Overseas youth expeditions : outcomes, elements, processes
This case study examines the participant outcomes, critical elements, and processes of young people's experiences on a ten-week expedition to West Africa. A secondary aim was to explore how one expedition structure caters to the varied goals of the participants. The study's rationale lies in the limited research focusing on young people's accounts of their experiences and how outcomes in overseas youth expeditions are achieved. Symbolic interactionism provides a framework for exploring the ways in which young people construct meaning and identity from their experiences. Mead's (1934) and Cooley's (1962; 1964) work illustrate how individuals develop their 'self through interaction with expedition team-members'. Blumer (1969) helps to understand how participants are influenced by their interpretations of the physical, social, and abstract objects with which they interact. Principal data collection involved interviewing 14 young people before, during, and six months after the expedition. Secondary data were derived from informal discussion and participant observation. Interview transcripts were interpreted using a combination of phenomenology and thematic analysis. Verification relied on member checks, investigator triangulation, and peer review. The data suggest that an overseas expedition is a highly subjective experience. People came for a wide range of reasons and took away learnings with personal relevance. The principal outcomes are improved relationships with one's self, with others, and with greater society. The critical elements of the experience are living with three different and diverse groups, being self-sufficient in an unfamiliar rural environment, and participating in activities perceived as challenging and worthwhile. Participants processed their experiences through reflection, one-to-one conversations with staff, and informal dialogue with their peers. The thesis concludes that effective expeditions encourage each participant to determine their own learning. Groups comprised of people from varied backgrounds who interact in unfamiliar settings yield critical opportunities for individuals to reexamine and modify the attitudes that shape their actions. Finally, staff should ensure that participants have ample time to interpret their own experiences through unstructured reflection and informal conversation.