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‘Is it helping?’ A postcolonial critique of hospitality in supporting international students studying in Norwich

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posted on 2023-08-30, 17:39 authored by Rebekah Callow
My thesis is a critique of a practice and theology of hospitality with international students studying at Higher Education level. My ministry is based from my home, working with Friends International, making a hospitable space to support international students, many of whom are struggling with culture shock. This research looks into whether such hospitality helps international students, who often do not know where to go for help and who sometimes struggle to understand the help offered. I drew substantially on my professional and personal experience, and, to reflect this, used a postcolonial lens that challenged Friends International’s mode of practising hospitality, particularly the positions of power that hosts have over guests. I used questionnaires and interviews with international students to hear more fully their experiences of struggling and asking for help. The development of my central concept and practice of hospitality drew on an analysis of these student voices, a reflection on my practice and on perspectives from the literature on cultural difference, pastoral care and the role of ‘nonprofessional’ organisations. The data revealed participants’ desires to communicate their needs, what these needs were and to whom participants turned initially for help. This data and my broader ministry experience show how international students are best placed to describe their lived experiences of culture shock and moving between cultures, but also how they bring personal strengths – not just their struggles – into a space that aims to be hospitable. Hospitality has been a key practice in Christian living from the early Church onwards. This research challenges practices of hospitality relating to international students in Higher Education, to listen to their voices and to empower them to deal with the struggles they face in mapping their care, in conversation with hosts. In this way, guests and hosts explore their different cultural starting points when addressing struggles and care, impacting and changing both in a bidirectional relationship. Hospitality, therefore, becomes a space in-between two different cultural starting points, not seeking to make the other begin or end at the same point on the continuum.



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