[Conference paper] Intercultural communication during the world pandemic: The 'imagined' and the 'actual'

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The opportunities for intercultural communication as experienced by international students are uncertain, rooted firmly in specific contextual realities, and are highly individualised. The COVID-19 pandemic added further layers of complexity to these opportunities. According to HESA reports (2023), many of the Chinese international students that completed their postgraduate courses in UK universities in 2021/22 did so whilst studying at a distance. Thus, they missed out on the experience of an academic sojourn in the UK. However, the Chinese students participating in the narrative study (Wang, ongoing) informing this presentation chose to study in the UK despite the challenges brought about by COVID-19. Their narratives are framed by the gaps they perceived between, on the one hand, their actual intercultural experiences in the UK as shaped by the pandemic and, on the other, the experiences as they imagined they might have had if their studies had been undertaken at a time free from the pandemic. This gap between the actual and the imagined may in fact be common to many intercultural opportunities but the time of crisis brought by the pandemic seems to have foregrounded this distinction. By focusing on the distinction students make in their narratives between actual and imagined experiences and opportunities, we can begin to understand how they make sense of their intercultural experiences in the UK, and better understand also the role played by their feelings and attitudes towards their intercultural communication opportunities during their pandemic-affected academic sojourn. Whilst these narratives are revelatory regarding the actual and the imagined intercultural opportunities in a time of global pandemic, they may also offer valuable insights regarding the place of the actual and the imaginary in the sense-making of international academic sojourners regarding their intercultural experiences at times less affected by crisis.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Dec 2023
EventIALIC 2023 - Rethinking intercultural communication beyond verbal language: affect, materiality and embodiment in times of ‘crises’ - European University of Cyprus, Nicosia, Cyprus
Duration: 1 Dec 20233 Dec 2023


ConferenceIALIC 2023 - Rethinking intercultural communication beyond verbal language
Abbreviated titleIALIC 2023
Internet address


  • intercultural communication


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