The Role of Social Media in   Keeping International  Students at Birmingham City University ConnectedStudent Name: CHIOMA ...
CONTENT PAGEIntroduction……………………….…………Page 2Literature Review…………............................Page 4Methodology…………......……...
INTRODUCTIONPeople have different reasons for leaving their home countries to study elsewhere, either asundergraduates or ...
How do they deal with these issues? How do they fit in? They can either withdraw into theirshells, concentrate on their st...
LITERATURE REVIEWTo fully grasp the thoughts behind this research, we will break the topic down and treat eachterm indepen...
possible, extract as much information as can be gleaned about the patterns that stand out themost in those networks, trace...
METHODOLOGYAs this report deals with the views, experiences and thoughts of people, in this case theinternational students...
Also, at Warwick University, focus groups were used by the Centre for Academic Practise togather researchers views and sug...
ANALYSISThe focus group comprised seven people; one Irish, one Egyptian, a Kenyan, one German, aHong Konger, and two Niger...
The group agreed that social networks has exposed them to new opportunities with Mariamand Leonie now using Skype and Face...
FINDINGSThere is a strong relationship between the student’s use of social network and the creation ofsupport groups (soci...
ProfessionalColleagues                   Strong          Strongest               Weak                            Strongest...
Religion            Strongest       Don’t use           Don’t use        Don’t use            Don’t useKAREN              ...
RECOMMENDATIONSI would recommend that this study be replicated not only to see if the answers will beconsistent and theref...
CONCLUSIONThis research set out to find the social networks international students at Birmingham CityUniversity subscribe ...
REFERENCESBOOKSEdmunds Holly (1999): ‘The Focus Group Research Handbook’ (2 – 8) NTC/ ContemporaryPublishing Group Inc. Av...
Giddens (2000): Third Way and its Critics (78) in Johnston G. and Percy-Smith J (2003): Insearch of social capital. Volume...
APPENDICES1. Transcript of focus group discussion held on Saturday the 15th of January 2011.Respondents: Laura (Kenya), No...
Leonie – before I came I used to use which is the German equivalent of Facebook butnow I am using Facebook more, and I am ...
Malachi – I think it helps because even if you dont talk to all your friends every time,they are still your friends and wi...
Jinny – I dont know, I dont have an answer to that   Leonie – we have groups on Facebook where my classmates and I drop in...
Laura – Jinny there are groups that would benefit your career anywhere, Facebook, Twitter,LinkedIn, etc. I have found that...
different cities and my brother are in different universities in different countries so Facebookis the fastest way for all...
Noha – I think that it is relative, sometimes it does, other times it doesnt. For me it is moreabout being aware of what i...
office; I posted the question on the page and one of the Student Union official’s inboxed metelling me what to do.Jinny – ...
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I enjoyed working on this report, especially the focus group bit, the people were awesome!

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The role of social media in keeping international students at bcu connected

  1. 1. The Role of Social Media in Keeping International Students at Birmingham City University ConnectedStudent Name: CHIOMA NWAMAKA AGWUEGBOStudent ID: AGW10509175Course Title: SOCIAL MEDIA AS CULTURETutor: DAVE HARTESubmission Date: 21st January, 2011. 1
  2. 2. CONTENT PAGEIntroduction……………………….…………Page 2Literature Review…………............................Page 4Methodology…………......…………………. Page 6Analysis………………………………..……. Page 8Findings.......................……………………... Page 11Recommendation............................................Page 14Conclusion.......................................................Page 15References……………………………………Page 16Appendices.......................................................Page 14 2
  3. 3. INTRODUCTIONPeople have different reasons for leaving their home countries to study elsewhere, either asundergraduates or to further an already obtained degree. These reasons could range from:  The knowledge that universities in the United Kingdom are amongst the highest rated schools in the world with over 55, 000 taught and research courses and a high standard of qualification on completion.  The need to expand their employment opportunities. Employers, especially multinationals, look for internationalization in prospective employees; people who have a global perspective of issues.  to learn specific career related skills that are unavailable in their home country, learn a second international language or do an international internship  Meet people from different backgrounds, and not only from the host country; forge international friendships, understand diverse cultures and disabuse their minds of stereotypes.  It has even been said that it is less stressful and more cost effective to experience Europe for longer as a student!Even though this education doesn’t come cheap, with tuition for arts and social sciencecourses ranging between 7250 to 9000 pounds and as much as 29000pounds for an MBA,every year applications pour in in their thousands. Prospects, the UKs official graduatecareers site reports that for the 2008/2009 session, there were 139, 095 students from outsideEurope studying for postgraduate degrees alone in the UK.These young people scale the hurdles of admission, financing, immigration and visas thencome into the United Kingdom and register at their university, in this case Birmingham CityUniversity. The euphoria of the new environment soon wears off, along with the endlesscomparisons of their home countries to it. Then they start to deal with culture shock, struggleto understand new accents, learn to be garbed appropriately for the weather (which dependingon where they are coming from could be extreme), adapt to new academic and teachingmethods, etc. 3
