Facilitating Intercultural Encounters with International Students: A Contribution to Inclusion and Social Network Formation

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Facilitating Intercultural Encounters with International Students: A Contribution to Inclusion and Social Network Formation


  • Katharina Resch Centre for Teacher Education, University of Vienna, Austria
  • José Pedro Amorim CIIE–Centre for Research and Intervention in Education, Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences, University of Porto, Portugal / Paulo Freire Institute, Portugal


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Abstract:  Higher education has become increasingly mobile and international, with many students taking the opportunity to study abroad during their studies. When they do so, forming and maintaining social networks is fundamental for their development of a sense of social inclusion. According to Coleman’s model of concentric circles, international students can establish networks with students from their own country (inner circle), with other international students (middle circle) and with local students (outer circle). This study explores various formats of organised student encounters in these three circles which contribute to the social inclusion of international students. The article is based on desk research of 15 formats of intercultural student encounters which facilitate social network formation during a study placement abroad in six countries in Europe. The findings show that all the studied formats of organised student encounters facilitate social networks in the middle and outer circles, while those in the inner circle are established by the students themselves and through informal social interaction. Formats embedded in the curriculum are most suited to facilitating social network formation throughout the academic year. Extracurricular formats, in contrast, tend to be single occasion activities without follow‐up. The study shows that universities can facilitate social network formation and assist social inclusion for international students through organised encounters in which international and local students meet. Organising such encounters does, however, require resources, evaluation, and adequate funding.

Keywords:  diversity in higher education; internationalisation; social inclusion; social network formation; student encounters

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/si.v9i3.4084


© Katharina Resch, José Pedro Amorim. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.