Introduction Global Student Experience, Association des Etats Generaux des Etudiants de l’Europe / European Students’ Forum (AEGEE), American Institute For Foreign Study (AIFS), European Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students (ERASMUS) and Education Abroad Program (EAP). These are the most well-known study abroad programmes not just in Europe but in the whole world. These programmes provide opportunity for students, teachers and personnel to learn and work in a study abroad context.
According to the programmes’ official websites, the participation increases the students’ mobility, develop their cultural awareness and give a useful and lifelong experience. The European Union expanded the borders in Europe, so nowadays it is much easier to spend a few months or even a year in a foreign university. The most popular study abroad programme in Hungary is ERASMUS. Between 1998 and 2008 more than 25,000 undergraduates had been studied in a foreign university from the 63 Hungarian universities.
Although the study-abroad programme has bigger popularity in the celebrated institutions, almost every university and college have sent and received students. According to the home page of Tempus Public Foundation, in 2009 almost four hundred students participated in the programme in twenty-five European countries from the University of Pecs (UP). Besides, UP has student mobility contracts with universities from the United States of America and Japan too. Motivation is a significant point in learning issues especially in language learning.
Motivation can be categorized in several ways. But the concept of motivation can be divided into two parts: the first one is language learning motivation; the second one is motivation to study abroad. Language learning motivation ‘involves the attitudes and affective states that influence the degree of effort that learners make to learn an L2’ (Ellis, 1997, p. 75). Study abroad motivation consists of three components, according to Elizabeth Murphy-Lejeune (2002). We can study the foreign language learners’ motivations in these two ways too.
Therefore, motivation is a major issue in language learning which can be effectively studied among learners who spend a semester or one academic year in a foreign university. The study abroad context can influence the students’ learning methods, cultural views and behaviours. Why do students learn foreign languages? How will they use their second language knowledge? Why do they decide to join the ERASMUS programme? What do they think about and are they satisfied with the programme?
My thesis focuses on these questions. I have made an overview about ERASMUS students’ experiences and expectations about the time they have spent in Pecs. I interviewed six foreign students from different countries and I asked the same questions. I have analyzed and compared the answers to make a comprehensive study about the ERASMUS programme’s goals and results. The first chapter overviews the literature on language learning motivation and study abroad programmes, but mostly the ERASMUS programme.
The concept of motivation and the knowledge of its varieties are very important to understand and examine properly the students’ aims while they are in a study abroad context. In the second chapter I introduce the context of the interviews and then I explain the interview questions which the basic data of my thesis are. In the data analysis section I elaborate the answers of the participants which supply the results of my research. The results give an overview about the aims and goals of the ERASMUS programme and also focus on the interviewees’ achievements, ideas, and reflections.
The conclusion contains the short summary of the findings and it also leaves open the door for further examinations in the future. Chapter 1: The Context of Motivation and Study-Abroad Programmes 1. 1 Motivation of Students Why do students start to learn a second or a third language? Why do they move to a foreign university to improve their language skills? Motivation is not the proper answer to these questions but gives an initial point from where further analyses can be accomplished. In my opinion successive learning and concrete aims cannot be achieved without strong motivational force.
This is especially true in second language learning and in the field of studying abroad. These two concepts are not strongly connected but both are indispensable while examining second language learners in a study abroad context. 1. 1. 1. Language Learning Motivation Students who decide to learn at a foreign university for a semester or an academic year have two types of motivations: language learning motivation and study-abroad motivation. The first one appears earlier in the learning process because many students start learn languages mostly in their childhood.
Coleman (1996) stated that there are ten main reasons why students start to learn a foreign language: (a) for their future career, (b) because they like the language, (c) to travel in different countries, (d) to have a better understanding of the way of life in the country or countries where it is spoken, (e) because they would like to live in the country where it is spoken, (f) because they are good at it, (g) because it is an international language, (h) to become a better-educated person, (i) to meet a greater variety of people in their life, and (j) to get to know/make friends among the people who speak it.
