22 SES 03 B, Employability and Transition to Work of Higher Education Graduates
Parallel Paper Session
This paper discusses the nature of international students’ transitional experiences both in terms of their maturation and human development and their intercultural adaptation within a different educational environment and a different culture and society. It also explores how, why and to what extent such experiences may (or may not) contribute to their personal and professional development on their return to work in their home country.
Despite the current growth, proliferation and diversification in global higher education, internationalisation is not a new phenomenon for universities. Historical accounts of scholar exchanges and intercultural education can be traced back to 272-22 BC (Ward et al., 2001). However, the concepts, forms, focus and movement of the internationalisation agenda have changed profoundly over time in modern times. Outgoing mobility for students, student exchanges and attracting international students were found to continue to be the highest priority internationalisation activities for higher education institutions (IAU, 2010). Ensuring the quality of provision of HE offering to international students in times of change has become even more important for institutions which endeavour to continue to attract the talent and skills and, also, the financial income that they bring along with them.
The psychological and educational literature on international students and Chinese students in particular, is substantial (e.g. Bond, 1986; Ward et al., 2001; Rizvi, 2010). Each expanding body of research, however, has its distinct focus. Empirical research in psychology tends to be primarily concerned with stress levels and coping strategies and the quality of the support mechanism that is available to promote (or inhibit) student sojourners’ intercultural adaptation, intra- and interpersonal interactions and psychological wellbeing. The educational literature, on the other hand, tends to be based upon small scale, qualitative studies (e.g. Kingston & Forland, 2008; Montgomery & Mc Dowell, 2009) and has been increasingly criticised for having focussed far too much upon the deterministic role of culture in international students’ experiences (Grimshaw, 2007).
Whilst the above studies are valuable as a means of identifying key issues in intercultural education, most are predominantly quantitative and ‘objectivistic in nature’ (Gudykunst, 2005: 25) and attempt to predict patterns of adaptation and factors that determine the observed patterns. Thus they fail to explain and present the ‘richness and fragmentation’ of intercultural adaptation (Kim, 2005: 376) processes in which international students are engaged in continuous negotiation and mediation with the surrounding environment, self-analysis (of their values and beliefs), self-reflection, and self-reorientation. The development of each component of their intercultural competence – attitude, knowledge, skills and critical cultural awareness (Byram et al., 2001) – influences and is influenced by the development of the others, and is moderated by the environment in which the individual is engaged. The degrees of adaptation – the process through which students change (or do not change) to fit in with the host culture – differ depending upon personal and situational factors and their interaction.
Bond, M. (ed.) (1986) The Psychology of the Chinese People. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press. Byram, M., Nichols, A., and Stevens, D. (2001) Introduction. In Byram, M. (Ed.) Developing Intercultural Competence in Practice. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters Limited. Grimshaw, T. (2007) ‘Problematizing the construct of “the Chinese learner”: insights from ethnographic research’, Educational Studies, 33 (3), 299-311. Gudykunst, W. (ed.) (2005) Theorizing about Intercultural Communication. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. International Association of Universities (2010) Internationalisation of Higher Education: Global Trends, Regional Perspectives. IAU 3rd Global Survey Report. Paris: IAU. Kim, M. S. (2005) Culture-based conversational constraints theory: individual- and cultural-level analyses. In Gudykunst, W. B. (Ed.) Theorizing about Intercultural Communication (pp.93-118). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Kingston, E. and Forland, H. (2008) ‘Bridging the gap in expectations between international students and academic staff’, Journal of Studies in International Education, 12 (2), 204-221. Montgomery, C. and McDowell, L. (2009) ‘Social networks and the international student experience’, Journal of Studies in International Education, 13 (4), 455-466. Rizvi, R. (2010) ‘International Students and Doctoral Studies in Transnational Spaces' in P. Thompson and M. Walker (ed.) The Routledge Doctoral Companion (Students) London: Routledge. Ward, C., Bochner, S. and Furnham, A. (2001) The Psychology of Culture Shock, 2nd edn. Hove, East Sussex: Routledge.
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