Intercultural Awareness and Competence: Cultural Differences and Challenges among International Students in a Private Malaysian University


In the past, almost the whole university student population in Malaysia comprised three major ethnic groups, namely Malays, Chinese and Indians, as well as other minorities. The make-up of the student population has evolved dramatically and it is common to see students of other cultures in private campuses throughout the country. These students have significant contact with individuals coming from background diversely different from their own. Tolerance will be a major obstacle until not only each national but the greater student population become more accepting and accommodating. The plight many of these students face is witnessed in increasing frequency. Western literature on intercultural competence abounds, however there are no studies in the local context done on this topic which is becoming increasingly important with the recent development in local campuses. There is a need to explore and investigate the awareness of intercultural competence of these foreign students in a private Malaysian University in order to understand the pedagogic implications and the measures to be taken by the university. Therefore, the key questions for the study are: How do foreign students in this private university cope with the cultural differences and challenges? And what competences do they have and need, other than the English language as lingua franca? A large scale study was beyond the scope of this paper, therefore, an exploratory study was done with a small, convenient sample of international students in the private university. The tool used was an autobiography [the Autobiography of Intercultural Encounters]. It was the intent that through this study, issues related to awareness of cultural others and the students' own intercultural competence would surface for further direction and a large scale study. The implication of the findings for understanding the awareness of intercultural competence among students in this private university are discussed.

Author Information
Pooi Keng Ong, Sunway University, Malaysia

Paper Information
Conference: ACCS2014
Stream: Cultural Studies

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