Exploring Intercultural Awareness: International Student Mobility in China and the UK through a Non-Essentialist Lens

Exploring Intercultural Awareness: International Student Mobility in China and the UK through a Non-Essentialist Lens

Monika Foster (Edinburgh Napier University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0169-5.ch014
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In the research literature regarding international students' learning experiences, a frequently studied theme is the ‘Chinese culture of learning' as contrasted by the ‘Western/United Kingdom (UK) culture of learning'. This essentialist approach tends to reduce culture of learning to a static, nationally-bound object that exists a priori. A cross-faculty study examined the complexities underpinning culture of learning in the context of student mobility, using a non-essentialist lens. Using individual experiences, unique perspectives on own and host cultures of learning by students from China studying ‘business' in the UK and students from the UK studying ‘design' in China are captured in seven distinct themes, including good teaching, good learning, peers and assessment. The results inform the design of student mobility programs with aspects of intercultural empathy, as well as preparation for and benefits from study abroad as a feature of the internationalised of Higher Education (HE).
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This chapter is focused on the increased internationalisation of teaching and learning in Higher Education (HE) worldwide (Knight 2006; Caruana & Spurling, 2007) and specifically the ambition to internationalise the student experience (Hyland et al., 2008). The specific interest is ‘internationalisation’ from the students’ perspective as it focuses on ‘academic learning that blends the concepts of self, strange, foreign and otherness’ (Teekens, 2006, p. 17). This view of internationalisation is also congruent with the perspectives of Appadurai (2001), Haigh (2009) and Sanderson (2011) who foreground the value of personal awareness in intercultural encounters in HE. The interest for the study stemmed from a desire to examine the complexities underpinning the concept of ‘a culture of learning’ in student mobility through a non-essentialist lens. Exploring the rich and individual student perspectives, the objectives of this study included: (a) to explore how students can benefit from cultural diversity through mobility; and (b) to raise awareness of their own and other cultures of learning, with both points contributing to the development of one’s ‘intercultural capacity’ i.e., a Graduate Attribute.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Internationalisation: The process of integrating an international/intercultural dimension into the teaching, research and service functions of the institution including a global movement of students and staff in education, promoting cultural diversity and fostering intercultural understanding, respect, and tolerance.

Non-Essentialist: A dynamic, complex, subjectively constructed, fluid, and importantly can be associated with non-national entities, sympathetic to the complexities of increasingly international universities.

Culture: Values in use that have emerged over time that can be quite different from the espoused or official values of the organisation.

Student Mobility: Any opportunity for students to work or study abroad whilst undertaking their degree program; can be both incoming and outgoing.

Culture of Learning: Aspects of a number of learner-oriented concepts, such as approach to learning, learning style and learning habits.

Essentialist: A static approach, linear or single lens, whereby students are grouped into broad categories usually in terms of their nationality.

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