These motivations are emerging mostly in high school, when the students have already developed a higher intellectuality and self-reliance. These motivations can be narrowed down basically into four types of language learning motivation. According to Ellis (1997), these are the instrumental, integrative, resultative, and intrinsic motivation. Instrumental motivation is the most common one. Most students want to achieve a higher level of language proficiency for some functional reason, e. g. to get a language certificate, a better job, or a place at a university.
They think the high language proficiency can open up ‘educational and economic opportunities for them’ (Ellis, 1997). Integrative motivation is more complex. Integration means the incorporation of individuals as equals in societies. Some learners ‘learn a particular L2 because they are interested in the people and culture represented by the target language group’ (Ellis, 1997, p. 75). This is usually occurs when somebody decide to migrate to a foreign country but before this, he or she wants to become acquainted with the culture and attitudes of the target language’s group.
This type of motivation also appears in bilingual and multilingual communities. For example many English speaking Canadians start to learn French. Ellis (1997) has a very good definition on resultative motivation: … motivation is the cause of L2 achievement. However, it is also possible that motivation is the result of learning. That is, learners who experience success in learning may become more, or in some contexts, less motivated to learn. (p. 75) Using the Canadian example, ‘the success of learning French may intensify English-speaking learners’ liking for French culture’ (Ellis, 1997). Intrinsic motivation is a highly interesting type.
The learners do not have any general reasons for learning a second language. Usually they do not have positive or negative feelings towards the foreign language or the natives of that particular language. It does not mean that they are unmotivated. They are rather curious about the language and the tasks they have made and they are interested in the learning activities too. Dornyei, Csizer and Nemeth (2006) have argued that English language became a lingua franca in the world and ‘there is a growing tendency worldwide for people to develop a bicultural identity’ (Dornyei, Csizer, & Nemeth, 2006).
Therefore, students start to learn English to be able to integrate not just in their own culture, but in the whole world too. This statement fits for other languages as well, because with a second language students are also getting familiarize the culture of the foreign language group. With second language acquisition usually appears the desire among students to meet with the native speakers of the second language and to become an international individual. 1. 1. 2. Study-Abroad Motivation
The voyage itself, the discovery of something new, to meet with new people from a different culture were always a strong motivational force for academics, explorers, and great thinkers but this is especially true for the majority of the students. According to Chirkov, Safdar, J. de Guzman, and Playford (2008) the motivation of international college students who go to a foreign country for studying is an important factor in predicting their adjustment. This statement means that ERASMUS students have an opportunity to become more mobile, accommodating and recipient.
Though study-abroad motivation is highly complex, it has almost identical complements and characteristics among all undergraduates. Living in an exotic city, meeting people from different countries, and pursuing an interesting course of study are the common ones but as Elizabeth Murphy-Lejeune (2002) stated there are three major motivation types: … language, work (studying and professional experience together) and personal enrichment, often the wish for something other than routine, whether meeting new people or experiencing something new.
The language-learning motive subsumes the cultural discovery motive related to knowledge of the host country. The academic or professional motive includes themes such as the desire to study elsewhere, to gain professional training or to discover new studying methods. The personal motive covers a large area related to desire for travel, for personal adventure, for new experiences or for self-development. (p. 80) Although these three motives are different, they are highly connected. The knowledge of one or even more foreign languages is important in the context of employment.
Students’ aims are often the desire for better life conditions which, they think, is accessible by obtaining an existential profession. The desire to live in an exotic country, study new things is not just a great adventure for the undergraduates but gives priceless experience too. New and various intentions make their personality more complex, open-minded, and rich which will be so profitable in their future life. Language learning introduces new cultures, world views, and maybe the most important, different people for them.
Motivation is the driving engine which directs students to different ways in their lives. It is highly possible that some find another motivating power while they are already gone to a foreign university. The various motives also fluctuate and evolve with time. The longer the stay, the more motives emerged. For example, a foreign undergraduate motivated by a specific field of interest at the beginning of the stay, but after a while he or she became interested in the host country and finally in the native people too.
This developmental order can be recognized in other motivational connections aswell. Albeit motivation had been researched from several aspects and by many experts, like Safdar (2008), Playford (2008), Ellis (1997) or Dornyei (2006), it is still an emerging field which can be studied from several points of view.
