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Learning and Personal Growth in a ‘Foreign’ Context: Intercultural Experiences of International Students Dr Qing Gu, University of Nottingham Dr Michele.

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Presentation on theme: "Learning and Personal Growth in a ‘Foreign’ Context: Intercultural Experiences of International Students Dr Qing Gu, University of Nottingham Dr Michele."— Presentation transcript:

1 Learning and Personal Growth in a ‘Foreign’ Context: Intercultural Experiences of International Students Dr Qing Gu, University of Nottingham Dr Michele Schweisfurth, University of Birmingham Prof Christopher Day, University of Nottingham

2 Project Background 2 year, mixed methods research: 2 surveys and 11 case studies 4 UK universities – 2 ‘old’ and 2 ‘new’ International undergraduate students (Year 1-2) ESRC-funded

3 Context: Internationalisation Rapid internationalisation of higher education in the 1990s: ‘symbolic’ internationalisation (revenue): institutions of higher education become ‘active players in the global marketplace’ (de Wit, 2002: 227) (Turner and Robson, 2008) ‘transformative’ internationalisation (knowledge sharing and co-operation)(Turner and Robson, 2008)

4 Global level Regional level Supranational level National level Sector level Institutional level Intercultural, international, and global flows of technology, economy, knowledge, people, values, and ideas Faculty/Department level Individual level Within-institution level Depth dimension of the reach of internationa lisation Extent of Knight’s (2004) depth dimension Breadth dimension of the reach of internationalisation (Sanderson, 2008: 280) 4

5 National Context British government ’ s worldwide educational campaign: “ Open a window on the world ” (Blair, 1999) “ International students are vital to the current and future health of UK further and higher education ” (D. A. Burslem, Chair of UKCOSA ’ s Board of Trustees, 2004): Academic significance Cultural significance Financial significance

6 Key Themes 1. 1.Change influences 2. 2.Conditions for change 3. 3.Change as achievement 4. 4.Perceptions of self: Identity

7 Theme 1: Change Influences

8 At Home (e.g. parents, family relationships, etc.) Student Life (e.g. friendship patterns, accommodation finance, etc.) In Yourself (e.g. level of English; positive attitude to life; internal states etc.) At University (e.g. lecturers’ support, ways of teaching, learning resources etc.)

9 At Home (e.g. parents, family relationships, etc.) Student Life (e.g. friendship patterns, accommodation finance, etc.) In Yourself (e.g. level of English; positive attitude to life; internal states etc.) At University (e.g. lecturers’ support, ways of teaching, learning resources etc.) 

10 Initial “Shock”: Student Life

11 Initial “Shock”: At University

12 Language Use and Understanding Majority of students (80%+): Confident about using English both inside and outside the classroom. (W1) Language appears to have ceased to be a key ‘barrier’ in students’ academic adjustment over time. (W2 & case studies) Tutors’ feedback appears to be particularly important to students who need an English language certificate for their studies (75% versus 56%).(W2 & focus group) However, survey respondents who had stayed longer in the UK did not necessarily become confident users of English in their study or social lives (based on self perceptions in surveys).

13 Student responses to the item 'I am worried about understanding the content of my courses‘ (N=49, respondents of 2 surveys) 10% 20% “…in the first few months, for example, I was reading books and just understanding 10% of what I was reading. And in the lectures I would catch only 20% of what the lecturers were saying. So I was thinking: how am I going to pass this exam and write these papers? 90% Now I understand almost 90% of what I am reading.” (Guzal, Kyrgystan) SurveyStrongly Agree AgreeNeither Agree nor disagree DisagreeStrongly Disagree Total W W29N/A4049

14 Language with Culture A good mastery of the English language + good understanding of the “hidden” societal and cultural values and norms attached to the language

15 “I was sort of expecting … well coming from a background where I was being exposed to American culture and I thought that British culture and American culture were the same thing and I didn’t realise that they weren’t so similar. Just minor things like humour basically – I don’t get British humour that much. I sort of identify more with American humour. Just minor things like that.” (Tristan from Trinidad)

16 Theme 2: Conditions for Change

17 1. Social Conditions Multicultural society/university versus monocultural backgrounds “ The UK was a tolerant society ” : over 60% reported agreement, with more than one in ten indicating strong agreement (W1) ‘ I would honestly say that that has probably been the best thing about living in England: having that experience of many cultures and not just English culture ’ (Tristan from Trinidad)

18 2. Social and Academic Conditions (1) Problems: Cost of living Initial uncertainties inferiority complex “I’ve decided not to focus on the differences between the groups because that was what I think fed into my inferiority complex … But I’ve met more people now and I’ve come to the realisation that they are generally the same.” (Rina, Malaysia)

