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Title: A longitudinal study of cultural identity shifts and social contact of Postgraduate student sojourners at a British university
Authors: Pho, Thi My Hanh
Issue Date: 2021
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This study explores the cultural identity changes of student sojourners in cross-cultural transition and examines the relationship between cultural identities and social contact. A longitudinal mixed methods research design, using semi-structured interviews (N=18) and surveys (N=84), was employed. The study was conducted at a British higher education institution over 16 months, encompassing the re-entry phase, and participants were students enrolling in postgraduate taught programmes. The research employed the Integrative Theory of Communication and Cross-cultural Adaptation of Kim (2001) and the Acculturation model of Berry (2005) to argue that cultural identities are bidimensional, consisting of home and host cultural identification. Furthermore, their construction are suggested to be based on two components: emotional attachment and the acknowledgement of cultural membership (Lustig and Koester, 2003; Ting-Toomey and Chung, 2005). Findings showed that in addition to the two components mentioned above, the cultural identities of student sojourners were influenced by place attachment and the self-reflection of behaviours. After the sojourn, most participants became more aware of their identities. They developed a stronger sense of identification with home cultures and ‘foreign’ cultures, and usually referred to these as ‘mixed’ cultural identities. Shifts in cultural identities occurred in dynamic ways and were influenced by contact patterns, the ‘international’ contexts in higher education, adaptation and adjustment. Although student sojourners often regarded non-co-national internationals as the most popular contact source, grouping of students based on regions of origins and nationalities were frequently reported. Contact with host nationals remained limited throughout the sojourn. Based on these findings, some modifications to the theories about cultural identities during cross-cultural transition, such as Acculturation model (Berry, 2005), were made to enhance their applicability to the case of student sojourners. A theoretical framework which integrates the cultural identification process, social contact and adaptation is introduced. Finally, some suggestions and practical implications for higher education institutions and educators to improve postgraduate students' overseas stay and reduce social grouping are also presented. Overall, the study offers an enhanced understanding about the cultural identities of student sojourners and provides researchers in the intercultural communication field and higher education educators with helpful information of the students’ adjustment and socialising experiences.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences

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