1. 2 The ERASMUS Programme The word ERASMUS is an acronym, standing for European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students. The acronym coincides with the name of Erasmus of Rotterdam, a Dutch scholar who lived and worked across Europe at the beginning of the sixteenth century.
The founders of the programme pointed out that this is a perfect match because of the scholar’s migrating life, which corresponds with the students’ everydays, who spend a semester or an academic year in a study-abroad context (ERASMUS Programme, 2010). The programme has several specific objectives. These are: to improve the students’ and teaching staff’s mobility, to increase and improve the cooperation between higher education institutions, and to support new learning and teaching techniques and innovations.
As the European Commission’s decision stated, the general aim of the programme is to create a European Higher Education Area and foster innovation throughout Europe (The ERASMUS Programme, 2009). The ERASMUS programme was adopted in 1987 but first the programme only supported pilot student exchanges for six years. At that time some European Union member states did not appreciated the programme (such as France, Germany and the United Kingdom) but a compromise was worked out so the final decision was born in June 1987.
In the first academic year more than 3,000 students had participated in the programme under the framework of SOCRATES programme, which was replaced by the Lifelong Learning Programme 2007-2013 in 2007. Nowadays more than 150,000 students participated in the programme, per an academic year. ERASMUS MUNDUS affinities with ERASMUS and it connect non-European universities with European ones, just like Japan or Turkey. According to the article, ERASMUS Programme (2010), ‘there are currently 2,199 higher education institutions participating in ERASMUS across the 31 countries involved in the Lifelong Learning Programme 2007-2013 and over 1.
6 million students have already taken part. ’ Nevertheless, the programme supports the mobility and further training of teachers and personnel; more than 20,000 people have already joined the programme. The ERASMUS programme is very popular in Hungary too. From 1998 more than 25,000 students had travelled to a foreign university until 2008. The numbers show a growing tendency which means that the programme is more and more fashionable and widely celebrated in every year.
In Hungary there are 63 institutions that have signed the contract with the European Commission, from the biggest and well-known universities across the colleges to the smaller artistic institutions. According to the survey of Tempus Public Foundation, the University of Pecs is at the second place among the universities from which students had travelled abroad. In the last ten years almost 3,000 undergraduates spent one or two semesters at foreign institutions. Only Eotvos Lorand University dispatched more. The University of Pecs ensures around eight hundred positions to travel abroad on the faculties, almost in every academic specialization.
The Faculty of Music and Visual Arts, the Faculty of Adult Education and Human Resources Development, the Faculty of Business and Economics, and the Medical School have the least free positions (25, 29, 15, 36), the Faculty of Sciences has almost fifty places while the Pollack Mihaly Faculty of Engineering, the Illyes Gyula Faculty of Education, and the Faculty of Law send almost one hundred students to a foreign university. The Faculty of Humanities is the leading institution among the UP’s ten faculties, as it allotted more than 350 students across Europe in the last two semesters.
It is due to the many academic specialization and the good and well-designed advertising and vulgarization among the undergraduates. The faculty also receives a huge number of foreign students from many countries in the European Union. With the help of Monika Szalai, ERASMUS coordinator, I had chosen six foreign undergraduates whom which I made my interviews. 1. 3 Summary The increasing popularity of ERAMSUS Programme among undergraduates and the growing number of participating universities show that studying abroad is a highly emerging area in higher education all across Europe.
The teaching staff’s mobility, the numerous foundations and financial aids provide modern and prominent possibilities for those who want to spend a semester or an academic year in a foreign university. ERAMSUS is the biggest student mobility organization in Europe. It gives the opportunity to maintain the students’ cultural, educational and personal desires, it enriches their knowledge and experiments and provides better foresight for their future. The University of Pecs is a leader institution in Hungary and Central-Europe as a student receiver and sender institute.