19 Social and Academic Conditions (2) Diverse student population Multicultural society BUT Would like more interaction with host culture More difficult to mix with UK students

20 3. Powerlessness Back home I had a career and a future. I was in control of my own life, but I’ve lost track of that now. Because I had authority [as a hotel manager]. Here I’m virtually powerless. … Sometimes I miss “home”. Sometimes I miss my parents. Sometimes I miss my mum. Sometimes I just miss being a manager in the hotel. I miss my workplace. (Doris, Cameroon)

21 4. Lack of a Sense of Belonging I was just wondering why I didn’t feel lonely at all when I first came here – because I didn’t know what was going to happen. So every day was a new day. But this time I came back [after Easter break] … I know I’m going to have a presentation and lots of study … and every day is normal. To be honest I don’t like my personal life here. I enjoy my study life but my personal life is kind of boring. … Everyone [friends in England] has got their [own] stuff to do. … I just felt that I didn’t belong here. It’s not my place. I’m the guest and the guest is always less powerful; and also they are the host or something like that. (Jiayi, China)

22 5. Friendship Patterns (1) Initial survey: easy to mix with international students from home countries (64%) and other countries (67%) Increasing tendency to socialise with students from home culture Role of cultural roots over time: shared understanding social and emotional resources

23 ‘…when we come, we are basically alone, and being in a group, it just like helped us from not wanting to go back’. (Sophie, Mauritius) ‘…there is the language so you can find the way to say something without offending. Because we have a shared language we can be more diplomatic.’ (Guzal, Kyrgystan)

24 6. Peer Culture ‘ Social obligation ’ : “ That ’ s when people make friends ” Challenges to social adaptation: Lack of common goals I haven ’ t been going out to many of the social activities and they like going out clubbing and things like that. So they would be talking about what they had done the night before and I would not really understand. That ’ s another way that you feel outside of the group. (Rina, Malaysia)

25 Theme 3: Change as Achievement

26 Academic Change (1) Over time: More organised More committed to their course of study Using a greater range of study skills Feeling more confident about their relationships with their lecturers/tutors Feeling more comfortable in small group discussion (71% vs 29%) Feeling more confident about managing independent studies (72% vs 28%)

27 Academic Change (2) Attitudes towards class discussion (W2): “Uncomfortable speaking up in class discussions”: 57% vs 43% BUT Student discussion in class is helpful for my learning: 85% Agree (16% Strongly Agree)

28 Perceptions of Cultures Perceptions of own culture (W2): Majority have become more appreciative of their home cultural values (93%) Perceptions of the host culture (W2): More than half felt confident that their understanding of the UK culture had improved (54%)

29 Acceptance of Differences More accepting of people with different attitudes and values (W2) (70%) “It’s an interesting experience and you can see how different the countries in the world are and how different people behave and for them that is the natural way and that is how you should behave. So it’s never frustrating. … If you are willing to communicate with someone you can always do that and so I have no worries about that. I mean it’s a very valuable learning experience and sometimes really quite funny how something can be normal for a Chinese guy and really weird for a westerner and equally it will be the other way round.” (Maxwell from Germany)

30 Personal Achievement (1) Biggest achievement: Personal independence (67%) Broadened life experiences and interests (56%) Improved interpersonal and communication skills (41%)

31 Personal Achievement (2) Factors contributing to these achievements: Self determination (64%) Support from parents (21%) Support from my friends here (12%) push “I am planning to push myself to do things that I don’t really like to do…push myself outside this comfort area…at first you are not confident but then time will pass you feel yourself saying: yeah, I’ve done a good job, actually.” (Guzal, Kyrgystan)

32 Theme 4: Perceptions of Self: Identity

33 Maturity and interculturality ‘ I’ve got two sets of values: one is for here and one is for China. … think they are just natural. … I’m a grown-up here. When I went back to China, I just went back to being the same – who I was – before I came here.’ (Jiayi, China) Identity Change (1)

34 “A locus of self” It’s [studying in England] opened up my thinking processes as well. When you are born and brought up in a restrictive environment, everything is family and you only have a very limited view on things. But when you go to another country and study and you meet people from other countries, then it opens up your perspective and you realise that everything in the world is not the same. You are so torn between being yourself and what they want you to do – what others want you to do… (Raveena, India) Identity Change (2)

35 Managing the Ups and Downs of Living and Studying (MUDLS)

36 Previous Years Jan – Sep 2006 Oct – Dec 2006 Jan – Mar 2007 Apr – Jun 2007 Jul – Sep 2007 Oct – Dec 2007 Jan – Mar 2008 Apr – Jun 2008 Managing Well (most satisfied) Satisfied Not Managing Well (least satisfied)

