DECREASING ISOLATION IN STUDY-ABROAD STUDENTS

Project Brief

Our team of study-abroad students found that among our peers at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS), many felt isolated from Danish youth culture  - despite the many opportunities available for immersion. We set out to design a service that future study-abroad students would actually use to engage with Danish youth. 

Overview

Our group conceptualized an informal immersion experience for study-abroad students to connect with Danish youth. We conversed and conducted card sorts with students coming from a variety experiences with cultural immersion to understand their needs and desires. Unlike existing immersion opportunities at DIS, many of which required long-term, upfront commitment, our solution recognized students' apprehension towards feeling trapped and offered flexibility, accordingly. 

Roles I Played

  • Conducted contextual interviews

  • Facilitated card sorts

  • Created frameworks to understand research

  • Storyboarded solution 

Research

We conducted individual and group interviews and facilitated card sorts to understand what problems our peers at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS) were facing. Some felt completely isolated from Danish youth culture, some were living with host families with children close in age to the students, and others, still, were living directly with Danish youth in a shared apartment. To understand all players in the ecosystem, we also visited the homes of Danish host families and the apartments of Danish youth participants in the DIS Buddy program, which paired study-abroad students with Danish youth as friends. 

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Understanding

In addition to completing a Say/Do/Think/Feel chart, we conducted a brainstorm and conducted a butterfly test to determine our most valuable insights and solutions. We found that only students who were living with engaged Danish youth, either in a homestay or in an apartment, felt engaged. Most students involved in the Buddy program had only met their buddy once or twice, but felt like the interactions were forced and awkward. As a team, we created a storyboard to explain how we foresaw a potential solution working.

Solution

We conceptualized a low-commitment, adventure-based bonding activity. DIS students and Danish youth would go on a trip together to camp, hike, and explore a new city before the study abroad semester began for the international students. Students could opt-in to the experience if they wanted to have the opportunity to engage with Danish youth with no follow-up engagement necessary, resolving tensions of wanting to be involved without feeling tied to a long-term commitment. Our solution provided the necessary initial connection opportunities and then encouraged - but did not require - additional, informal, engagement throughout the semester. We presented our video prototype to professors and administrators at DIS.