  4. 4. How do they deal with these issues? How do they fit in? They can either withdraw into theirshells, concentrate on their studies as best as they can and try to make it through the schoolyear without succumbing to depression. Or, they can reach out to other students experiencingthe same challenges, make friends, take advantage of the support systems instituted by theirschools, and make the most of the year!This report seeks to explore the role of social media and networks in keeping internationalstudents at Birmingham City University connected; to themselves, their families, andprofessional colleagues, and the advantages or disadvantages of the various networks.‘The need to belong’ is a concept that marketers, psychologists and counsellors haveidentified as the reason why people take certain actions. From the days of Abraham Maslow,right after food, shelter, security, and safety comes the need to belong. How have thenetworks these students subscribe to helped them settle in, develop a sense of belonging in aforeign land?It will explore their use of social networks and media before their arrival in Birmingham andattempt to measure the changes in usage (if any) since their enrolment at Birmingham CityUniversity.This report will also attempt to find the relationship (if any exists) between social networksand new opportunities for personal and professional development, strengthening of existinglinks, fostering new friendships, and adaptation to a new society. 4
  5. 5. LITERATURE REVIEWTo fully grasp the thoughts behind this research, we will break the topic down and treat eachterm independently. I trust that when we put them back together at the end of this review, notonly would it provide a deeper understanding of the subject, but it will justify my reason forundertaking the study.The literature review was primarily conducted using books and journals sourced from theBirmingham City University library and from the internet. In addition to scholarly work, anumber of blog posts were cited in the work, especially as they referred to social media,social capital, and networks.The term ‘Social Media’ immediately evokes thoughts of networks and networking sites inthe mind of the listener; we think of Facebook, twitter, hi5 and all the networks we belong to.That is a very limiting view of this rapidly expanding phenomenon which has changed theway we do business, advertising, marketing, our relationships both online and offline, andeven the way family members communicate.Social media refers to online media that encourages conversation, contribution andparticipation, unlike traditional media which is essentially a one track conversation becauseeven though it might create avenues for feedback, it doesn’t allow the readers, viewers orlisteners to contribute to the production of the content.Anthony Bradley (2010), group vice president at Gartner Research, defines social media as “aset of technologies and channels targeted at forming and enabling a potentially massivecommunity of participants to productively collaborate”. Simply put, Bradley is saying thatsocial media refers to a new set of internet tools that allow anyone with basic computer skillsto become a part of a shared community experience.A community here refers to a group of people with similar interests, passions, or professionswho want to work, play, learn, collaborate or just foster new relationships all to create value.This community could either be online or offline. These communities in my opinion can beinterchanged with the word networks seeing that both are founded on the same principles –people coming together to share, collaborate, learn, or take collective action.A lot of research is currently going on about social networks or computer mediatedcommunication (CMC) to describe the networks of relations in as detailed a manner as 5
  6. 6. possible, extract as much information as can be gleaned about the patterns that stand out themost in those networks, trace the flow of information through them, and then explore theeffects (both positive and negative) that the relations and networks have on the people thatbelong to them.Social network analysts ask about “the exchanges that create and sustain work and socialrelationships and the resources could either be tangible (goods and services) or intangible(influence or social support)”, Wellman 1992. They do this using units of analysis thatinclude relations, ties, multiplexity, and composition. Barry Wellman, a professor ofsociology, founded the International Network for Social Network Analysis (INSNA) in 1976and has spearheaded research in this field. In his network analysis presentation calledNetworks for Newbies he posits that the world is composed of networks which can either betightly bound (or direct) as in family or not densely knit (indirect) as in friends, colleagues,etc.What are the benefits of belonging to a network? What roles do these networks play in theway we do business, communicate with our friends and family and do things together? Socialcapital encapsulates the answer to these questions, and more.Social capital has been linked to diverse positive outcomes including “better public health,lower crime rates and more efficient financial markets”. (Adler and Kwon, 2002). It has beensaid that people who are well connected lead healthier lives because they have supportsystems they can always draw from.Portes (1998) identified four negative consequences of social capital to be exclusion ofoutsiders (students who do not belong to the BCU Fresher’s page will not receivenotifications of offers or promotions from them.); excess claims on group members (makingthem do stuff they normally would not do just because they belong to a network); restrictionson individual freedom (making them feel like because you belong to this group you can orcannot do stuff) ; and downward levelling norms (where a community that has experiencedadversity consciously or unconsciously restricts its members from seeking to better their lot). 6
