About the Author(s)


Ivy C.C. Lai Email symbol
Faculty of Law, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Citation


Lai, L.L., 2018, ‘Global world, global mind: Narratives of the University of Hong Kong Worldwide Exchange students’, Transformation in Higher Education 3(0), a42. https://doi.org/10.4102/the.v3i0.42

Original Research

Global world, global mind: Narratives of the University of Hong Kong Worldwide Exchange students

Ivy C.C. Lai

Received: 03 Apr. 2018; Accepted: 16 July 2018; Published: 27 Sept. 2018

Copyright: © 2018. The Author(s). Licensee: AOSIS.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Background: ‘Internationalisation’ is what makes the University of Hong Kong (HKU) reputable. Ranked as the world top 25, in QS (Quacquarelli Symonds) 2019 World University Ranking, HKU provides students with ample opportunities to experience the global world, to possess a global mind. The HKU Worldwide Exchange Programme, established in 1998 by HKU, allows students to study abroad for a certain period to sharpen their global vision.

Settings: This study investigated how HKU facilitates ‘internationalisation’, which contributes to the international fame of HKU. Narratives by HKU Worldwide Exchange students (whose anonymous identities were preserved) were examined to explore the ways in which these students participate in the global world, with a global mind.

Aim: The research question structuring the study is: How does the participation in HKU Worldwide Exchange Programme prepare HKU students for the global world?

Method: This article addressed the ways in which HKU prepares students for the global world. The knowledge contribution to internationalisation in higher education in relation to student exchange programmes as a result could fill the gap in studies of transformation in higher education.

Result: Global attributes of HKU Worldwide Exchange students were found that contributes to their future careers. Being a global citizen is the ideal role of their careers, linking to a core mission of HKU.

Conclusion: More policies on carrying out student exchange programmes for HKU are recommended to benefit more future students. The future of these golden assets could bring a promising prospect for the transformation of HE.

Introduction

Among the eight universities in Hong Kong, the University of Hong Kong (HKU) is the most reputable university in Hong Kong. As an Asia’s Global University, HKU delivers impact through internationalisation, innovation and interdisciplinarity. According to the “Vision and Mission” found on the HKU’s webpage (n.d.), it attracts and nurtures global scholars through excellence in research, teaching and learning, and knowledge exchange. It makes a positive social contribution through global presence, regional significance and engagement with the rest of China. Internationalisation is what HKU has achieved, partly by the means of the HKU Worldwide Exchange Programme.

Established in 1998, the HKU Worldwide Exchange Programme is a student exchange programme by HKU which allows students to study abroad for a certain period to sharpen heir global vision. This article argues that the HKU Worldwide Exchange Programme strengthens internationalisation of HKU and the voices of the HKU Worldwide Exchange students respond to the global world with a global mind, through their narratives. This leads to a research question structuring the study: ‘How could these HKU Worldwide Exchange students acquire a global mind in the global world after participating in the HKU Worldwide Exchange Programme?’ The targeted audience is those who are very much concerned with student exchange programmes, higher education (HE), internationalisation and what international universities could benefit from internationalisation of HE through implementing student exchange programmes in strategic international partnership. This study could fill in the gap in the field of HE in Hong Kong, with the focus on the HKU Worldwide Exchange Programme and internationalisation of HKU. This fits into transformation in HE.

Literature review

Globalisation and cross-border education in higher education

Global means ‘worldwide’ and de-emphasises the concept of nation without negating it (Guruz 2008). Globalisation is the flow of technology, knowledge, people, values, ideas, capital good and service ‘across national borders’ and affects each country in a ‘different’ way because of the nation’s ‘individual’s culture, history, traditions’ (Guruz 2008, cited in Knight). In other words, globalisation is best described as the ‘cross-national’ flow of goods, production and technology (Turner & Robson 2008). In this sense, globalisation involves human beings coming together interacting with each other (Guruz 2008) across borders. In this new era of globalisation, HE (i.e. education that involves teaching and research of university) has undergone fundamental changes (Sakamoto & Chapman 2012, cited in Knight), which results in significant growth of cross-border education. This could be driven by internationalisation of HE (which will be examined later).

