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The role that experiential learning plays in intercultural awareness development: A case study of South Korean students sojourning in New Zealand

Research has shown that study abroad does help international students improve their language studies (Kinginger, 2011) and their understanding of another culture. Furthermore, the experience has often led to changes in the student’s belief systems as well as increases in their confidence and outlook on life (Amuzie & Winke, 2009). However, some researchers have argued that more needs to be done than merely immersing a student in another culture and language. In particular, attention has been paid to the importance that homestay contexts in study abroad programmes provide for international students with their language and cultural understanding (Silvio, Donovan, & Malone, 2014) as well as with socialisation, social networks and the development of intercultural competence (Shiri, 2015). What has not been investigated in-depth are the perceptions that the sojourning students’ perceptions of the quality of experience that homestays and other informal activities they undergo, and the overall impact these experiences have on a sojourn. Moreover, little research has investigated the dynamic relationship among individuals in their cohorts and the degree of intercultural competence that each has achieved while on study abroad. The focus of this study was a group of Korean undergraduate students sent for three months to New Zealand under the aegis of a provincial polytechnic. To investigate the nature of intercultural development, the present case study used a multi-method ethnographic approach to collect data. It made use of paired interviews, focus group interviews, informal observations, field notes, and the researcher’s reflective journal. The data were subjected to a grounded analysis, and this led to a situated interpretation of the distinction between intercultural awareness and intercultural competence, and the various levels of individual achievement. The findings suggest that these planned and unplanned activities impacted the degree of intercultural awareness developed by international students. A modified version of Byram’s (1997) model was designed to assist in mapping the trajectory that a sojourner undertakes. This is particularly so when Kolb’s (2015) experiential learning model is linked to the development of intercultural awareness. It was also found that in such circumstances, the growing competence and/or awareness of the sojourning students could be effectively scaffolded by an informal facilitator, rather than an educational expert as recommended in the 2015 model. The implications suggest that the theoretical constructs of intercultural awareness and competence need to be differentiated, and that further research will facilitate this; specific suggestions are made. On a practical level, despatching and hosting institutions can apply the revised model provided in this thesis to plot the intercultural awareness development of individual students and groups. Another implication is that experiential development of intercultural awareness in a study abroad programme can usefully be monitored and facilitated by an impartial mediator, who can enable international students to better understand the positive and negative experiences they have undergone and articulate their reactions and responses to what has happened, and in this way make the overall study abroad experience more meaningful.
Type of thesis
Donald, S. J. (2019). The role that experiential learning plays in intercultural awareness development: A case study of South Korean students sojourning in New Zealand (Thesis, Master of Philosophy (MPhil)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12956
The University of Waikato
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