  7. 7. METHODOLOGYAs this report deals with the views, experiences and thoughts of people, in this case theinternational students at Birmingham City University, the research method to be employedwill be the Focus Group method.Powell et al (1996:449) define a focus group as “a group of individuals selected andassembled by researchers to discuss and comment on, from personal experience, the topicthat is the subject of the research”.Kitzinger J (1995) says focus groups are “a form of group interview that capitalizes oncommunication between research participants in order to generate data”.It is worthy of note at this point that while focus groups are a form of group interviews, theyare different. The major difference is in structure because while focus groups rely oninteraction based on the topic given by the researcher between members of the group, groupinterviews are based on the questions and answers between the researcher and the respondent.I decided to use the focus group method because I want to draw from the feelings, thoughts,experiences, and reactions of the students in ways that an observation, interview,questionnaire or survey will not be able to achieve.Kitzinger (1995) argues that interaction is a crucial benefit of focus groups because betweenmembers it highlights their view of the topic, and the language they might use to expressthemselves will make for interesting data.I believe that as the students discuss with each other, the dynamics of the group can generatenew thinking that might point the research in a new and maybe unexpected direction. I alsobelieve that as they talk within themselves, ask each other questions, not only will they getclarification on issues; they might re-evaluate or reconsider their understanding of pastexperiences.Another possible benefit of group discussions propounded by Race et al (1994) is that thediscussions can become a forum for change, both during and after. An example of this wouldbe the research conducted by Goss and Leinbach (1996) where the participants were said tohave experienced “a sense of emancipation through speaking in public and by developingreciprocal relationships with the researchers. 7
  8. 8. Also, at Warwick University, focus groups were used by the Centre for Academic Practise togather researchers views and suggestions for the format and implementation of a frameworkfor skills training. Seven focus groups ran with forty participants, producing invaluable datawhich will help the centre design a framework where skills training will be provided anddelivered appropriately.Still on focus group discussions as a forum for change, following a focus group researchconducted by Smith et al (1995) with patients of a hospital as participants, steps were takenby management to improve the quality of services rendered based on ideas andrecommendations by the group.That said, focus groups are not a one-sided miracle; matter of fact some of its advantagesconstitute the sore spots for critics of its use as a research method. For example, the so calledinteraction can lead to disagreements and irrelevant discussions which distract from the mainissue and the moderator faces the challenge of controlling the group as well as trying not toappear overbearing or domineering.Again, as far as group dynamics go, there is no way to tell that the participants will connectwith each other enough to have a fruitful discussion. Also, some participants might feelpressured to agree with the loudest voice or keep silent altogether, thereby detracting fromthe credibility of the work.Humans are largely unpredictable, dynamic beings and so the researcher cannot make anyprojections as to the results of the focus group, or if they will even be useful to his research atall. Morgan (1998) says that “the researcher has less control over the data produced than inquantitative studies or one-to-one interviewing”. To be able to predict/project, the researchermight have to hold more group discussions on the same topic and over time will seeconsistency or a pattern develop which will not produce anything new but will help confirmhis findings from earlier sessions. 8
  9. 9. ANALYSISThe focus group comprised seven people; one Irish, one Egyptian, a Kenyan, one German, aHong Konger, and two Nigerians because I felt that the more diverse/different the culturesand background of the participants, the richer and more profound the discussion would be.The participants include both post graduate and undergraduate students cutting across anumber of faculties in Birmingham City University, their ages range from 21 to 30.The discussion started with the participants talking about the social networks they subscribeto and why. Facebook cut across all of them, confirming rankings by various analysts andsites about Facebook being the most popular and most subscribed to network on earth.However they still utilise other networking sites like Twitter, Skype, FourSquare, Flickr tocommunicate with their friends and family.While all of them reported an increase in their use of Facebook for different reasons rangingfrom it being the