The purpose of this exercise was to discover how students perceive the use of alcohol, focusing on the differences between their countries of origin and Scotland. The particular theme was selected, because since I moved in Edinburgh, I noticed that alcohol consumption is one of the usual subjects of discussion among international students. I observed that this is an issue, which troubles many non-UK students. More specifically, every time I was in the company of young people from different countries, we used to discuss about the differences we notice regarding the way that Scottish people entertain themselves, the important role that alcohol holds in their lives and what differences they observe in comparison to their countries. Furthermore, alcohol consumption is a part of a county’s culture; so whether people drink or not, the way that they see alcohol and their ways of entertainment can reveal and help us to explore the culture, customs, habits and the way of thinking of different people from different countries.
Why focus group?
The reason why I chose focus group as method of my study was because I didn’t want just some information about their counties or their experiences and their beliefs about alcohol consumption in Scotland. Instead the most important and essential features of the study, that I wanted to accomplish, were the creation of data from the participants, their selves, through their interaction. It was very essential to see how they exchange their background habits and their views about a new, different country. What is more, I wanted to observe what kind of associations they will use to talk about their countries, and how they will link their culture with the others and the Scottish, with no Scottish participant.
The reason why individual interviews were not chosen was the absence of interaction and of exchange of beliefs and experiences (Greenbaum, 2000), which I believed there were necessary for my study.
Furthermore, another reason why I didn’t choose individual interviews was because it is usually observed that a burden is transferred to the interviewees; sometimes they feel obliged to answer even if they don’t have an opinion or are not aware of a particular theme (Greenbaum, 2000). As a result, the outcome may not be the desired, if the reply is not true or it is forced.
On the contrary, focus groups can provide a “safe” environment, since the focus of attention is not on one individual; that way the pressure is relieved. Hence, my assumption was that if a friendly environment was created, the participants could discuss about their experiences and their views, calm, without pressure; expressing what they need and when they feel comfortable to contribute to the discussion. Additionally, they may develop their ideas, influenced from the others’ views; furthermore, while they compare and contrast their views and their experiences they will learn new things and they will build new perceptions.