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Intercultural Friendship Development:Case Studies of the Friendship between International Students and Chinese Students in Chengdu

Author: LuoXue
Tutor: DengYiHeng
School: Southwestern University of Finance and Economics
Course: Foreign Linguistics and Applied Linguistics
Keywords: intercultural friendships (IFs) identity management theory(IMT) relationship identity case study intercultural adaptation (IA)
CLC: G05
Type: Master's thesis
Year: 2013
Downloads: 17
Quote: 0
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Globalization enables more and more international students to study abroad, which has increased the possibility of forming the intercultural friendships (IFs). However, it remains a reality that most of them find it difficult to build IFs with their local fellow students, and it is no exception in China. However, the topic of IFs has mainly been examined in western countries (e.g. the U.S., Australia, the UK), and few studies are available in the Chinese context.Relational identity has been identified as crucial for maintaining vulnerable IFs (Gaines&Liu,2000). Cupach and Imahori (1993) proposed identity management theory (IMT) which explained that through individual’s interpersonal communication competence, their relational identity could be developed, resulting in the negotiation of face needs and cultural identities. And individuals could become competent in developing intercultural relationships by passing through three phases. Thus, guided by IMT, the study is intended to explore the developmental process of the IF and its functions for both international and Chinese students, in order to help develop more successful IFs in the future.The method of case study has been adopted to explore the friendship experiences of international and Chinese students on campuses in Chengdu from a developmental perspective, so as to answer three research questions on the aspects of the perceptions of friends and friendships, the process of developing IFs highlighting salient influencing factors as well as the roles of IFs in the life of both sides within the relationship. Particularly, five intercultural friend dyads are interviewed and followed through over a period of three months. Some findings include:first, it reveals that the perception of "friends" and the connotation or classification standards of friends are different among Chinese and foreign students. But the shared features of defining a (close) friend illustrate the possibility of close relationships between intercultural friend dyads. Second, it explores the developmental process of IFs. And the findings are consistent with previous studies, namely, such similarities as interests, shared beliefs, attitudes and so on between the two parties, do play important roles in IFs with the personalities like openness of these dyads highlighted, especially in the initial period of IF formation; some prominent features like language skills, self-disclosure, shared experiences contribute to students’achieving a relational identity acceptable for both parties in further development, and also, cultural differences and the excitement they bring encourage the maintenance of their relationships; and through constant negotiations between both sides, they establish a fully developed friendship with formed rules/patterns and a deeper understanding of cultures. Last, the development of IFs is demonstrated to be functional for the intercultural adaptation (IA) of international students, in that they may obtain a sense of belongingness, while having some of their substantial needs met, through their host friends. Meanwhile, Chinese students also benefit from IFs in various aspects of life.

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