most central site, it being economical for having multiple conversations, tothe opportunities for fostering new relationships, they all started using other networks more.Laura for example reactivated her Twitter account, Jinny now uses Skype more because its acheaper way of reaching her family back home and likes the idea of video calls, Noha usesTwitter more (she runs two accounts there), Mariam joined Naija Pals which is the Nigerianequivalent of Facebook because for her it keeps Nigeria alive, Leonie and Karen haveincreased their use of Skype, while Malachi who hasn’t subscribed to any other network hasdiscovered and now uses Facebook as a tool of collaboration with his classmates.On how social networks they belong to have helped sustain the friendships they had beforeenrolling at Birmingham City University, there was a bit of disagreement because whileLaura, Noha and Leonie said that they cannot be physically present with some of their friendsthose relationships have withered, confirming Robert Putnams (1993) thoughts that socialcapital is just as offline as it is online. Jinny said shes only lost touch with her friends whoare not on Facebook. While for Mariam using social networks since moving here only helpedretain the friends she already had, shes made new connections, Williams (2006) has saidseverally that although researchers have examined potential loses of social capital in offlinecommunication due to increased internet use, they have not adequately explored online gainsthat might compensate for this. 9
  10. 10. The group agreed that social networks has exposed them to new opportunities with Mariamand Leonie now using Skype and Facebook respectively as tools for collaboration with theirclassmates, Malachi using his Facebook profile as a business tool, and Laura getting a jobwith a tourism company because of a group she belongs to on Facebook. Barry Wellmanalluded to that when he said social networks links individuals to individuals, individualswithin organisations, and individuals between organisations and institutions.Professional growth via membership of social networks didnt receive as overwhelming a nodas new opportunities did. Leonies sourcing of participants for her focus group discussion viaFacebook and her hope for future collaborations is in line with Boix and Posners hypothesesto explain the emergence of cooperation or social capital. They (1998; 687) said, “stablecooperation can emerge spontaneously among otherwise uncooperative actors when theyvalue future pay-offs and expect to interact again and again an indefinite number of times. Aslong as the pattern of interaction has no foreseeable end, actors will have no incentive todefect from cooperation and a virtuous circle of social capital building will be initiated”On social media and the way it helps them communicate with their families, everyone exceptLaura and Jinny saw social networks as appropriate and enhancing communication. Malachiparticularly said social media would be distancing and not communicate hisemotions/feelings and for Jinny, video calling on Skype and seeing her mother is good forher.The students had lots of stories though on how being part of different social networks havehelped them settle in at Birmingham City University. Karen met her flatmates on Facebookeven before coming into Birmingham, Leonie was only able to find out about her course ofstudy by talking to someone who blogged about his experiences on the same course, andMiriam got answers to her questions by posting them on the BCU Fresher’s page onFacebook. Laura’s tutor found her on Facebook and they were communicating even beforeLaura resumed!Finally, the students plotted the relationship between themselves and the networks theybelong to, and their families, new and existing friends, professionals, and their religion.The focus group lasted for an hour and a half; the transcript of the discussion and thedrawings by the students can be found in the appendices. 10
  11. 11. FINDINGSThere is a strong relationship between the student’s use of social network and the creation ofsupport groups (social capital if you like) that they can draw resources from.The research showed bridging social capital, where members of a group access the resourcesof another group through overlapping membership. An example would be Laura as a memberof a group for international students on Facebook being commissioned to do some work bymembers of a tourism company who also belong to the international group on Facebook.Barry Wellman (1992) says that “networks scale up to networks of networks” which to mymind plays true because even though A is friends with B on Facebook, they are also friendson Twitter, or MySpace, LinkedIn or some other network. By belonging to one network youinadvertently set the stage to subscribe to others which most of the time offer the sameservice – communication – just in different ways. Networks are not mutually exclusive;people go to networks their friends are on, even if they do the same thing.Social networks can be alienating, and work to the detriment of offline relationships. Thestudents agreed with this, Noha saying some of her friendships have withered because theyare not physically around each other anymore.At the same time, social networks help people maintain contact when they move from oneplace to the other which is why the students use it to talk to their friends at home, regardlessof the distance.Please find in the tables below, the interpretation of the drawings depicting the strength ofrelationship the international students have with different groups of peopleMALACHI Facebook Twitter Skype LinkedInFamily Don’t use Don’t use Don’t use Don’t useExisting Friends Strongest Don’t use Don’t use Don’t useProfessionalColleagues Strongest Don’t use Don’t use Don’t useNew Friends Strong Don’t use Don’t use Don’t useReligion weak Don’t use Don’t use Don’t useLEONIE Facebook Twitter Skype LinkedInFamily Weak Don’t use Strongest Don’t useExisting Friends Strongest Strongest Weak Strong 11