The well-organized programmes, the prepared teachers and ERASMUS coordinators make the UP a popular and frequently visited university. UP, one of the oldest universities in Europe, steps up the standard of education to the level of famous West-European institutions which means favourable atmosphere for students who wants to expand their scope. Thus, these circumstances, not just in Pecs of course, can be one of the undergraduates’ main motives. Besides, there are several other reasons too, why undergraduates decide to go to a foreign university.
Personal, professional, and self-developmental motives are also common. According to Murphy-Lejeune (2002) to live foreignness and to speak foreignness or live differently than the daily routine are strong motivational forces too. As for students’ future, multinational companies and bigger national firms frequently give preference for those who has an international experience and higher cultural awareness. Many learners are already very self-conscious at the age of 19-22, so they built their future life as early as they can.
Rich experiments, cultural knowledge and multilingualism come to be common and also indispensable for these young undergraduates. Chapter 2: The Research Study with Foreign Students 2. 1 The Context of the Interviews Why do students in the European Union decide to join an international programme to study abroad? The investigation of this question is a quite newfangled but emerging phenomenon in applied linguistics. The undergraduates’ reasons and motives give the basic data in this field which can be collected in several ways.
The most common ones are questionnaire surveys, experimental studies, case studies, diary studies, and interviews (Dornyei, 2007). I chose structured interviews for my qualitative research. Interviews give the basic data to my thesis so the way how I scheduled it, was a crucial point. My fundamental idea was that if I wanted to gather comprehensible and advantageous data, I will need to provide peaceful surroundings without any oppressing and disturbing effects. I did not want the interviewees to feel embarrassed or nervous because in my opinion it leaves its mark on the results.
Thus, I decided to hold the interviews as a friendly, simple chat. Therefore, I managed the interviews in coffee bars beside a cup of tea or a beverage. As I had felt, the interviewees had been chilled out and relaxed so they did not feel the official atmosphere of the interview. In these structured one-to-one interviews I used an elaborated, pre-prepared interview schedule, containing a list of questions. Dornyei (2007) claimed that such controlled interviews ensure that the interviewee focuses on the target topic area which makes the answers comparable across different respondents.
The other side of the coin is, however, that in a structured interview there is little opportunity for variation or spontaneity and there is also very little flexibility in the way questions are asked. The interviewees had never met with each other before. That is important, because I did not want them to interchange my questions and discuss the answers. In each occasion there were only one student and me. I always recorded the talk with a voice recorder with the acquiescence of the foreign undergraduates. The time of the interviews varies between six and fifteen
minutes, depends on the students’ nationality and language proficiency. As Dornyei (2007) argues, a complete interview involves a lot of carefully designed steps, such as the planning of ethical issues and the preparing of the interview guide. The function of the interview guide is to help the interviewer not to omit anything, to keep the order of the questions, or to give templates for the opening statements. Notes on the guide can also help to be careful with language and ethical issues, such as grammar and pronunciation, and considering the interviewee’s age, race and gender.
Mutual respect is also very important to keep the interview in the desired channel. The avoidance of stereotypical statements towards different nations and religions is important too. For that reason I always tried to talk and behave carefully during the interviews and be as polite as possible to avoid nuisances with the students. 2. 2 Participants and Interview Questions 2. 2. 1 Participants The ERASMUS mentors of the faculty organize a programme, called country presentations, every Thursday evening every semester. I visited such an evening twice to find volunteer foreign students.
With the help of Szalai Monika, who is the ERASMUS coordinator of the faculty, I found six undergraduates, three males and three females, from six different countries. They are at the age between twenty-one and twenty-four. These students study in the Faculty of Humanities, all of them take their studies seriously, so they have appropriate thoughts and they are trustworthy in the point of view of my data collection. During the interviews and in the transcripts of the recorded conversations I used the interviewees’ real names with their permission.
My first interviewee was Spencer, who comes from the United States of America. He lives in Saranac Lake, New York. He learns communication and psychology in the University of Pecs. Beside his major lectures he also has Hungarian and Italian courses. Wiebke lives in Frankfurt, Germany and she is an MA student. She takes political and cultural courses and she works in the framework of Pecs2010 European Capital of Culture. She had been in Australia for one year, so she is a perfect English speaker and her boyfriend is Hungarian, so she has high Hungarian language proficiency too.
