Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Student Reflection on the Development of Intercultural Competence through the Education Abroad Experience

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Student Reflection on the Development of Intercultural Competence through the Education Abroad Experience

Article excerpt

Abstract

This study is devoted to the topic of intercultural competence. It aims to determine what intercultural competence students acquire through education abroad experience. Based on the results of our research we will introduce synthesized and identified fundamental structures and on their basis we will present research questions/hypotheses. We are not neglecting the recommendation for practice. We present recommendations for the development of these key competences through ideas such as "pre-departure intercultural training", which would help students to find their way around their new environment and gain a deeper understanding of the cultural context.

Keywords: intercultural competence, intercultural communication, internationalization, education abroad experience

1. Introduction

The rise of globalisation has led to an increase in constant interaction between people, cultures and civilisations, and mobility and migration have resulted in the creation of a multicultural society. Scientists, teachers and students alike all agree that the world around them has changed both politically and economically, as well as in cultural, social and technological terms (Janebová, 2009). Universities are a part of the broader society - the contemporary globalisation process, as well as of society itself. Universities are becoming a microcosm of society, a "melting pot", a place where individuals gather not only in the general sense of the word, but men and women with their own histories. And therefore these educational institutions should strive to develop key skills that will help students to succeed in our rapidly changing society. As they develop these key skills, students become "global-ready graduates" or "global citizens" (Hunter, White, & Godbey, 2006), who have mastered key intercultural competences.

One possible means of developing intercultural competence in university students is internationalisation, which becomes a natural part of universities. From the viewpoint of internationalisation, universities are places which provide their students and employees with an internationalised environment to enable them to develop the intercultural competences they need in today's global society, and they aim to assure that international experience becomes a natural part of their studies for all students. To what extent do experience abroad and the internationalised environment of universities develop the aforementioned intercultural competences, or what are the key competences developed by students who have participated in a study visit abroad? This is the main question we attempt to answer through this study, which analyses the reflections of students who have returned from spending several months on a study visit abroad. This study aims to determine what key abilities and skills students acquire during a study visit abroad; however, we also attempt to find the most effective way of implementing cultural aspects into the educational curriculum in order to develop key abilities and skills and also ways of supporting students to go on study visits abroad.

2. The Theoretical Background of Intercultural Competence from the Point of View of Intercultural Communication

Experts specialising in intercultural communication and the development of intercultural competence in various different contexts have started to explore the question of what it means to be an effective communicator and how it is possible to develop the communication skills of people in an intercultural environment. This has gradually led to the need to identify the different aspects of effective communication, with the aim of developing knowledge and improving the standard of research surveys.

Based on their research studies, Ruben (1977 see also Ruben & Kealey, 1979) recognised that the observable behaviour of the individual rather than knowledge of other cultures is a more suitable variable for analysing effective communication and identified seven behavioural evaluation components of communication competence (communicative competence): a) display of respect, b) interaction posture, c) orientation to knowledge, e) empathy, f) self-oriented role behavior, g) interaction management a h) tolerance for ambiguity. …

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