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Strangers, sojourners, selves: the intercultural communication experiences of ethnic Chinese students in western tertiary education

This study describes the intercultural communication experiences of Confucian heritage culture students in a western tertiary setting. Exploring the intercultural communication encounters enabled an understanding of how these ethnic Chinese students socially constructed their everyday lives. In addition, the study focused on their reconstruction and renegotiation of cultural identity and the extent to which they built a third culture. Thus, it is a study of intercultural communication, culture, and cultural identity. Principles of ethnography and inductive inquiry provided the exploratory means to uncover these intercultural communication experiences. The context of this study was a university in New Zealand, and the 14 participants were from China, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Some were newly arrived. Others were permanent residents. Prolonged investigation in the field enabled themes to emerge, providing a thick description of the participants’ lifeworlds and the basis for theory building. The contribution of this thesis is in the following key areas: the enactment of intercultural communication in the negotiation of a new learning environment; the process of adaptation and accommodation of the cultural other; cultural identity change as participants negotiate the host environment; and the initiation of third culture building. Participants from China, who had or sought permanent residence, showed adaptation and renegotiation of social worlds and the desire to acculturate. By contrast, the undergraduate students from Malaysia, who saw their future in their first cultures, demonstrated a going back mentality and less desire to accommodate and understand the host society. Thus, the study contributes towards an understanding of cultural difference as it created, maintained, and reconstructed and renegotiated in intercultural communication.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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