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Cultural Sensitivities: needs and expectations Emma Fleet (LSHTM) Alison Barty (SOAS)
Outline • Culture ‘shock’ and the ‘W’-curve • Maslow’s hierarchy of needs applied to students and accommodation • What do students say about accommodation? • Case examples and group discussion • Questions
The W-curve Source: Journal of College and University Student Housing, Volume 23, No. 2, 1993. Culture Shock and The First-Year Experience by William J Zeller and Robert Mosier
The W-curve Stage 1: Honeymoon • Starts pre-arrival • Positive anticipation • Initial sense of freedom • Efforts from institution to welcome new students
The W-curve Stage 1: Honeymoon “I can’t wait to start the course. I’ve been wanting to do it for years and finally it’s happening. It’s like a dream come true.” (email from new student pre-arrival)
The W-curve Stage 2: Culture Shock • Novelty wears off • Process of adaptation to new routines and structures begins • Frustration and unfamiliarity • Idealisation of “back home” and homesickness
The W-curve Stage 2: Culture Shock Case example: Jennifer, a postgraduate student from Canada, was having great difficulty settling in. London was nothing like the fabulous place she had imagined, and she felt intense frustration and anger at having to wait for her internet connection to be set up. Despite coming from a large city, she felt afraid of walking home from the bus after lectures. She began to wonder if she had made a major mistake, spending her substantial savings on a Master’s in the UK.
The W-curve Stage 3: Initial Adjustment • Culture shock is less acute • Increased familiarity with environment • Routines established • Sense of optimism is restored • Still a sense of novelty
The W-curve Stage 3: Initial Adjustment Quite soon, Jennifer began to see that London was “not so bad”. She felt much safer walking home and began to spend more time in her neighbourhood, enjoying what it had to offer. She made a trip to IKEA and her flat started to settle in to her accommodation.
The W-curve Stage 4: Mental Isolation • Limbo between old and new homes • Homesickness resurfaces • Pressure of studies increases sense of anxiety • Questions about the future may start to arise
The W-curve Stage 4: Mental Isolation Having adjusted reasonably well in the first term, Joseph, a student from Kenya, was horrified when he did not get a good mark at the end of term progress test. He shut himself away in his room, seldom coming out. Although he had initially made regular contact with his family back home, he complained that they were “too far away to make any difference”. He felt invaded by offers of support from fellow students, saying that they did not know him properly and could not help him.
The W-curve Stage 5: Acceptance and Integration • Integration of positive / negative aspects • Deeper connections develop to people and place • Starts to feel truly like “home”
The W-curve Stage 5: Acceptance and Integration Fatima, a PhD student from Yemen, struggled to adjust to living in a Western culture. She was deeply homesick and was isolated from her peers with whom she felt no connection. She had brought with her a national costume from her home country and would take it out of her wardrobe every night and would cry. A year or so later, I saw her again and was struck that she was covering less of herself and wearing more Western clothes. She also told me how she now loved to invite fellow students to her house to cook for them.
What do students say? “I didn't get information on accommodation as regards what to bring with me. I brought a duvet but they had them and I didn't know” HEIST 1994 “I think the best way is to stay in a hall of residence, but sometimes in halls the whole floor is full of Malaysians so we don't mix. I had the opportunity to come here and I want to learn more than just study.” HEIST 1994 “ I didn't want a hall because it is impossible to study because it’s noisy/rowdy….” HEIST 1994 The HEIST survey (1994) found that safety, price, warmth, not having to move out in the vacation, privacy and access to an international telephone were the six most important factors for accommodation
What do students say? • “Accommodation is a crucial part of a student’s life – especially a foreign one – and if anything goes pear shaped, the student can feel very isolated” Student comment from Broadening Our Horizons, UKCISA 2004 • “The most common problems cited were difficulties with others in their accommodation, having to move out during vacations and having an inflexible contract” Survey findings from Broadening Our Horizons, UKCISA 2004 • “Accommodation featured highest on the list of concerns before arrival” Survey findings from Broadening Our Horizons, UKCISA 2004
What do students say? • “This year I am lucky enough to be staying with a family friend. Last year I lived in (university accommodation), and couldn't help feeling that it was a profit run organisation who did not have student's interests at heart or indeed much understanding of the problems facing students, let alone 1st year students in London. Over-priced, slow service as landlord for replacing items e.g. sinks, unsafe equipment provided, and ridiculous fines issued for "offences" they have no proof are the fault of the tenant” Student comment from on-line survey (ISB – London institution)
Case examples and discussion • What cultural misunderstandings might be contributing to this situation? • Whose cultural misunderstandings? • How might this relate to the ‘W’ curve and/or Maslow’s ‘hierarchy’ • What is the responsibility if any of the accommodation provider in these circumstances? • How might this be constructively resolved and by whom? • Consider your own experiences dealing with such examples or being in the student’s position
Case study 1 Tomiko, a postgraduate student from Japan, lived in a cluster flat in accommodation. One of her flatmates was an undergraduate who would play loud music and have friends over late into the night, keeping Tomiko and others awake. She complained to the hall but they did nothing about it. Her living situation had a severe impact on her state of mind and studies.
Case study 2 You are planning a social event and the question arises about whether it should be alcohol free as numbers of international students do not drink alcohol
Case study 3 A University welfare adviser calls to say that they are concerned about a postgraduate student they know is resident in the hall. Fellow students have reported that the student has not been attending and not returning phone calls or texts for 2 weeks. If the contact was from a parent?
Case study 4 A student comes to you to say they want to move out as they find their flatmates rude and insensitive. In particular they say flatmates have been using their kitchen utensils which causes problems as the student observes a Kosher diet
Case study 5 A group of students approach you to ask if they can use the common room for Friday prayers
Case study 6 Your front line staff are overheard commenting on the rudeness of international students who do not say please or thank you and won’t make eye contact
Further training UKCISA: • Introduction to cultural awareness & sensitivity • Building cross-cultural competence: intermediate www.ukcisa.org.uk/training/ Thinking People: • Building cross-cultural understanding for accommodation and housing staff 12 November 2008, Birmingham www.thinking-people.co.uk/