The Cross-Cultural Study Sojourn

The full title of the talk by Dr Sarah Thomas from the University of Edinburgh is: The Cross-Cultural Study Sojourn: The Adjustment Process, Cultural Identity & Self-formation.

Institutional support and services for international students are often provided on the presumption that they are a homogeneous group. We all know that the reality is one of sub-groups of students from a range of cultures and backgrounds.  Muslim International Students are a group with unique experiences in the course of their transition into a very different cultural environment and they face challenges arising from the current political climate, media representations and public perceptions of Islam.

This report describes a qualitative research project in progress, exploring the socio-cultural adjustment experiences of 8 Muslim international postgraduate students at a Scottish university. The particular focus of the study is on the impact of the transition on the students’ cultural identity and their conceptions of the self.   Semi-structured interview data is currently being analysed thematically and preliminary emerging ideas relate to the primacy of religious observances in their understanding of cultural identity, their social integration patterns and perceptions of the host community.

For greater effectiveness in our different roles as practitioners, administrators and policy makers, there is, perhaps, a need for greater awareness and understanding of the special issues, concerns and circumstances that might impact on their adjustment experiences. It is hoped that the research will contribute to a more informed and nuanced understanding of the complexities inherent in their cross-cultural transition experiences. Perceived understandings and preconceptions of international students may need to be modified through greater sensitivity to their distinctiveness.

References

Brown, J. and Brown, L. (2013) The international student sojourn, identity conflict and threats to wellbeing.  British Journal of Guidance & Counselling.

Marginson, S. (2014)  Student Self-Formation. International Education Journal of Studies in International Education  Vol. 18(1), pp. 6–22.

Montgomery, C. and McDowell, L.  (2009) Social Networks and the International Student Experience An International Community of Practice? Journal of Studies in International Education Vol. 13 (4), pp. 455-466.

Pratyusha Tummala-Narra, P. and Claudius, M.(2013) A Qualitative Examination of Muslim Graduate International Students’ Experiences in the United States.  International Perspectives in Psychology: Research, Practice, Consultation 2013, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 132–147.

Schmitt, M., Spears, R. and  Branscombe, N. (2003) Constructing a minority group identity out of shared rejection: The case of international students. European Journal of Social Psychology  Vol. 33, pp. 1–12.

Spurling, N.(2006) Exploring adjustment: The social situation of Chinese students in UK  higher education.  Learning and Teaching in the Social Sciences Vol. 3 Number 2.

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Sarah Thomas has been a university EAP teacher for many years and currently is teaching post-graduate support courses and engaged in research projects at English Language Education, Edinburgh University.

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