The Study
An introduction to this study of family use of the Internet.

The Families
Feature stories reflecting the Internet's impact on study participants' lives.

The Diaries
Statistics reported by people taking part in the project.

The Researchers
Janna Q. Anderson of the Elon School of Communications and 25 student researchers compiled this study.

The Neighborhood
Details about the town of Elon, N.C. and the neighborhood in this study.

Elon University

Pew Internet & American Life Project

"The Internet has fulfilled my dream of being able to study at a college 6,000 miles away from home." -Sebastian Cormier

Sebastian Cormier Sebastian Cormier

Five years ago, the three-person Cormier family opened the door to a new and exciting world - the Internet. "Yes, we were really curious about the entire thing. People started using it and we just thought that we had to join the group," says Konstanze Cormier.

They were told how easy it is and how much money it would save them in the long run. "At first, only our son Sebastian used it, because he was the most tech-savvy person in the family. We literally did not even know how to turn on the computer," Konstanze expresses with laughter.

Shortly after though, their son taught the couple some basics on how to use it and to independently surf the Web and discover the broad range of information.

At first, they were mainly on the home banking site to check their account status and complete all their money matters. "It saved us a lot of money and time driving to the bank and doing all the money transfers," says Konstanze. The fact of being able to have control over your bank affairs from home facilitates the situation a lot.

However, what the Cormiers believed to be everything the Internet has to offer, changed when their son went to the United States for the first time. Sebastian was a high school student in their hometown Friedrichshafen, Germany, when his parents allowed him to study abroad for one year.

Overcoming homesickness by e-mail

He was picked by a host family to visit with them in New Brockton, Ala. "I was thrilled but also very nervous about this life experience", said Sebastian. "I was struggling at the beginning of the year overseas, because I experienced a cultural shock, that made me feel really homesick and depressed. I was ready to quit and take the next flight home to Germany!

"But one day, my host-family made me discover the e-mail, and I familiarized myself quickly with this new communication tool. I was able to contact my parents and tell them my problems, and they responded me the same day. It was inexpensive and helpful."

Sebastian was able to continue his stay in Alabama, and now remembers it to be the best life experience he ever had.

"We enjoyed the e-mail contact with our son, because we helped him out by answering his questions and on the other hand got help from him by expressing our feelings of yearning together with pride and happiness," Konstanze says.

Since then, the Cormiers have used e-mail regularly to communicate with friends and relatives. "We have a lot of friends scattered over the world who we can contact via e-mail. It allows us to stay in touch and share news about our families," Sebastian says.

Last fall, the Cormiers surprised friends from Turkey that they haven't seen in ten years by booking a flight online and finding a hotel close to their home. They also looked up their friends' address on the World Wide Web and printed out a map for the taxi driver to use from the airport to their final destination.

"It was great", said Konstanze. "We have located our friends' apartment in Ankara, Turkey, which has at least 3 million inhabitants, through this simple Yahoo Web site."

Web offers unlimited information

Another incredible asset the Internet offers the Cormiers is the sum of information spread throughout the billions of Web sites. Each member of the family can link up to the world's greatest data bank to seek information regarding their points of interest.

Jean-Jacques for example enjoys looking up things that involve his hobby of Aquarist art. He loves to look up the various kinds of fish and accessories offered globally. Konstanze on the other hand is more interested in travel sites, where she looks at desired vacation spots, even if she will never go there. "It just relaxes me to look up different locations and imagine myself laying on that beach and reading a book," she says.

In order for Konstanze to enjoy herself in the holidays, she has to have at least 10 books. She says she loves to browse through the Amazon.com Web site to get in-depth information on newly released books. "What I do is read the comments on the books from the Amazon site, and then get the book at the store afterwards," she explains.

Working for a sports medicine degree

Sebastian was never really interested in shopping. His main interest was to go back to the U.S. and start his college degree in sports medicine. It has been two years now since he left the Medley's residence in Alabama and completed his economics degree in Germany.

He used the Internet to look up various colleges throughout the country that seemed interesting to him. "I was able to look at every school explicitly and get all the necessary details that I needed in order to proceed with my application," he explains. "It took me almost two years to plan and decide where I wanted to go.

"Applying from another country is ten times more difficult than it is for citizens. Americans don't have to deal with all the issues that we internationals have to cope with. It takes so much time to obtain a visa and translate German transcripts for school credits. I could never have done this without the use of e-mail. There are just too many questions that had to be answered in order for me to make this step into American college life much easier."

He says he also believes that the use of e-mail helped him to get accepted at the college of his choice. "E-mail also allowed me to express my interest in this school program by asking plenty of questions and thereby forming a friendship in the admissions office - a key to entry at this institution of higher learning."

At Elon University, Sebastian uses many Net search engines to facilitate his research for classes and outside interests.

Downloading music is a favorite pastime

He also enjoys downloading music from the Web. "I enjoy music a lot and would love to have every good CD in this world!" Sebastian exclaims. "It is just so easy now to make your own collection of music classics, without paying a dime!"

Sebastian and his family are glad to have an Internet connection. "Without it, we wouldn't have done as much or gone as far," he says. "The Internet has fulfilled my dream of being able to study at a University 6,000 miles away from home."


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