614842.4 2915321.9 3116451.9 3017431.7 2717891.5
1 Engineering and Natural Sciences (AIR), Life Sciences (ABF), Health Sciences (AHF), International Business (AIB), Maritime Technology and Operations (AMO).

APPENDIX B

Demographic characteristics of respondents (n=294)
Demographic characteristic Category Frequency Percent
Gender Men 122 41.5
Women 172 58.5
Age 18–20 85 28.9
21–23 132 44.9
24–26 34 11.6
27–29 18 6.1
30–32 9 3.1
33–35 6 2.0
?36 10 3.4
Faculty Engineering and natural sciences 86 29.3
Health Sciences 58 19.7
Life Sciences 32 10.9
Maritime Technology and Operations 4 1.4
International Business 114 38.8
Year of Study Bachelor year 1 212 72.1
Bachelor year 2 65 22.1
Bachelor year 3 17 5.8
Source: Survey

APPENDIX C

Constructs/factors, indicators, mean, standard deviation, loadings and t-values
Indicators/variables Mean SD Loadings T-value#
Attitude
I think it is a very good idea to go on study abroad (ATT1) 5.86 1.28 0.898 49.82***
I think going on study abroad is beneficial (ATT2) 5.82 1.25 0.866 41.65***
I think going on study abroad will help in my personal development (ATT3) 5.98 1.26 0.870 46.78***
I think going on study abroad will improve my career aspirations (ATT4) 5.44 1.48 0.805 32.68***
I think going on study abroad is pleasant (ATT5) 6.05 1.19 0.722 16.22***
Intention
I will consider going on study abroad (INT1) 3.95 2.22 0.921 97.53***
It is highly possible that I will go on study abroad (INT2) 3.41 2.12 0.960 108.57***
I will definitely go on a study abroad (INT3) 2.68 2.05 0.919 72.52***
There is a high chance that I will go on study abroad (INT4) 2.99 2.04 0.936 62.83***
Awareness
I am aware of study abroad opportunities (AWA1) 4.27 1.74 0.889 36.35***
I have information on study abroad (AWA2) 3.51 1.73 0.890 38.09***
I know that I can go on an exchange program if I want to do so (AWA3) 5.35 1.65 0.706 11.93***
Social-cultural image of destination
I want to experience the local culture (DES1) 6.06 1.27 0.768 17.58***
I look forward to special events and festivals (DES2) 5.46 1.54 0.872 53.09***
I want to get away from Aalesund and experience something different (DES3) 5.45 1.61 0.855 41.52***
I attach more importance to the fun loving image of the place (DES4) 5.82 1.49 0.824 28.02***
Host institution image
My perception of the image of the destination institution (MAG1) 4.90 1.41 0.867 30.38***
Perception of the image of institution to friends and acquaintance (MAG2) 5.59 1.27 0.911 59.56***
Group conformity
My decision to study abroad would be influenced by whether doing so would make me fit in with my friends (CON1) 3.50 1.95 0.650 6.76***
Some of my friends will be going on study abroad so I will also go on study abroad (CON2) 2.72 1.79 0.830 18.58***
It is good to go as a group (CON3) 5.07 1.64 0.685 8.48***
Support mechanisms
Lecturers (SUP1) 4.01 1.78 0.674 11.17***
Study abroad coordinator(s) (SUP2) 4.57 1.64 0.835 30.98***
Health authorities (e.g. for vaccination) (SUP3) 4.89 1.73 0.790 18.54***
Embassies/consulates (e.g. visa applications) (SUP4) 4.82 1.67 0.874 37.57***
Funding/sponsorship (e.g. Lånekassen) (SUP5) 5.86 1.44 0.742 14.77***
Friends and acquaintances as information sources
Friends and family members (INF1) 4.28 1.59 0.734 14.03***
Blogs of students who have been abroad (INF2) 4.38 1.75 0.805 17.79***
Recommendation from students who have been abroad (INF3) 5.41 1.49 0.809 19.66***
Home and host institutions as information sources
Aalesund University College (AAUC) Website (INF4) 5.24 1.41 0.556 2.62**
AAUC International student exchange coordinator (INF5) 5.20 1.38 0.778 6.23***
AAUC lecturer(s) (INF6) 4.54 1.49 0.707 5.69***
Website of destination institution/university (INF7) 5.30 1.41 0.807 6.22***
Destination institution/university lecturer(s) (INF8) 4.69 1.47 0.836 6.22***
# Based on 1000 bootstrapping samples ***Significant at p < 0.001 ** p<0.01 (two-tailed test)AAUC is currently NTNU Aalesund campus

APPENDIX D

Discriminant validity coefficients
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Attitude (1) 0.84
Intention (2) 0.49** 0.93
Awareness (3) 0.18** 0.20** 0.83
Group conformity (4) 0.12* 0.24** 0.02 0.73
Friends and acquaintances as information sources (5) 0.21** 0.19** 0.09 0.35** 0.78
Home and host institutions as information sources (6) 0.25** 0.15* 0.10 0.10 0.52** 0.74
Social-cultural image of destination (7) 0.67** 0.45** 0.13* 0.14* 0.25** 0.20** 0.83
Host institution image (8) 0.39** 0.25** 0.28** 0.13* 0.29** 0.38** 0.41** 0.89
Support mechanisms (9) 0.30** 0.09 0.07 0.19** 0.39** 0.47** 0.24** 0.33** 0.79
AVE 0.70 0.87 0.69 0.53 0.61 0.55 0.69 0.79 0.62
Bold numbers on the diagonals shows the square root of the AVENumbers below the diagonal represent construct correlationsCorrelation significant ** p<0.01 (two-tailed test) * p<0.05 (two-tailed test)

APPENDIX E

Constructs/factors, mean, standard deviation and composite reliability
Construct/Factor Mean SD Composite reliability
Attitude 5.83 1.07 0.92
Intention 3.26 1.97 0.97
Awareness 4.37 1.42 0.87
Group conformity 3.76 1.30 0.77
Friends and acquaintances as information sources 4.69 1.26 0.83
Home and host institutions as information sources 4.99 1.07 0.86
Social and cultural image of destination 5.69 1.23 0.90
Host institution image 5.24 1.19 0.88
Support mechanisms 4.83 1.30 0.89

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