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Contact with cultural others – the Friendship Family Programme

Ecochard, Sidonie and Wright, Kirsteen (2017) Contact with cultural others – the Friendship Family Programme. Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice, 5 (2). pp. 119-122. ISSN 2051-9788

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The Friendship Family Programme is a cultural exchange initiative piloted this year at Edinburgh Napier University. It is designed to give international students a chance to have first-hand experience of the local culture and way of life, in addition to life on campus. Students are paired with volunteer staff families, who also get the chance to better understand international transitions and learn about the students' home countries and cultures. The programme was grounded in research findings which indicate that social support and friendship with host nationals reduce the acculturative stress and ease the transition of international students. Indeed, international students do not have a full-scale support system in the United Kingdom (UK) and tend to experience loneliness and homesickness during their stay. Meanwhile, the literature also indicates the need for all university staff to understand the background of their students and to be aware of the unique challenges that confront them in the UK. Internationalisation includes mutual cultural awareness and respect. This ‘On the horizon’ piece introduces the Friendship Family Programme and the rationale behind the initiative, along with testimonials from participants.