37 Previous Years Jan – Sep 2006 Oct – Dec 2006 Jan – Mar 2007 Apr – Jun 2007 Jul – Sep 2007 Oct – Dec 2007 Jan – Mar 2008 Apr – Jun 2008 Managing Well (most satisfied) Satisfied Not Managing Well (least satisfied) Low New adaptation Moving up Nottingham getting settled Down Sponsor passed away, no help Moving up a little arrangements for fees put in place Satisfied got through first year and made arrangements for second year fees. Visa extended. Second year going away with results. Some staple and a lot has improved. Going down, financial issues again Managing the Ups and Downs of Living and Studying (MUDLS)

38 Previous Years Jan – Sep 2006 Oct – Dec 2006 Jan – Mar 2007 Apr – Jun 2007 Jul – Sep 2007 Oct – Dec 2007 Jan – Mar 2008 Apr – Jun 2008 Managing Well (most satisfied) Satisfied Not Managing Well (least satisfied) Came to NTV Final presentations New friends, social life, exploring Study pressure for finals All friends gone Looking for jobs Graduation + new job New job Met family & old friends Official job contract Stress with work + need raise Managing the Ups and Downs of Living and Studying (MUDLS)

39 Previous Years Jan – Sep 2006 Oct – Dec 2006 Jan – Mar 2007 Apr – Jun 2007 Jul – Sep 2007 Oct – Dec 2007 Jan – Mar 2008 Apr – Jun 2008 Managing Well (most satisfied) Satisfied Not Managing Well (least satisfied) Problems with my parents Get pregnant but because of that I’ve got big family problems, my parents weren’t happy about it Engagement contacts with my parents get better Get married My daughter was born Very good relation with my family, Wiktoria get top list Problems with decisions abut my husband and Wiktoria’s future Start my degree happy but a little bit scared Pass my first essay Make new friends, pass lots of my essays, get some support in my English I fail one of my coursework Finally I get to the 2 nd year and pass my referred work I was worried do I manage to study with the body I was really scared with the amount of work I have to do for April and June I finish my essay, I manage to get them all on time and now I am only waiting for the results Managing the Ups and Downs of Living and Studying (MUDLS)

40 Previous Years Jan – Sep 2006 Oct – Dec 2006 Jan – Mar 2007 Apr – Jun 2007 Jul – Sep 2007 Oct – Dec 2007 Jan – Mar 2008 Apr – Jun 2008 Managing Well (most satisfied) Satisfied Not Managing Well (least satisfied) Christmas Back to England During semester Exams 07 Holidays - summer Back to England Christmas Exams Results (Jan exam) Exams Holidays Managing the Ups and Downs of Living and Studying (MUDLS)

41 Managing the Ups and Downs of Living and Studying (MUDLS)- Rina Previous Years Jan – Sep 2006 Oct – Dec 2006 Jan – Mar 2007 Apr – Jun 2007 Jul – Sep 2007 Oct – Dec 2007 Jan – Mar 2008 Apr – Jun 2008 Managing Well (most satisfied) Satisfied Not Managing Well (least satisfied) Adjustment period Missing home Met a lot of people, made many friends, used to the study Got support from sister Got a job Nervous with group work Felt more independent & confident Difficult exam Easier exam

42 Managing the Ups and Downs of Living and Studying (MUDLS)- Alanna Previous Years Jan – Sep 2006 Oct – Dec 2006 Jan – Mar 2007 Apr – Jun 2007 Jul – Sep 2007 Oct – Dec 2007 Jan – Mar 2008 Apr – Jun 2008 Managing Well (most satisfied) Satisfied Not Managing Well (least satisfied) First school; problems with roommate no friends; didn’t get on with host family in 2 nd year Chineal friends; been invite by British girls to their parties; though not close friends, but feeling grateful! Moved to a different school Different school, nice Ts, learned a lot of things; disappointed with British girls cultural problems, couldn’t be friends Getting good results in new school International school A-level Missed people in school; didn’t get on with people here University “no guidance” ”lost” Didn’t go to lectures; not many friends Difficulties in personal life had negative impact on study Felt good and wanted to get 2.1 Friends getting her well “plagiarism”, other problems in personal life (mobile phone, driving lessons),lack of motivation Good results in course work Messy personal life (mobile, driving, Spanish) Felt need to catch up with uni. work Exams Waiting for result

43 Happiest Memories (W2) Academic achievements (87%) Bonding with friends and loved ones (61%) Personal growth (29%)

44 Managing Transitions: The Project Study abroad as transitional event – intercultural attitude and skills development, identity shifts, stresses and rewards ‘I’ll always be changed by what I experienced here, and by other cultures I saw here.’ (Nadia, Slovakian student) * But what will the nature of these changes be? * And how can universities facilitate the kind of contact that will ensure the changes reflect positive intercultural, academic and personal development?

45 THANK YOU


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