Unexpectedly, there has been an overwhelming global demand for post-secondary education in most countries that people are looking for more ‘alternative’ ways of education to get them more equipped in the knowledge economy (Sakamoto & Chapman 2012). There are more secondary school graduates than before because of the change of demographics, while at the same time more and more people see the importance of life-long learning in the knowledge economy (Sakamoyo & Chapman 2012). The movement of life-long learning erupts (Sakamoto & Chapman 2012). More value has been placed on HE than in the past. There are more alternative ways of education including cross-border education. More students and families are looking beyond the borders of their countries for better educational opportunities (Guruz 2008). Cross-border education has been evolving in reaction to the economic, political and social impact of globalisation (Sakamoto & Chapman 2012, cited in Knight).

Although cross-border HE is emerging, there have been antagonist ideas that the knowledge economy a university constructs, should also take morality enterprise into account. Morality enterprise goes beyond knowledge economy and tampers with the ideas of preserving one’s own culture while sceptically questions the other’s culture. A university not only creates knowledge for students but also turns students into moral beings. As Pinar (2007) points out in Intellectual Advancement through Disciplinarity: Verticality and Horizontality in Curriculum Studies, HE is undergoing intellectual advancement vertically and horizontally from the past to the present. Unlike its emphasis in pure intellectual enquiry in academia, HE as a moral enterprise is reaching out to promote morality by engaging students in student exchange programmes, for example to awaken their sense of compassion towards the needy in a foreign land.

The concept of ‘international trade’ in education: Cross-border education

Over the past decades, international trade in educational goods and services has significantly grown. The rise in international trade in educational goods and service is led by the global economic integration, new communication technologies and changing demographics (Sakamoto & Chapman 2012) under the impact of globalisation. The economic systems around the world are connected to one another. A feature of globalisation means the ‘break-down’ of national or local barriers to free trade and the open movement of people, information and capital (King, Marginson & Naidoo 2011).

In fact, it is only 10 years since education has been included in international trade agreements, for instance the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GAST) (Sakamoto & Chapman 2012, cited in Knight). Education is becoming more ‘transnational’ and ‘borderless’ in the concept of international trade in education (Sakamoto & Chapman 2012).

Owing to the influence of international trade in educational goods and services, more universities around the globe have formed cross-border partnerships to negotiate agreements and deliver instructional programmes through student exchange activities (Sakamoto & Chapman 2012). The University of Hong Kong Worldwide Exchange Programme is the focus of our study here. It is true that academic mobility nowadays has gained a worldwide recognition through education exchanges and partnerships (Sakamoto & Chapman 2012, cited in Knight). Franchise, meaning delivering course or programme in country B, while qualification is being awarded in country A in partnership, is ‘customised’ in each franchise arrangement (Sakamoto & Chapman 2012, cited in Knight), within the concept of international trade in education goods and services, to gain mutually in both countries economically and yet educationally under collaborative partnerships. Exchange is inextricably related to franchise agreement in trade in education goods and services.

Terms about cross-border education: Cross-borders, borderless, transnational, intercultural

Cross-border education means movement of people and knowledge across borders and nations (Sakamoto & Chapman 2012). It is used interchangeably with transnational, borderless education (Sakamoto & Chapman 2012). Borderless education means the disappearance of borders, while cross-border education emphasises the existence of borders, especially geo-graphics (Sakamoto & Chapman 2012). Borders are getting more important when the focus of cross-education turns to ‘regulatory responsibility’, especially related to quality assurance, funding and accreditation (Sakamoto & Chapman 2012). Exchange is part of cross-border education, through which ‘internationalisation’ of the university can be promoted.

