Studentenverhaal

Student Jolanda Zwagemaker - MSc Leisure, Tourism and Environment

I conducted a quantitative study of Couchsurfing and analyzed the relation between couchsurfers personal values and travel motives, and if these are different compared to other travellers who do not couchsurf. The used methodological approach of this study allows for comparison of findings between a host of different cross-cultural contexts and modes of travel at present and can trace change over time. In doing so one can measure changing needs and values within the tourism sector.

I wanted to do a quantitative study to step outside of my comfort zone of qualitative studies which I was way more familiar with

Choosing my thesis topic was for me really hard and it took me quite a while. However during my internship in New Zealand I met a lot of couchsurfers and found this type of travel really interesting, especially what drives people to engage in offering your couch to a stranger or you being the stranger that steps by. I then linked Couchsurfing with a lecture earlier in the year about changing societal values and how this can be linked to tourism and ‘new’ types of travel. Additionally I wanted to do a quantitative study to step outside of my comfort zone of qualitative studies which I was way more familiar with.

Interesting Encounters/Experience

The most exciting time of my thesis process was the online survey data collection. You throw your survey link in all these Couchsurfing communities and the response was overwhelming! It came from all over the globe from over a 100 different countries. I even had a journalist from Uruguay contacting me about my topic and asking for more details. I really became hooked to my computer for two weeks refreshing my survey over and over to see how many responses came in already and from where. It went really smoothly and it was incredible to see how supportive all couchsurfers were. 

Barriers during the thesis

It was really difficult for me to find a topic and be comfortable with my decision to pursue it. There are so many things you can do and I kept thinking for a while if I really made the right decision amongst all the thousands of options you have. Motivation to get really started was another barrier for me, the magnitude of work your final thesis takes just felt really daunting to me, but once I broke the tasks up and did it step by step and could cross off some tasks the process became more enjoyable because I could see the progress I was making. After I made the first step of writing my thesis proposal and got through all the theory it went fine and I had lots of fun. The data collection was great and really motivated me into data-analysis and final write-up this than also went way faster than I thought it would go before hand.

Advise for future students

If you don’t have a lot of quantitative research skills I really recommend getting them through your thesis project. It helped me in getting my current job by showing my diversity in things I can do. Also quantitative research is fun when you have all your data and can press a few buttons in SPSS and see all these amazing results. Also don’t force yourself in a position where you only sit alone working on your thesis day in day out. Go meet classmates, friends or just take a break and watch a series or go to a party. It helps to let go and then look at your progress fresh the next day. At least this worked for me. And what helped me to progress was a clear schedule on what I wanted to achieve in a week and really do that, it also made me feel less ‘guilty’ when I went out to go and do fun stuff, because I knew I had achieved something that week already.