Connecting across cultures

July 5, 2016

Morgan Messlink and Scott Meeberg travelled to Groningen, Netherlands (pictured here) to conduct research with students at Hanze University of Applied Sciences.

Research trip to the Netherlands filled with connections for Bachelor of Communication Studies students

The benefits of collaborating with scholars and universities in different parts of the world became crystal clear for two Bachelor of Communication Studies (BCS) students. In June, Scott Meeberg and Morgan Messelink travelled to Hanze University of Applied Sciences in Groningen, Netherlands, to conduct their own communication research projects with help from undergraduate students in Hanze’s Department of Marketing and Management, and School of Communication, Media and IT.

Not all faces at the university in Groningen were unfamiliar, however. Just a few months earlier, Morgan and Scott had the chance to connect with Marco Silvani, a Hanze professor who was at MacEwan as a visiting lecturer presenting his work on intercultural communication. The exchange and the relationship with Hanze is something that Lucille Mazo, chair of the BCS program, has been involved in for a couple of years.

With help from Marco and Lucille, Morgan and Scott teamed up with Hanze students to work on two separate projects—Morgan was continuing research around nutrition information that she began in Ecuador two years earlier and Scott was conducting social media research inspired by conversations with his Dutch relatives.

THUMB_BCS_NetherlandsGroningen just happens to be a cycling city—61 per cent of all trips are made by bicycle. See how a MacEwan BCS student's personal research project looks at how Edmonton stacks up as a cycling haven in "A long way from Copenhagen."

Selecting the right language for social media

Scott has long been interested in social media—which he was responsible for coordinating as his part-time job at a tech company—so when he had the chance to travel to the Netherlands for a research project, he knew his study would somehow be connected to how young people in the country communicate online.

“I knew from conversations with my Dutch relatives that young people in the Netherlands are very bilingual, so I decided to look at how that manifested itself in social media—did they tailor their communication to the audience, or switch between languages depending on the social media channel?”

Scott conducted surveys and interviews to find out. He’s still compiling his results, but he says that he’s excited to have had the chance to approach his research with social media in mind.

“My generation is learning about this new media as we go—everything is new and I like being at the forefront of that. Doing research in this way demonstrates that I’m not just a millennial who’s on Facebook all the time—I’m a qualified millennial who’s on Facebook all the time.”


BCS students Scott Meeberg and Morgan Messelink

Comparing nutrition education across continents

Morgan began her post-secondary education studying nutrition, and used the topic as inspiration for her 2014 research into nutrition in Ecuador with two of her fellow students. When Lucille suggested that Morgan expand the research to look at nutrition education in Europe, Morgan was intrigued.

Like Scott, Morgan is still compiling the data gathered from 80 surveys, 10 interviews and trips to several grocery stores, but she says she’s already seeing some interesting cultural differences.

“I was expecting to find more health-conscious attitudes and more nutrition education in the Netherlands than we found in Ecuador, but that wasn’t necessarily the case. There was definitely more food labelling, but our respondents didn’t seem to care about it, and some were skeptical about the validity of the health check endorsements.”

Morgan says there’s much she will take away from the unique opportunity to do the same research project in two different parts of the world. “I have learned so much in this process—not just about the research itself, but also about different cultures.” Morgan will be publishing her comparative study in the 2016 edition of MacEwan’s Earth Common Journal, and presenting her results as the keynote speaker at the journal’s annual launch on October 20.

Learning about different cultures through research is exactly what both Lucille and Marco were hoping for.

“Misunderstanding intercultural communication is one of the reasons international businesses fail,” says Marco. “Collaborating with people from another culture is an important part of building an awareness of this, and the opportunity for students from the Netherlands and Canada to work together is a valuable part of training students to be internationally aware.”

Lucille agrees. “The opportunity to work together with visiting scholars fosters collaboration, diversity and professional relationships that enrich the academic environment,” says Lucille. “We are looking forward to continuing our relationship with Hanze University into the future.”

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