Reflections on Study Abroad: A Computational Linguistics Approach

59 Pages Posted: 28 Aug 2018

See all articles by Peter Grajzl

Peter Grajzl

Washington and Lee University - Department of Economics; CESifo

Cindy Irby

Washington and Lee University

Date Written: August 2018

Abstract

Study abroad and the associated sociocultural experience has been a subject of substantial interest to social science scholars and university administrators. Shedding novel light on the phenomenon, we draw on a corpus of student-authored reflective essays and apply methods of computational linguistics to examine the features and the determinants of salient themes emphasized by students in their study abroad reflections. Our analysis identifies eighteen different topics spanning the domains of distinctly cultural cognition, interaction with people, physical environment, and personal change. Specifics of the experience such as duration and location, timing of reflections, and observable student characteristics including gender, major, academic performance, extracurricular involvement, and socioeconomic status are all important determinants of student's reflections. Different factors, however, matter differently with respect to students' emphases on particular topics, a finding indicative of the complex nature of the study abroad experience.

Keywords: Study Abroad, Reflections, Culture, Text-As-Data, Machine Learning, Structural Topic Model

Suggested Citation

Grajzl, Peter and Irby, Cindy, Reflections on Study Abroad: A Computational Linguistics Approach (August 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3235551 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3235551

Peter Grajzl (Contact Author)

Washington and Lee University - Department of Economics ( email )

Lexington, VA 24450
United States

HOME PAGE: http://home.wlu.edu/~grajzlp/

CESifo ( email )

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

Cindy Irby

Washington and Lee University ( email )

204 W Washington St
Lexington, VA 24450
United States

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