Intercultural Experiences of Pharmacy Students
Mrs Stephanie Bridges
School of Pharmacy, University of Nottingham
This paper portrays a picture of opportunities for and experiences of intercultural interactions amongst pharmacy students, framed in terms of their intercultural capabilities. A capability is an indication of the opportunity or potential which an individual has for being able to be or do something. By constructing a framework of intercultural capabilities, I aim to demonstrate how it may be used as a tool to indicate their possession, absence or development.
Data was gathered through semi-structured interviews with pharmacy students from the UK and Malaysia campuses, with particular emphasis on opportunities (taken or missed) for intercultural interactions.
The picture appeared to be highly varied in terms of students’ intercultural relationships. The capability framework proved to be a good measure of intercultural capabilities and, on the whole, the accounts of student experiences and behaviours could be mapped onto the framework.
International students were generally more sensitive to having or not having had opportunities for developing their intercultural capability. This is understandable and to be expected, given that they are studying in a different country so some elements of their life in the UK are inescapably foreign. The extent to which they were able to function and develop their capabilities varied and although some described very rich intercultural experiences there was also some disappointment, particularly relating to lack of mixing within the academic environment. Although some UK students clearly relished being in an international environment, for most the exposure to different cultures was almost a by-product of their education – not expected or sought, but enjoyable and useful nonetheless. For a small minority of UK students, it would seem that the realisation of being in an international environment had almost passed them by.
Even if not something to be measured as part of course requirements, intercultural capabilities are a valuable complementary life skill to be encouraged within higher education.