‘Transnational’ means ‘across’ the nations but does not address the use of relationship (Guruz 2008). As stated above, transnational can be used interchangeably with cross-border (Guruz 2008).

‘Intercultural’ means ‘diversity’ of cultures within countries. Intercultural skills mean competent communication skills through which people from diversified cultures can be interacted.

Factors of cross-border education: Organisation and finance

Organisationally, cross-border education involves aligning with the educational aims of institutions specifically (Sakamoto & Chapman 2012). A wider set of purposes and mechanisms are thus involved in cross-border collaborations (Sakamoto & Chapman 2012). One of the key missions of HKU education in the study is to nurture HKU students to become global citizens through carrying out the HKU Worldwide Exchange Programme.

Financially, cross-border education generates huge income, turning HE into a multi-billion dollars industry (Sakamoto & Chapman 2012). However, cross-border programmes need to be financially ‘viable’ (Sakamoto & Chapman 2012). Basically, the primary motivation for new endeavours in this multiple complex world is to generate more and more income.

Building international reputation through ‘internationalisation’

What makes an institution highly reputable is through market branding (Sakamodo & Chapman 2012, cited in Knight) to promote internationalisation. There is an increasing commercialisation under the flag of internationalisation (Brandenburg & de Wit 2015). Internationalisation devalues for the rise of values of defensive measures (Brandenburg & de Wit 2015). However, commercialisation of quality assurance or accreditation, marketing and branding campaigns necessary increases ‘competitiveness’ and ‘perceived international legitimacy’ of an institution. As Brandenburg and Hans de Wit in the provocative essay entitled ‘The End of Internationalization’ state,

… new components were added to its multi-dimensional body in the past two decades, moving from simple exchange of students to the big business of recruitment and from activities impacting on an incredible small elite group to a mass phenomenon. (Stiasny & Gore 2013, cited in Brandenburg & de Wit)

The University of Hong Kong resorts to a branding strategy for the HKU Worldwide Exchange Programme to boost its university ranking. The world university ranking is an indicator of the ‘international’ recognition of the university worldwide. The University of Hong Kong is ranked 1st in Hong Kong, 2nd in Asia in Asia QS Ranking (QS Top Universities 2017) and 25th in 2019 QS World University Ranking. As HKU is the most reputable international university in Hong Kong which creates a campus of diversity and international outlook, HKU has been selected as the focus of the study, filling the gap in the previous literature on student exchange programmes in Hong Kong.

The success of HKU is mainly achieved by the ‘internationalisation’ of the university. In the context of HKU, the intention of internationalisation is to create an environment where students must interact with people from different cultures (The University of Hong Kong 2016). The intensity of intercultural experience correlates with the willingness to interact with local people, such as using the local language and being involved in community projects (The University of Hong Kong 2016). Internationalisation, to HKU, is to promote global citizenship and competitiveness, through the plan to provide all students with at least one mainland China and one overseas learning opportunity by 2022 (The University of Hong Kong, 2016). The three pillars of HKU are (1) excellence for teaching and learning, (2) excellence for research and (3) knowledge exchange. Regarding excellence for teaching and learning, ‘internationalisation’ means HKU will expand student and staff diversity, promote diversity awareness and empowerment, extend opportunities for cross-cultural encounters, particularly among students, deepen multicultural components of campus life, increase opportunities for students to gain learning experiences in mainland China and overseas, and focus on quality in developing our more successful and mature internationalisation programmes (The University of Hong Kong, 2016). Regarding excellence for research and knowledge exchange, ‘internationalisation’ means HKU will strengthen strategic cross-institutional collaboration to enhance both the breadth and width of research, thus directly strengthening the competitiveness of HKU in public and private funding, and strengthen the international network through research partnership and collaboration, strategic alliance, flagship conferences and symposia, and joint bench-marking and evaluation exercises … (The University of Hong Kong, 2016). All these ‘internationalise’ HKU and make HKU a world-class global top-ranked university. ‘Internationalisation’ means having undergone a process of being ‘internationalised’ in a way to gain the recognition that is agreed or consented by most nations worldwide. ‘Internationalisation’, according to Guruz, emphasises the notion of ‘nation’ and stands for the ‘relationship’ between nations, cultures or countries. However, Hans de Wit stresses that the notion of internationalisation is not only about the relationship between nations. Rather, it is even more about the ‘relationship between cultures’ and ‘between the global and the local (Stiasny & Gore 2013, cited in Hans de Wit)’. Yet, Knight holds an entirely different view. Having not mentioned about relationship between nations, she argues that internationalisation not only is oriented to countries but also includes ‘different cultural or ethnic groups within a country’ (Stiasny & Gore 2013, cited in Knight & de Wit)’. According to Knight, ‘the acknowledgement of cultural and ethnic diversity within and between countries is considered as a strong rationale for the internationalization of a nation’s education system’ (Stiasny & Gore 2013, cited in Knight). Internationalisation of HE by lived experience of student exchange should be recorded in academia for its knowledge contribution. As Pinar (2007) puts it, linking lived experience to scholarship is exactly the academic enterprise.

