Exploring student emotional and rational experiences throughout international study exchange journey: an interpretative phenomenological analysis
Customer experience theme has been explored extensively, primarily dominated with positivistic paradigm. Therefore, the research topic needs more focus at interpretive paradigm. Like other service contexts, higher education gone through interactional transformations (from physical to digital) during the global pandemic. Therefore, it is both current and important to understand student experiences as a dynamic phenomenon. Even though, considerable literature is available on studying student experience throughout the domestic higher education journey. Research still lacks to explore student experience throughout the international exchange journey. The phenomenon of student experience has been empirically investigated in isolation either from emotional experiences or rational experiences. Research still needs more focus on combination of emotional and rational experiences following interpretive paradigm. Therefore, the current study aims to explore student emotional and rational experiences throughout international study exchange journey in the Finnish higher education context. Finnish higher education is selected as it acknowledged globally for high quality education standards. The current study aims to explore this phenomenon using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA), a phenomenological approach that has unique way to explore the phenomenon at different layers of experience, including expected experience (anticipated utility), actual experience (experienced utility), and reflective experience (retrospective utility). We recruited two international exchange students to collected triangulated data using semi-structured interviews for first-hand personal accounts, interview videos for facial data and open-ended surveys for text data to compliment qualitative findings. From facial, interview transcription, and survey text data, emotional experiences were further explored to understand the intensity of positive (happy and surprised) and negative (sad and scared) emotions. The findings revealed that the positive emotions were dominant. The findings revealed five personal experiential themes of student experiences throughout the international study exchange journey, natural beauty, self-discovery, cultural diversity, hybrid interactions, and emotional experiences. Additionally, the limitations and implications of these findings are also discussed.