Integrating International Exchange Students into Local Service-Learning Projects in Hong Kong
Keywords:cohesiveness, cultural differences, communication strategies, developmental outcomes
Through qualitative research, which involved qualitative interviews and focus group meetings with members of four student teams, we identified a number of barriers to the development of cohesiveness in teams of local and international exchange (IE) students, who were undertaking service-learning (SL) together. Lack of cohesiveness in such teams resulted in the psychological withdrawal of some of the IE students and appeared to reduce opportunities to derive developmental benefits. Barriers to cohesiveness identified by the students included language, conflicting priorities, and East-West cultural differences. We also identified how students took action to remove the barriers to cohesiveness. These actions included conducting internal team meetings in English and arranging for local students to provide interpretation in meetings with community stakeholders. Students reported that the major developmental benefits associated specifically with working cohesively in a cross-cultural team were improved English language skills, greater interpersonal adaptability, and appreciation of diversity. We offer practical suggestions about how educators can prepare local and IE students to work together effectively on SL projects and about further research. Studies of projects undertaken by inter-cultural SL teams at host universities in other jurisdictions would facilitate the generalizability of the findings.
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