Yoshi is an undergraduate in Akita International University, Japan. In the University of Pecs he takes courses about the history of colonies and the USA, but he also has media lectures in English. My fourth interviewee was Kim from Daegu, South-Korea. She is an English major, and learns English Literature at the English Department. Huseyin comes from Turkey. He is a very agile and diligent person. In Pecs he studies Russian and Hungarian language and literature, international economics and politics, and American culture.
He is highly motivated and self-supporting which help him to be a conscious and far-seeing student. The last but not least interviewee was Magdalena from Poznan, Poland. She is a Hungarian major; therefore Hungarian is her second language. She also speaks English as well. The interviews were held in English because of the interviewees’ second language is English, except the case of Wiebke and Magdalena, who asked me to speak in Hungarian because it was easier for them and they prefer that language. The transcripts of the six interviews can be found one by one at the end of my thesis, under Appendix C.
2. 2. 2 Interview Questions The interview questions were asked in a strict order to each student, to make the analysis easier and more comprehensible. The ordering is based on three question types: at the beginning there are a few introductory questions which supply a little warming up and give some basic information about the undergraduates. The first few questions are very important because they set up the tone and the mood of the interview and create an initial rapport. The research questions give the main body of my thesis with specific questions. These are more focused and practical ones.
These are also pointing out the students’ feelings, impressions and opinions. According to Patton (2002) there are six types of content questions focusing on: (a) experiences and behaviours, (b) opinions and values, (c) feelings, (d) knowledge, (e) sensory information, and (f) background or demographic information. With my questions I aimed to explore the undergraduates’ motivations, their specific aims and future plans. The ending questions are focusing on the students’ thoughts about Pecs and these are the closing ones too. Here the undergraduates had the permission to add further information by their own.
The questions were built up in connection with each other. They addressed areas such as ERASMUS, the students’ aims, and their future benefits. I have made the question planning in accordance with Szentpali Ujlaki’s Study-Abroad Motivation – Preliminary Results of a Pilot Project (2007). That paper deals with outgoing Hungarian ERASMUS students’ motivation at Kaposvar University, thus it is highly interdependent with my research. After the interviews I transformed the recordings into textual form. I also had to translate two interviews from Hungarian into English.
The transcribing process was very slow and time-consuming but essential for the qualitative data collection. Although it is impossible to give back the feeling and the non-verbal aspects of the interviews, such as body-language, pauses, or louder speaking and emphasized words, I tried to make the transcripts as similar and appropriate as possible, so I have kept the accuracy problems and other language issues as in the oral version. 2. 3 Data Analysis The process of the data analysis is based on the examination and comparison of the students’ answers.
I also used a questionnaire which was made by the ERASMUS team and filled by foreign students. Although it is relevant to my research, it only has complementary results. The analysis followed the order of the research questions; I compared and analysed the undergraduates’ answers one by one. I explained the findings with a summary which will be the main body of the final conclusion. Why did you decide to join the Erasmus programme? This question is the most significant one according to students’ motivations. The answers vary in a wide range, as the students’ different personality, though there are some similarities too.
Spencer stated that he ‘wanted to really know more part of Europe, meet with international students, study with international students and learn new things, try new things’ and Kim said that she ‘wanted to meet various people with various cultures’. To expand their cultural awareness and discover other countries are usually giving a strong motivational force to ERASMUS students, but I got some different answers too, like ‘because I get money’ (Wiebke) or ‘because I wanted to study the Hungarian language in Hungary’ (Magdalena), so financial and learning issues are also very important.
According to the questionnaire of the ERASMUS team, studying abroad gives numerous cultural programmes, trips across the host country and specific courses which are not available in their universities. Did you make any preparation for your study-abroad period? ‘Well not much. I mean I knew that I want to come here and discover on my own’ (Spencer). ‘I bought some books about Hungary, but I didn’t really check it, but cooking or some pictures’ (Yoshi). ‘Yes. I had a Hungarian class in Kaposvar and we not just studied Hungarian language but also Hungarian stories, culture and music or something like that’ (Huseyin).
