Skip to main navigation menu Skip to main content Skip to site footer
University of the Arts London

Citizens of somewhere: How a cross-cultural discussion group offers opportunities for intercultural understanding


Increasing international student numbers in higher education institutions mean there is a need to address the challenges that these students face and make the most of the opportunities they bring. The internationalisation initiative ‘Conversation Club’ is a weekly discussion group for overseas and home students at London College of Communication (UAL), which is aimed at building community. This article discusses comments gathered from these student discussions alongside secondary research on the subject and explores the importance of an informal, out-of-classroom setting for providing an insight into student life that could be used to improve the experience of international students, while increasing home students’ intercultural competency. 


internationalisation, intercultural competencies, inclusion, cultural stereotyping, silence, criticality


Author Biography

Sarah Macdonald

Sarah Macdonald taught English and the arts in further and higher education in Japan from 2003 until 2010 and has lived and worked in France and the United States. She is passionate about literature, cinema and social justice and is a practising writer. Before moving to Japan, she wrote and edited for various publications in London and Scotland. She has science and arts degrees from the University of Edinburgh and Birkbeck College and an MA in Creative and Life Writing from Goldsmiths. As an academic support lecturer at London College of Communication, in addition to facilitating Conversation Club, she collaborates with colleagues to run creative writing sessions, lunchtime academic skills workshops and embedded classes in the Screen School.


  1. Bianchi, J. (2011) ‘Intercultural identities: Addressing the global dimension through art education’, International Journal of Art and Design Education, 30(2), pp.279–292.
  2. Cain, S. (2013) Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. London: Penguin Books.
  3. Finnigan, T. (2009) ‘Tell us about it: Diverse student voices in creative practice’, Art, Design and Communication in Higher Education Journal, 8(2), pp.135–150.
  4. Helm, T., Quinn, B. and Dehghan, S.K. (2017) ‘Sack Boris for shaming our nation, Corbyn tells the PM’, The Observer, 12 November, p.1.
  5. Higher Education Academy (2014) Critical thinking. York: HEA. Available at: (Accessed: 27 November 2017).
  6. Ippolito, K. (2007) ‘Promoting intercultural learning in a multicultural university: Ideals and realities’, Teaching in Higher Education, 12(5/6), pp.749–763.
  7. McKinnon, S. (2013) ‘Definition of intercultural competence: What is intercultural competence?’, Global Perspectives Project, Glasgow Caledonian University: resources and tools for staff. Available at:, p.etence.pdf (Accessed: 27 November 2017).
  8. May, T. (2016) ‘Keynote speech’, Conservative Party Annual Conference. ICC / Hyatt Regency Hotel, Birmingham, 2–5 October.
  9. National Education Association (2010) Global competence is a 21st Century imperative: An NEA policy brief. Washington, D.C.: NEA Education Policy and Practice Department. Available at: (Accessed: 27 November 2017).
  10. Phakiti, A., Hirsh, D. and Woodrow, L. (2013) ‘It’s not only English: Effects of other individual factors on English language learning and academic learning of ESL international students in Australia’, Journal of Research in International Education, 12(3), pp.239–258.
  11. Rear, D. (2017) ‘Reframing the debate on Asian students and critical thinking: Implications for Western Universities’, Journal of Contemporary Issues in Education. 12(2), pp.18–33.
  12. Ryan, J. (ed.) (2013) Cross-cultural teaching and learning for home and international students. Abingdon: Routledge.
  13. Singh, G. (2017) ‘Decolonising the curriculum’: challenges and possibilities?, [staff workshop], Teaching and Learning Exchange, University of the Arts London. 8 March.
  14. UAL (2017) Figures obtained from LCC Registry. Unpublished.
  15. UCLTV (2014) Why is my curriculum white? Available at: (Accessed: 27 November 2017).
  16. UNESCO (2013) Intercultural competencies: conceptual and operational framework. Paris: UNESCO.
  17. Yoshino, A. (2004) ‘Well-intentioned ignorance characterises British attitudes to foreign students’, The Times Higher Education Supplement, 16 July, p.18.