Intercultural relationships: assessing East and South East Asian international students' adaptation levels at universities in Aotearoa/New Zealand

by Stephanie Jeanette Benson

Institution: AUT University
Year: 0
Keywords: Intercultural adaptation; Sociology; Asian international students; International education; Intercultural communication; Research models
Record ID: 1299516
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10292/7391


“Everywhere is home, if you know enough about how things work there” (Bennett, 2011, p. 5). This thesis critically assesses the relationships formed by East and South-East-Asian international students as they sojourn in New Zealand and attend university during that period. As the students gradually alter and develop their cultural perceptions toward a framework that enables them to learn, live and make sense of their intercultural relationships, they make friends among their East and South-East-Asian international student peers, domestic students, host-families, work-colleagues, flatmates and university and educational support-staff in Aotearoa/New Zealand. To critically assess these relationships, the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (Bennett and Hammer, 1998), or the DMIS, was used. There are six levels of the DMIS. These begin with the three ethnocentric stages of denial, defense and minimization where the individuals maintain the supports where possible from their own home-country cultures, rather than accessing the social supports offered in the immediate host-country context. The ethnorelative levels are acceptance, adaptation and integration and in these levels the individuals are able to access and draw from the cultural resources in their host-country cultural context. International students from AUT University, the University of Auckland and the University of Waikato comprised the sample of 50 participants, and they were interviewed in groups where possible and individually in some cases. The analysis of the interviews involved two types of analyses drawn from the interview data. Firstly, the students’ intercultural adaptation level was assessed from the interview transcripts, supplemented by field notes and sound files from which key moments of intercultural self and other-awareness were noted. The second analysis involved a close exploration of students’ reflections on their own intercultural adaptation and experiences. These were looked at across the five DMIS levels that were present in this sample. The relationships between the students and their various social networks of both fellow nationals, and other East and South-East-Asian international student peers and social groups in Aotearoa/New Zealand were examined because intercultural adaptation is premised upon intercultural communication confidence and the creation of relationships in the unfamiliar host-country. Overall, the findings showed that intercultural adaptation levels were internally regulated by the students, who were strong agents of their own intercultural adaptation levels. This suggests that intercultural adaptation is reliant upon the motivation of the individual rather than an external process created by host-country experiences. For some students, maintaining their study goals and returning to their home-countries to work was the main priority and their intercultural adaptation levels were typically lower. Those hoping to extend their sojourn had increased reliance upon intercultural relationships and…