Sharing the Work

Wednesday June 20th, 2012 by No Comments

To London last Friday, as invited speakers at the Society for Research in Higher Education seminar, ‘Internationalisation and Marketisation of the Undergraduate and Postgraduate Experience’.  This would be the first chance to share some of the short photo films that Gemma has been developing for the project, and to circulate our work within broader discussions of internationalisation.

The event was fascinating, with a range of speakers communicating some key thinking around the multiple issues that face Higher Education institutions in the post-Browne landscape.  Robust examples of qualitative research in understanding internationalisation and the international students’ experience formed the backbone of many of the presentations. Our contribution, sharing three differing examples of some of the Youzi participants’ stories, clearly marked a different tone for the event. However, this got me thinking about how Youzi might sit alongside more conventional approaches to the research of student experience.

While I hadn’t thought of it quite like this before, in some ways this project has become about how a mode of inquiry which privileges the complexities and universalities of everyday human experience might encourage us to think differently about how story and testimony can augment more traditional approaches to research in everyday life. I have spoken previously about categorisation of experience, narrative unity and commonality as restrictive modes of conveying human experience, and the event added some more clarity to my ideas in this regard. In response to a question from the audience about understanding Chinese student experience, Gemma said that she didn’t see the people she worked with as ‘Chinese students, but as people’. This was powerful in that it succinctly illustrated some of the thinking behind many of the other presentations on the day; that seeking to understand; accommodate; and teach international students required us to move away from reductive and homogenised conceptions of ‘experience’ and towards a more dynamic, nuanced and sensitive mode of understanding. In this sense, the telling, sharing and comprehension of the individual story (and stories) takes on great significance.



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