Presentation 5

The Construction and Reconstruction of ‘the Chinese Learner’: international experiences on a British university campus

Dr Trevor Grimshaw & Wang Qi
Dept of Education

Abstract

Based on a recently completed British Academy funded project (HD081X), this paper explores the intercultural experiences of Chinese-speaking students in a British institution of higher education. The paper draws upon narrative ethnographic interviews in order to document the cultural, linguistic and academic challenges that the students face, as well as the strategies of self-presentation that they deploy in order to meet these challenges. A key finding is the role of ‘strategic essentialism’: the management of stereotypes and autostereotypes for instrumental purposes. Another key finding is the role of informal support networks in which more experienced peers pass on their skills and strategies to newcomers (cf. ‘communities of practice’; Wenger, 1998). The conclusions of the project offer fresh insights into the day-to-day lives of the students, providing a more nuanced image of international students than is outlined in much of the existing literature. The paper also suggests ways in which universities can enhance support for these important members of the student body.

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