The widely known definition of internationalisation, adopted by Knight, is:

the process of integrating an international, intercultural or global dimension into the purpose, function or delivery of post-education. (Stiasny & Gore 2013:231)

Knight (2015b) updates the definition of internationalisation in ‘Updated definition of Internationalization’ in 2015, by stating that ‘International, intercultural, and global dimension are three terms that are intentionally used as a triad’.

The term ‘internalisation’ has been used in HE since the early 1980s, yet the discourse on meaning and impact of internationalisation continues (Sakamoto & Chapman 2012, cited in Frame). In the 1990s, international education has been differentiated from comparative education, global education and multicultural education in the debate (Sakamoto & Chapman 2012). Today, the relationship between cross-border, transnational, borderless and international education is getting more complex (Sakamoto & Chapman 2012).

Forty years ago (i.e. in 1972), international cooperation, international relations and international education as well as exchange were commonly used (Sakamoto & Chapman 2012). About 25 years ago, the term ‘internationalisation’ emerged and was defined in institutional agreements (Sakamoto & Chapman 2012). As internationalisation slides into the first part of the 21st century, an increasing orientation to student emerges, and more emphasis has been placed over commercial and market-driven exchange activities in so far as the competition among universities is getting keener in selecting a vast number of international academic partners in the collaborative relationships (Sakamoto & Chapman 2012). Universities would then compete in gaining the ‘international’ reputation and recognition worldwide through organising exchange programmes. In 2018–2019, HKU Worldwide Exchange Programme had over 330 university partners in six continents in 40 countries in its recognition of ‘internationalisation’.

As Altbach (2015b) points out, ‘The voices discussing internationalization are largely Western’.

Rationales for internationalisation within higher education

Hans de Wit (Turner & Robson 2008, cited in de Wit) identifies generic rationales for internationalisation within HE:

  • Political – foreign policy, national security, peace and mutual understanding.
  • Economic – economic growth and competitiveness, labour market.
  • Cultural and social – national culture, academic exchange, global awareness.
  • Academic – international dimension to research and teaching.

In view of internationalising HE, exchange students are trained, as if they are diplomats, to promote culture and what are the best of their nations during their academic studies across borders (in the global sense) by increasing their economic competitiveness in the labour market. These generic rationales make sense when they all conjure up a complete picture of the role of an exchange student which makes sense to internationalisation in HE. Hans de Wit (2015) highlighted that nine misconceptions of internationalisation existed, ‘whereby internationalization is regarded as synonymous with a specific programmatic or organisational strategy to promote internationalization’. This could be linked to the following multinational dimensions of internationalisation.

