Overcoming cultural obstacles to the integration of international students into a UK academic framework

Name

Carl Schoenfeld

School/Department

School of Technology

Activity

I have experienced international students at first eager to learn becoming turned off or resistant to learning when they feel that their needs are not being met. I wanted to introduce reflective techniques into the classroom to allow students to share surprising experiences, and perhaps strongly held views, to facilitate a shared understanding of our cultures and assist the international students to be able to study in the UK academic culture.

Group

Undergraduate class of students from a variety of cultural backgrounds

Aim

To engage students in reflection on, and discussion of, their intercultural experiences to develop their ability to study successfully in the UK system.

Context/Background

Students increasing awareness of contrasting, ‘foreign’ identities, terminology and discussion.

Example

I include a reflective exercise on culture including discussion and whiteboard recording of:

  • Striking perceptions when visiting a foreign country (language/dress/dealing with experiences like death/love/humour)
  • Moments of cultural inclusion/exclusion (school, travel, media) including Jack Shaheen’s trailer available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ko_N4BcaIPY&feature=related
  • Key experiences of their own culture and values/meaning implied
  • Perceptions when moving from home country to UK (language, living, food)
  • From home to university (freedom/drink/responsibility)
  • Meeting people from 3 rd party cultures (i.e. your German lecturer)
  • Examples of identity re-invention (pop culture)
  • Exploring potential cultural influences that could interfere with the learning process but that would not affect home or European students, which we became more acutely aware when discussing Edward Said’s book Orientalism (1995).

Further opportunities for deeper questioning of cultural assumptions that arise in any discussion of texts and film clips are used during the remainder of the course.

Results/Feedback

TBA

Other comments

Edward Said’s book Orientalism made me aware how the heritage of colonial history has contributed to half of the world’s population, predominantly those living in the Eastern ‘Oriental’ hemisphere, and that these people tend to feel downgraded as second class citizens in a media constructed and globalised world, and how the resulting asymmetry creates new sources of conflict which we are only beginning to realise in the aftermath of 9-11. Said’s model taught me not only to understand the contradictions evident in the classroom, but also to benefit from them in the form of real friendships that lasted beyond graduation and later to relate to other cultures meaningfully in my career as a documentary filmmaker.

Further Information

Said, Edward W. (1995) Orientalism, London: Penguin

Shaheen, Jack G. (2001) Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People, Northampton, MA: Interlink Publishing Group