‘Yes, it think it helps a lot if there is someone in the family whom with easier understand the cultural and historical issues’ (Wiebke). ‘Because of I’m a Hungarian major I had to learn Hungarian history and literature so I knew at home already and this is not my first stay in Hungary’ (Magdalena). I believe, without some basic knowledge about the host country it is quite impossible to integrate in a different culture than our own. For a future ERASMUS student it is highly necessary to collect information about the host country by reading and learning.
As Wiebke mentioned, a supporting family can help with a lot of information too. With some background knowledge it is easier to establish relationships, understand the native’s behaviours and manage ourselves in everyday life. Why do you learn a foreign language? The answers to this question varied among the students, mostly due to their cultural backgrounds. The learning policies of their countries define the language proficiency level, which should be attained by the undergraduates to get their degree. Therefore they need different learning strategies and aims to reach the required language proficiency level.
‘You know in Korea, English is a blooming language, popular very much’ (Kim). Certainly, it is possible to find students who are intrinsically or integratively motivated. I found these types of motives in the case of Yoshi and Wiebke. ‘I was interested in English at the Junior High School. And then I went to High School which was focusing on English, so there are more courses in English compare to other high school’ (Yoshi). ‘I have studied a lot English, we started when I was seven and I have been in the US and Australia too.
I have started learn Hungarian four years ago, because I met with a Hungarian boy’ (Wiebke). With second or third language they become as mobile as never in the world. Wide vistas open up for them, so they can exploit a lot of opportunities, for instance different professions, travels, and further studying. Do you have any special aim or aims you would like to attain in this semester? Although students’ primary motive is language learning, they have a number of more specific aims which they would like to accomplish in the semester. The driven force to attain these goals is mainly the instrumental motivation.
The undergraduates’ main aim is to pass their exams at home by the knowledge they have acquired here or to get a language proficiency exam. They also think that it will be easier to look for a job, even in Hungary, because they are bilingual or multilingual. ‘First of all I will search for a job’, claimed Yoshi, who has very good opportunities in business areas, as Huseyin too who added that ‘last year in Turkey there were a lot of Russian tourists and if I want to earn money I have to learn Russian and I also speak English and a little bit of Hungary’.
Moreover, Wiebke ‘will have a language certificate exam’ and she ‘just started work in the Cultural Capital of Europe programme as a cultural manager’. Some of the interviewees, and in general many other ERASMUS students, will finish their studies in Pecs. The better technological, personnel and researching opportunities induce them to do their final research paper. This will happen with Yoshi and Magdalena, who said that ‘in the spring semester I will make some seminar courses or write a short thesis’ (Yoshi), and ‘I have to write my thesis.
That’s why I came here, because in our libraries at home there just a few Hungarian books. This was the main reason’ (Magdalena). For some students the study-abroad period is just a little digression in their studies. They are making new friends, discovering something unusual and learning languages. All these will be important and expedient in their future. This happens with Spencer who said that ‘I want to see more of Hungary, I want to learn more the language, and I want to try everything, so I want to stay for the second semester’. Kim’s reasons are so similar: ‘Just studying the language and making friends’.
What do you think? Will this experience benefit you in the future? According to the home pages of several enterprises and employment agencies (e. g. www. euwork. hu, Paks Nuclear Power Plant) many employers give preference to job hunters who have foreign experiences. The higher language proficiency, the cultural sensitivity, and the basis for comparison enable former ERASMUS students to become more successful, effective, and acknowledged in their future life. Most of the ERASMUS students know the advantages of the programme and they are also trying to exploit them efficiently as soon as possible.
The interviewees argued as one that the study-abroad period will be very useful and crucial in their future life and some of them have already utilized it. This happens with Wiebke who declared that she is working as a cultural manager in the European Capital of Culture Pecs2010. She also stated that ‘this is a big step. Because if I didn’t come here I would never learn Hungarian because only the courses cannot help’ and with her experiences she will be able to get jobs not just in Germany or Hungary but in many other countries in the European Union. Spencer looks this question absolutely from the p.