  12. 12. ProfessionalColleagues Strong Strongest Weak StrongestNew Friends Strongest Strongest Don’t use StrongReligion Don’t use Don’t use Don’t use Don’t useJINNY Facebook Twitter Skype EmailFamily Don’t use Don’t use Strong WeakExisting Friends Strongest Don’t use Strongest WeakProfessionalColleagues Strong Don’t use Don’t use StrongNew Friends Strongest Don’t use Strong Don’t useReligion Strongest Don’t use Strong Don’t useLAURA Facebook Twitter Skype Flickr Yahoo messengerFamily Strongest Don’t use Strongest Don’t useExisting Friends Strongest Strongest Strong Don’t use WeakProfessional WeakColleagues Strongest Strong Don’t use WeakNew Friends Don’t use Strong Don’t use Don’t use WeakReligion Strongest Don’t use Don’t use Don’t useNOHA Facebook Twitter Skype Flickr DeliciousFamily Strongest Strong Weak WeakExisting Friends Strong strongest Strong Strong Don’t useProfessionalColleagues Strongest Strong Strong Don’t use Don’t useNew Friends Strong strongest Weak Weak Don’t useReligion Don’t use Strong Skype Don’t use WeakMIRIAM Facebook Twitter Skype Yahoo messenger MSNFamily Strong Don’t use Don’t use Weak Don’t useExisting Friends Strongest Don’t use Weak Weak Don’t useProfessionalColleagues Strongest Don’t use Strong Weak Don’t useNew Friends Strongest Don’t use Weak Weak Don’t use 12
  13. 13. Religion Strongest Don’t use Don’t use Don’t use Don’t useKAREN Facebook Twitter Skype Four Square Gmail Chat LinkedInFamily Strongest Don’t use Strongest Don’t use Strongest StrongExisting Friends Strongest Strong Strongest StrongProfessional StrongestColleagues Strongest Strong Don’t use Strong Don’t useNew Friends Strongest Strong Weak Don’t use Don’t use Don’t useReligion Don’t use Don’t use Don’t use Don’t use Don’t use Don’t use 13
  14. 14. RECOMMENDATIONSI would recommend that this study be replicated not only to see if the answers will beconsistent and therefore show a pattern but also to address the issues raised by the students.An example would be Laura and Jinny saying they didn’t find adequate information abouttheir courses on the school website.I would also recommend that the same research be carried out but narrowed down using onlyone network. I would work with Facebook because all the participants use it, and the findingswould be less generalised than this one.A limitation to this study which is the fact that the discussion was done by students in onlyone campus of the university can be handled by including the other campuses, and evenbroadening the scope to include other universities because each university community isdifferent.I think it would be helpful for the Students Union at Birmingham City University to createmore groups on Facebook to cater to more groups of people so they don’t feel excluded. Itwould also be worth their while if tutors encouraged their students to work together.Finally, I would recommend a balanced gender ratio in subsequent researches, and a deeperexploration into the way social media and religion are a part of the lives of the students. 14
  15. 15. CONCLUSIONThis research set out to find the social networks international students at Birmingham CityUniversity subscribe to, and for what reasons. I ended up doing that, but also did apreliminary review of literature around network analysis. This helped me better understandthe profits or losses in relationships the students belonging to these networks have seen.I have tried in this report to link social media and networks to the concept of social capital,touching on the relationship online and offline communication has had on it and looking atwhether online network tools have enabled the students to keep in touch with members of asocial network after physically disconnecting from it.Still on social capital, while it is a known fact that the internet facilitates new connections,this report also looked at the new opportunities the students have been exposed to just bybelonging to social networks, and consequently how their social capital has increased.This report also analysed social media, networks and continued communication with familymembers. the wanted to explore how social media and the networks contribute or diminishfrom the sustenance of the relationships the international students had before they startedstudying in Birmingham, and mirror that against the new relationships they might havecultivated since their arrival here.More importantly, this research sought to establish a link between membership of certainnetworks and professional development of the students, and it did. 15
  16. 16. REFERENCESBOOKSEdmunds Holly (1999): ‘The Focus Group Research Handbook’ (2 – 8) NTC/ ContemporaryPublishing Group Inc. Available Online at http://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=vGa5szorHEAC&oi=fnd&pg=PP11&dq=definitions+of+focus+group+research&ots=n9qv8F4bQt&sig=TDmQl30e0ZoqvHld0svHDLJut1k#v=onepage&q&f=falseGoss J.D., Leinbach T.R. (1996): ‘Focus groups as alternative research practice’, Area 28(2): 115-23.Kitzinger J. (1994): ‘The methodology of focus groups: the importance of interactionbetween research participants’, Sociology of Health 16 (1): 103-21.Kitzinger J. (1995): ‘Introducing focus groups’, British Medical Journal 311: 299-302.Morgan D.L. (1988): Focus groups as qualitative research. London: Sage.Powell R.A., Single H.M., Lloyd K.R. (1996): ‘Focus groups in mental health research:enhancing the validity of user and provider questionnaires’, International Journal of SocialPsychology 42 (3): 193-206Race K.E., Hotch D.F., Parker T. (1994): ‘Rehabilitation program evaluation: use of focusgroups to empower clients’, Evaluation Review 18 (6): 730-40.Smith J.A., Scammon D.L., Beck S.L. (1995): ‘Using patient focus groups for new patientservices’, Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement 21 (1): 22-31JOURNALSBMJ 1995; 311: 299 (Published 29 July 1995) -http://www.bmj.com/content/311/7000/299.fullBoix C. and Posner, D.N (1998): Social Capital: explaining its origins and effects ongovernment performance, British Journal of Political Science, Vol 28, no 4: 686-93 16
