MCKINVEN, THERESA (2011) Living Together: investigating student interaction in a multi-nationality postgraduate community. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.
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This thesis investigates the experiences of residents in a postgraduate multi-national residential college in a university in the UK, referred to by the pseudonym of Smith College, Kirkton University.
The use of an ethnographic interviewing approach (Spradley 1979) was adopted in order to understand from the residents’ own perspective the experience of being resident in the multi-national college community. A total of 10 student residents and two members of staff were interviewed on between one and four occasions over a period of eighteen months, making a total of 28 interviews, in order to gain an insight into their experiences of interacting at such close quarters with large numbers of students from other cultures and nationalities, whether this experience had had an impact on them, and whether they felt they had learned anything about themselves or other cultures as a result.
Intercultural contact is thought to bring benefits in terms of understanding more about oneself as well as other cultures, though much research into intercultural contact casts doubt on the naïve version of the contact hypothesis (Allport 1954), while research into the experience of international students indicates a significant degree of dissatisfaction with the amount of contact with host country students and the tendency for many students to seek the relative safety of co-national friendships when encountering what can be a challenging reality of day-to-day contact with other cultures. This research is based within a context which seeks to achieve many of the conditions considered conducive to promoting integration and intercultural understanding, and which has been suggested in a number of campus-based studies (which have mainly considered the classroom environment) as most appropriate for fostering integration, and in which relatively little research has been carried out in spite of the significant amount of time students spend in the context, that of a residential college community. By investigating the experiences of residents in such a context, the aim is to gain a better understanding of the realities of multi-cultural living, whether this environment genuinely provides a basis for intercultural understanding, and, by better understanding community dynamics, consider ways of improving the experience for residents.
A number of positive outcomes occur, and one can summarise that the international residential experience gives students access to a number of intercultural learning experiences, and those experiences may be with students from countries nearby their home country or with students from a much wider ranges of cultures and countries, although close experiences of this type appear to be rarer and may take more time to build sufficient networks to facilitate. On the other hand, both home and overseas students may attempt to isolate themselves from intercultural contact to some extent, possibly due to the closeness of the contact in the residential environment. Those students who make the most efforts to engage in intercultural contact may experience the highest rates of cultural dissonance, as fundamental differences in values, for example in terms of beliefs in democracy, freedom of speech, gender relations or individual human rights, become apparent in a way that may not occur in friendship relations.
|Item Type:||Thesis (Doctoral)|
|Award:||Doctor of Education|
|Keywords:||interaction, cultural awareness, friendship, intercultural experience, postgraduate students, residential community|
|Faculty and Department:||Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Education, School of|
|Copyright:||Copyright of this thesis is held by the author|
|Deposited On:||09 Dec 2011 12:21|