English Australia Journal : English Australia Journal 31.2
Volume 31 No 2 35 English Australia Journal that interviews allow researchers to ‘probe beneath the surface of things and try to see things from the students’ perspective.’ Garrett and Young (2009) also point out the importance of the interview process as an extremely valuable means of discovery. As the focus of the project was on how the nature of the imagined communities of students changed over the first period of their time in Australia as well as to consider the implications of culture to these perspectives, two interviews were held several weeks apart. The interviews were semi-structured in nature in order to allow the participants the opportunity to expand on anything when and if they felt the need or desire to do so. The first of these was held very soon after the students’ arrival and commencement of their language studies, and the second interview was held 10 weeks later, once they had had time to settle in to their new life and studies and for their initial perceptions to undergo change (if, indeed, they changed at all). In order to provide some direction for the project and maintain a focus on the specific insights desired by the researchers, four key research questions were posed: 1. What did students ‘imagine’ their life would be like before they came? 2. How does their experience to date align with their imagined reality? 3. What value is placed on cultural knowledge and understanding, and how can this be gained? 4. What are the implications for the teaching of culture in ESL classrooms? It was the first time that these students had studied abroad as well as being the first time they had spent a significant amount of time abroad, so the emphasis in the initial interview was on trying to take them back to the thoughts and imaginings they had had in their country before they arrived in Australia. On top of this, an added emphasis was on establishing rapport with the participants during this interview. Developing rapport is one of the most critical aspects of successful and rewarding interviews. Rapport does not necessarily mean liking, or pretending to like the interviewee, but rather involves a focus on clarity, politeness, non-threatening behaviour, friendliness and personability, as well as demonstrating respect towards the interviewee, and to the context of the interview in general (Cohen, Manion & Morrisson, 2011). The final interview focused on any discrepancy that existed between the reality of educational and daily life in Australia, and what they had imagined it would be before they arrived. In addition, there was an emphasis on the role that culture knowledge did or did not play, in their new reality. The following sections will highlight the situations and perspectives outlined by the participants through their comments, as well as delve into the implications of the notion of culture in the experiences of international students and make some practical classroom suggestions.
English Australia Journal 31.1
English Australia Journal 32.1