Being intercultural : young people experiencing change and developing competence in an international school
Despite the increasing mobility of some families, it is rare to find studies that examine the intercultural competence of young people within changeable and culturally diverse settings. The seventeen participants in this qualitative study attended an international school in South-east Asia that caters predominantly for multinational, multicultural and mobile families. The young people were interviewed about their perceptions of being international and intercultural. Analysis of the data focused on the intercultural competences used by the young people, and the social integration processes in which they are situated. It identified knowledge, attitudes and/or behaviour components that demonstrate their intercultural competences. These were abstracted and labelled as change management, fitting in and perspective taking. The research also analysed the young people's perceptions of the processes they use to initiate and manage social relationships. The result is a model of social integration in a South-east Asian international school. It reveals the functions and interrelationship of these Intercultural competences, and highlights the role of mindfulness and locus of control within this social framework. The study presents two major findings. Firstly, that change can bring about conditions, and operate as a process, that may create competence under certain circumstances. Secondly, that social integration processes may become more predictable and intercultural competences increasingly embedded, with multiple intercultural experiences. This research emphasizes that schools can support young people in managing challenging and difficult circumstances. In particular, operational conditions embedded in both the formal and hidden curriculum can nurture competence, even in dynamic situations. The findings have implications for existing theories of change and mobility, intercultural competence and cross cultural adaptation.