Sense of belonging, intercultural and academic experiences among international students at a University in Northern Ireland

Elida Cena*, Stephanie Burns, Paul Wilson

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

This paper seeks a more detailed understanding of ‘belonging’ in international students, as grounded in relation to different contexts such as the campus, the broader society, and home influences. Our research draws on in-depth interviews with 16 international students at a higher education institution in Northern Ireland, to provide a rich illustration of experiences of belonging and to highlight the complex ways in which social relations, academic and acculturation factors are experienced and influence adjustment. We find that participants negotiate a sense of belonging by forming friendships with other international students alongside a desire to socialise with local students. Living in a homogenous society, participants feel detached to the local community, and the different cultural context creates barriers to establishing social relations and mobility. We discuss uneven experiences of international students based on their cultural backgrounds and provide recommendations for higher education institutions to increase student belonging and adjustment.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of International Students
Volume11
Issue number4
Early online date06 Mar 2021
Publication statusEarly online date - 06 Mar 2021

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