Abstract: Working in a university setting, I have learned a great deal from the diverse experiences and knowledge that students bring. I have often wondered whether students learn as much from each other. In this study, I explore the interactions between domestic and international university students as an “internationalization at-home” (IaH) strategy that has the potential to impact most students on a given campus, as opposed to “mobility” focused strategies (where students travel abroad to study) that benefit only a minority of the student population. Guided by student involvement theories and using a qualitative, grounded theory approach to explore the experiences of domestic students at a Canadian university, I conducted six focus group discussions followed by 12 individual, in-depth interviews with two members from each focus group at the three University of Toronto campuses. The research findings revealed that the university embodies substantial structural cultural diversity, making the campus environment a fertile ground for cross-cultural interactions among students. As a result of studying in a richly diverse environment, the respondents were aware of the cultural complexities of campus life and demonstrated a global mindset, which is a prerequisite for internationalization. The study established that domestic students’ redefined the identity of international students to include domestic students with diverse international experience. Interactions between domestic iii and international students have positive, negative and neutral impacts with positive impacts outweighing the others. Respondents reported that they had gained more intercultural skills and knowledge than family and friends since joining the university because there are more opportunities for interaction at various learning sites inside than outside the university. However they pointed to the need for more university facilitated opportunities. The findings point to the need for the university to amplify its capacity to measure diversity and support cross-cultural interactions through policy driven, planned and sustained programmatic interventions. Findings justify the need to use domestic students with diverse international experiences as a resource to internationalize the campus as well as to establish multicultural policies and practices inline with increasing diversity on campus. Recommendations focus on the majority of the students who remain at-home.
Author: Jane Wanjiru K. Ngobia
Source: University of Toronto - TSpace
Last Updated: July 31, 2015