Researchers focused on the experience of a small number of PhD students, sponsored by the Algerian government, as they “learnt to be themselves” in their everyday lives in the UK.
The research, published in UCL Press, used data from a larger study carried out by one of the authors, Yasmine Sadoudi, back in 2022.
In that study, Sadoudi selected 13 PhD students on the basis of all having recently been through the Algerian educational system and visiting Britain, and in some cases travelling abroad, for the first time.
They were aged between 25 and 28 years and had been enrolled on the program for about one to three years, having undertaken a six-month British university PhD preparation program.
The data presented in the most recent piece of research concerned only seven of the students, but was informed by the context of all the data in the wider study.
It found that students draw resources from their “personal cultural trajectories within which their lives in Britain form another stage in a lifelong journey of identity construction”.
Researchers said the international students did not ‘assimilate’ in the expected sense and that their friends are not mainly ‘British’.
“Their brought multilingualism is characteristic of a natural hybridity that prepares them to be different selves in diverse social locations and with people of diverse origin on and off campus through an ongoing negotiation process of small culture formation on the go,” researchers said.
As part of the study, Sadoudi “immersed herself in the diversity of the circumstances that governed the particularities of how each of the students engaged in the activities of their daily life”.
She reported each student’s different personal experiences, lifestyles, hobbies and friendship patterns, all of which blended with the fabric of the broader society in which they found themselves.
“Feeling home is a more complex and multidimensional concept that can simultaneously refer to a place, a feeling and an experience in which the individual feels familiarity, safety and belongingness,” Sadoudi said.
“Home-making can be enabled through many processes”
“According to what I have observed, home-making can be enabled through many processes such as settling routines, negotiating, communicating and more importantly defying prejudices.”
The report said that this insight into the way the students experience life in British environments, and the way in which they negotiate their multiple identities and manage their lives as PhD researchers, is to do with their “hybrid identity”.
“We position and reposition ourselves in different ways at different times depending on multiple circumstances,” the report said.
“This means that ‘the intercultural’ has always been with us as we move through diverse settings in everyday life, from family, friends, school or work, through finding ways to be ourselves, and to feel or create familiarity wherever we go and whenever we interact, by negotiating our upbringings in the process of small culture formation on the go, wherever it is located.”