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Essentialism isn’t essential in intercultural education: A case study among international postgraduates in the UK

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Tony Young, Dr Peter Sercombe


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In our presentation we describe an approach by which intercultural effectiveness emerges among ‘international’ postgraduate students studying Cross Cultural Communication (CCC) at a UK university. The approach described explicitly attempts to resist the reification and essentailisation of notions of culture and identity. We also report on a study comparing the adaptation of a group of these CCC students with a closely comparable group who were not. The study, involving a total of 83 students, used a variety of instruments and techniques including psychometric surveys, observation, diaries and semi-structured interviews to explore interrelationships between a broad number of adaptation indices. Findings indicated that CCC students scored more highly, to a significant degree, across a range of adjustment subscales. Their overall academic achievement (grades for both taught and research elements of their degrees) were significantly higher than those for the comparison group. CCC students also tended to exhibit higher levels of characteristics associated with intercultural effectiveness such as open-mindedness and empathy, and appeared to have a higher degree of social contact with other non-conational ‘international’ students, as well as with members of the host community. Their overall levels of satisfaction with life in their new environment were also higher. Their patterns of adjustment (discerned from interviews and diaries) also show deeper levels of reflection on and engagement with processes of adjustment.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Young TJ, Sercombe PG

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: BAAL Intercultural Communication Seminar Series

Year of Conference: 2012