  17. 17. Giddens (2000): Third Way and its Critics (78) in Johnston G. and Percy-Smith J (2003): Insearch of social capital. Volume 31, The Policy PressPortes A. (1998) : Social Capital: Its Origins and Applications in Modern Sociology. AnnualReview of Sociology, Vol. 24., pp. 1-24Wellman, B. (1992): Which types of ties and networks give what kinds of social support?Advances in Group Processes, 9, 207-235.Williams, D. (2006): On and off the net: Scales for social capital in an online era. Journalof Computer Mediated Communication, 11 (2), article 11. Retrieved August 29, 2006 fromhttp://jcmc.indiana.edu /vol11/issue2/williams.htmlURLShttp://blogs.gartner.com/anthony_bradley/2010/01/07/a-new-definition-of-social-media/http://www.prospects.ac.uk/coming_to_uk_how_much_does_it_cost.htmhttp://www.prospects.ac.uk/coming_to_uk_why_study_in_uk.htmhttp://sru.soc.surrey.ac.uk/SRU19.htmlhttp://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/ldc/resource/evaluation/tools/focus/examples/http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8506148.stm 17
  18. 18. APPENDICES1. Transcript of focus group discussion held on Saturday the 15th of January 2011.Respondents: Laura (Kenya), Noha (Egypt), Jinny (Hong Kong), Malachi (Nigeria), Karen(Ireland), Miriam (Nigeria), and Leonie (Germany).Topic– The Effects of Social Media and Networks on Your Life as an International Student atBirmingham City University 1. Which social network do you subscribe to the most and why? Laura – Facebook, that’s because all my family uses it and most of my friends both back home and here use it too. Noha – I use Facebook, Twitter (I have two accounts on twitter actually), Skype, Flickr, and I have a blog Karen – I use Skype a lot, Facebook, Twitter, and Four Square Jinny – I use Facebook and Mebo, and Skype. Malachi – Facebook, who isnt on Facebook now? Leonie – I use Facebook, Twitter, and Skype Miriam – I use Facebook, I dont use twitter but I use yahoo messenger a lot. I also use Skype, and Naija Pals, which is like Nigerian Facebook. 2. Has your use of any network changed (increased/decreased) since you came to Birmingham City University? Jinny – I dont use Mebo here anymore a lot because it is more useful to me in Hong Kong and not a lot of people use it here. It made calls cheap but here I now use Skype to make calls and I use my Facebook because my friends are a lot on Facebook. Miriam - I use Facebook a lot more than I did back in Nigeria because there is internet access everywhere I go and so my friends and I can keep in touch. I also joined Naija Pals only after I got here because a lot of my friends in Nigeria use that network. 18
  19. 19. Leonie – before I came I used to use which is the German equivalent of Facebook butnow I am using Facebook more, and I am tweeting more than I was before. I also useSkype to call my parents and my boyfriend.Malachi – I was more of a phone and texts person before I came here but apart fromcalling my family, I use Facebook to keep in touch with my friends, and to even workwith my classmates.Noha – I have always liked Twitter but I have found that I am using it more than I usedto, and I am using my Flickr account more. My Facebook is still the same, I have mademore friends but I don’t think the way I use it has changedKaren – I use my Skype a lot more to call my family and my friends, I also use Facebookto stay in touch with my friends and my classmates. My usage of the other networks Ibelong to is basically the same, I think.Laura – I joined Twitter when it first started but then I stopped using my account becauseI didn’t see the sense in just talking and trying to cram a conversation into 140 characters.Since I got here though I have found that most of my friends are tweeting and so I amback on Twitter, I use it more often. Of course my use of Facebook is very high. 3. Do the networks you belong to help you sustain existing relationships you had before you got here, or did it make you lose them?Laura – in a way I think it does because you can chat with your friends on any network,keep in touch, see what theyve been doing, things like that. Then again there are some ofmy friends on Facebook for example who I haven’t spoken to in three months. I sat downone day and started deleting them from my Facebook because I don’t think they are myfriends if we haven’t spoken for that longJinny – I did not delete my friends; I lost some friends because when I moved here someof my friends do not have Facebook and I cannot keep in touch with them with Mebobecause of the cost so we do not talk anymore. I have only been here for two weeks so Idon’t know if it will keep the friends I still have 19
