Brandeis International Business School

10 countries in 10 weeks: Brandeis student to embark on social media research trip around the world

Few people have the chance to travel the world in the course of a lifetime, but Kevin Dupont ’16 will do so in one summer

Kevin DupontDupont’s travel-study research trip will take him to China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Greece, Tunisia and Brazil, thanks to a grant from the Circumnavigators Club Foundation, an educational organization that supports the mission of improving international relations. His project, 140 Characters, will explore social media’s ability to affect (or be affected by) social unrest around the world.

“The way these countries’ cultures are defined is moving away from on-the-street, face-to-face conversations and toward those on digital platforms,” says Dupont. “Tense relations between governments and common people vary between countries, but I hope to uncover some sociological threads that tie these locations together.”

Dupont seeks to gain an in-person perspective of what sociopolitical unrest is like in each country as compared with its representation on social media. His timing couldn’t be better as he is scheduled to arrive in Turkey – where Twitter and YouTube are banned due to previous political unrest – the day before a pivotal election, and he is prepared to experience the results firsthand.

The Brandeis junior has customized approaches and hypotheses for each of his destinations. He expects his findings in Singapore will be shaped by its distinct immigrant groups and melting pot culture. He will trace influence and trends in areas such as Tunisia and Hong Kong, where effects of recent political unrest are still raw and prevalent.

“There’s a lot to work with in the moment, but things change so quickly in sociopolitical climates, especially in countries such as Brazil, China and Thailand,” says Dupont. “I’m leaving my hypotheses open to interpretation.”

In each location, Dupont will meet with university professors as well as social media frontrunners and influencers to round out his research. He looks forward to making quick connections, noting that the solo nature of his trip will perhaps be its most daunting aspect.

“I studied abroad last semester but was part of a larger peer cohort. This time around, it’s just me.  In order to make smart and efficient use of my time, the mental and physical adjustment to each location will need to be quick.”

Dupont will follow in the footsteps of Brandeis International Business School Dean Bruce Magid, P’15, the second recipient of the grant in 1972, and last year’s inaugural Brandeis recipient, Madeline List ’15 – a reassuring reminder that while he will carve his own path and research, it’s been done successfully before.  Plans are also in motion for Dupont to receive on-the-ground support from Brandeis IBS alumni in several of his destinations.

The self-professed “travel nerd” hopes to pursue a career in the U.S. Department of State, and views his solo trek as only the beginning of a lifetime of meaningful international travel and research.

“Being able to connect with people around the world, both as peers and on a research level, will be a great way to break the ice and settle into the pace of this trip – and will prepare me for a successful career of similar work,” he says.

Follow Kevin’s Circumnavigators Club Travel-Study Grant trip from May 5 through July 9 on Twitter at @dupontkev2.