  20. 20. Malachi – I think it helps because even if you dont talk to all your friends every time,they are still your friends and with something like Facebook the day you want to you canjust start a conversation with them.Leonie – I agree with Laura, even though I did not delete my friends. Some of them youfind that you talk more and with others your communication is not just what it wasbefore.Miriam – if anything it has increased the number of friends I have because since I gothere I have joined new networks example Naija Pals and I found people there who do notuse Facebook.Karen – I think that for me a lot hasnt really changed, I have made new friends but that’sonly natural with moving to a new place.Noha – for me the relationships are as much offline as they are online. Naturally there aresome people who dont communicate with me as much because there is some distancebetween us. Then again there are people I’ve met and interacted with because I am hereand have become a part of certain networks. 4. Has your use of social media and networks exposed you to new opportunities in Birmingham?Malachi – I use my Facebook account for business these days because my profilementions some of the things I do so sometimes people send me messages asking if I canprovide services for them based on my profile and thats really nice.Laura – well, mine is more business-like, which now that I think of it is very exciting.From a Facebook group I belong to an organization promoting tourism in Kenyacontacted me and after a series of discussions I now take pictures of my experiences herefor them and write articles which are published on their site.Noha – I can say yes it has because you make friends with people even before you meetthem and then you have discussions and decide to collaborate on projects together. So,yes.Karen – Erm, none comes to mind now, except that you get invited to a lot of events here! 20
  21. 21. Jinny – I dont know, I dont have an answer to that Leonie – we have groups on Facebook where my classmates and I drop information that could be useful to either of us, sometimes on books to read, events to attend, things like that. I think that those are ways and opportunities for us to make ourselves better but I don’t have any special example of myself. Miriam – I have found new ways of getting things done! Even though you guys have already mentioned stuff similar to it, in my class we Skype whenever we have group assignments. Its more convenient, allows us to set up even impromptu meetings when we need to make drastic changes to our work, etc. 5. On how Social Media and networks have helped professional growth?Leonie – with my focus group discussion for my class assignment I contacted the participantson Facebook because it was the easiest way to get to everybody. They wrote me back andnow I have them as friends and contacts on Facebook and LinkedIn. It’s also helped meexpand the network of professionals I know. I am interested in Social Media and marketingso I am sure there will be ways for us to work together in future and I can go to them if I needa favourMiriam – we have a group on Facebook for students doing MBAs and from time to timepeople paste links to organizations we can belong to, workshops or seminars we can attendand all the ones I’ve attended were really useful for me.Noha – my answer isnt much different from Miriams, even though I get that too fromTwitter. Facebook is just more because more people subscribe to itMalachi – professionally as regards what I am studying here, I have no instances or anything.When it concerns the businesses I have though, all it takes is for someone to commendsomething I have done for them on my wall and others start to ask what it is about and that’show the word spreads.Jinny – for now I only use Facebook and Skype, no professional networks. Maybe when Istay here a little more I will decide which one to use. 21
  22. 22. Laura – Jinny there are groups that would benefit your career anywhere, Facebook, Twitter,LinkedIn, etc. I have found that on any network you belong to there will be people who sharethe same interests as you and once you find them, you can interact and make yourselvesbetter! For me, I said earlier the group on Facebook opened me up to the organization I nowwrite for, and I’m looking forward to more like that!Karen – (didn’t say anything) 6. The use of social networks with your family; does it help your communication? Do you think it is good tool? Background: An author recently said that parents are beginning to use Facebook to talk to their children and find out what they are up to, and that it is an efficient way for them to communicate.Malachi – speaking to my family on Facebook is a no-no for me because it feels estranged; itis not real. We did some research on Facebook in my class and it showed that the percentageusing Facebook, social networks and computers is considerably less among people older than50 years of age. When I talk to my family n phone it helps us convey our emotions andwhatever it is we are feeling per time.Karen – my parents are not on Facebook because they don’t have the skills for it so no, wedon’t communicate that way. My brothers and I talk about a lot but that’s maybe when theyare commenting on my pictures or my status. We use Skype and instant chats a lot thoughbecause it makes our calls cheaper. There is however no substitute for talking on the phone oron stage.Leonie – is it Socialnomics you’re referring to? Eric Qualman said in the book that parentsreach out to their children, I don’t agree with it because relationships with family aresupposed to be offline, not online. Families are supposed to eat, talk and be together and Idon’t think Facebook is a good tool for that. Now that I am away from home at university andmy parents are back home in Germany we send emails and Skype but it doesn’t replaceoffline communication.Laura – my answer is very different because my mum, dad, and brother are all on Facebook.Since we were teenagers we’ve never all lived in the same city; my mother and father work in 22
  23. 23. different cities and my brother are in different universities in different countries so Facebookis the fastest way for all of us to stay in touch while minimizing costs. Also the internet inAfrica is not the same as here where there’s internet everywhere so if we want to Skype youhave to be at home where there’s wireless and sometimes you might not even have that.Again through Facebook my family can be a part of my Birmingham experience because theydon’t have the time to go on Flickr so when I upload pictures I have taken here on Facebookthey can see and have an idea of what I have been up to.Miriam – my parents are not on Facebook but my siblings are so we talk and sometimes ISkype my sister or we chat on yahoo messenger. I still call them on phone though, or sendthem texts. I have never thought of communicating with them only through, what did you callit? Social Media, I dont think it would be right.Noha – I dont think it is adequate for parents to talk to or find out about their children onFacebook or any other social network. I think they are tools that should enhance relationshipslike Leonie said, and not replace them.Jinny – it is funny to think of not talking to my parents except through Facebook! Maybebecause they are not on Facebook, or maybe because they will get tired of typing to me everytime. I like Skype because it is cheap and when I use video call, I can see my mother and ourhouse. That is good for me. 7. Do your networks decrease the distance between you and your friends, colleagues and family back at home or does it make it worse?Miriam – not really, doesnt! When I miss them I miss them, I dont think Facebook or yahoomessenger or emails are to blame because the truth is I am away from home. I just cant reachthem every time.Leonie – there’s the thing with the time here not being the same with the time back inGermany and that affects how I communicate with my family. I can see where my friendshave been, if they went to clubs or anything by their pictures and I miss them and it makesthe distance obvious. But, I can talk to them on Facebook, twitter, Skype, and it helps me feellike I am not so far away. 23
  24. 24. Noha – I think that it is relative, sometimes it does, other times it doesnt. For me it is moreabout being aware of what is happening, how they are faring and for them to be able to do thesame for me.Malachi – same for me, it helps sometimes but other times I’m just reminded of how far awayI am.Jinny – I feel very close when I Skype my parents because I can see them but sometimes theinternet is slow and the picture stops moving and then I know that I am away from home.Laura – it works both ways; if I need to talk to my family all I have to do is call them onSkype or send instant messages but on the other hand I have to keep things like the timedifference in mind and that keeps me aware that we’re in different places. Again when I seethem celebrating holidays or festivals peculiar to Kenya I am reminded that we’re in twodifferent worlds.Karen – well I’m not too far away so I don’t have issues with time difference. However youcan go on Facebook, see your friends online; nothing stops you from chatting with them sofor me it helps me stay close to them and be up to date with what they do. 8. How have social networks helped you settle in at Birmingham City University?Malachi – well before I came I already had friends on Facebook who were studying here so Icame, met them, they invited me to groups of more Nigerians and that’s how I’ve beenmaking new contacts, both for school and even business.Leonie – I didn’t have friends here at first. Before I came to Birmingham City University theinformation about my course on the school website was very inadequate, it was only twosentences so I did not know anything about the course. So I googled blogs about the course atBCU and found a guy who studied the course here so I ended up asking him a lot of questionsand he told me everything I need to know.Miriam – the BCU Freshers page on Facebook was really helpful when I came; they told usthe places to visit. I also remember when I had a problem with signing in at the international 24
  25. 25. office; I posted the question on the page and one of the Student Union official’s inboxed metelling me what to do.Jinny – I have only just come as an exchange student and the information on the website wasnot enough for me to know what to do when I arrived. It was a good thing to meet myflatmates the day I arrived and I have now joined two groups for Asian students on Facebook.I saw an old friend who even lives to me so she has been helping me see new places, takepictures, and shop.Laura – I came to BCU really late and so my personal tutor/award leader looked me up onFacebook! And that’s where we started communicating because I didn’t come to Birminghamwith a laptop; it was easy for her to tell me what I needed to do. Also, I was invited to a groupon Facebook called international students from the lower part of Africa. Through that groupI’ve met lots of people, made new friends from other countries and I feel more at home nowand can say I’ve settled in nicely.Karen – the BCU Fresher’s page on Facebook was really useful for me because I made lots offriends there and even met my flat mates there. That was good for me because we becamefriends even before I arrived and that helped us blend and become friends faster.Noha – I have made new friends, joined new groups that I now communicate with, and getinvited to events that I attend that are very interesting.9. Using the keys (strongest), (strong), (weak), and X (never/don’t use/don’tknow), represent the level of your relationship with a) your family, b)your existingfriendships, c)new relationships, d)professional colleagues, and e)religion.Responses to question 9 are scanned and attached as PDF files for appendix 2. 25

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