Multinational dimensions of internationalisation

Turner (Turner & Robson 2008) gives an account of multidimensional internationalisation:

  • International engagement – national and institutional policy, partnerships.
  • Mobility – academic exchange, flow of students.
  • Revenues – international student fee income.
  • International professionals – managers and administrators responsible for international matters.
  • Communication – website, media information.
  • Knowledge sharing – institutional leadership in international research.
  • Language – language diversity, English language.
  • Programming and curriculum – development of ‘international’ programmes, transnational projects.
  • Academic practices – local versus Western.
  • Reciprocity or ‘westernisation’ – international collaboration and equality of partnerships.

The following are interpretations of multidimensional accounts of internationalisation. The design of student exchange programmes could map into the aspect of internationalisation in HE.

Nationally, a university upholds the policy of having engagement with strategic international partnership to promote student exchange programmes internationally. Geographically, an exchange student is in high mobility, crossing over the borders. The flows of incoming and outgoing exchange students are inward and outward, vice versa, respectively. Their directions are neither horizontal nor vertical. They are non-linear and multiple. Economically, a university receives stable revenues through implementing sustainable student exchange programmes in accordance with the strategic international partnership policy. To achieve professionalism in the international context, an international office is established to run student exchange programmes to deal with exchange students’ issues. Communicatively, English as a Lingua Franca is widely used inside and outside the classroom. University websites and social media are all in English. Knowledge sharing wise, university student exchange programmes allow credits bearing and credits transfer, in a well-set transnational programme in the curriculum. Exchange students could feel free to take subjects they want and decide if they wish to have credits transfer in an international university in exchange partnership. Culturally sensitive, exchange students would have a heightened sense of distinction between the West and the East cultures in academic practices. This will enable them to respect cultural differences and appreciate the equality, whether it is reciprocal or not, of the university partnerships in two different cultural systems.

Approaches to internationalisation (Knight & de Wit 1997):

  • Activity approach – student exchanges.
  • Competency approach – development of knowledge and skills.
  • Ethos approach – creating a culture on campus that promotes and supports international or intercultural initiatives.
  • Process approach – integration or infusion of an international or intercultural dimension into teaching and research.

What makes a university international? Student exchange programmes a university carries out as an activity enhance internationalisation of a university. Through participating in student exchange programmes, exchange students could gain competitiveness by having developed knowledge and skills in a global setting, enabling them to become global workers moving across borders. The ethos of an international university is to promote a supportive international or intercultural environment that boosts intercultural communication between exchange students from different nations in an international university. Implications of intercultural competency for transnational teaching had been discussed (Gopal 2011) to illustrate the significance of transnational teaching in international universities that accommodate student exchange programmes. Thus, the integration or infusion of international or intercultural dimension into teaching, research and knowledge exchange could make an international university demonstrate excellence in teaching and learning, research and knowledge exchange that would push up its global ranking. Global ranking for university, according to Delgado-Márquez, Hurtado-Torres and Bondar (Delgado-Márquez, Hurtado-Torres & Bondar 2011) in the article ‘Internationalization of Higher Education: Theoretical and Empirical Investigation of its Influence on University Institution Rankings’, is very limited, as many factors like teaching and research could determine the overall score in various weights. Therefore, global ranking of universities could be problematic. Although global ranking could be problematic, HE leaders are faced with decision about quality (Blanco-Ramírez & Berger 2014), which global ranking as an indicator could reflect. What is striking though is that knowledge and education have become international commodities, which reflects the collapse of common goods (Altbach 2015a).

Jane Knight (2001) gives an account of the five myths about internationalisation as follows:

  • Myth 1: Foreign students as internationalisation agents.
  • Myth 2: International reputation as a proxy for quality.
  • Myth 3: International institutional agreements.
  • Myth 4: International accreditation.
  • Myth 5: Global branding.

Exchange students are ambassadors who serve as international agents to promulgate knowledge and skills as well as culture to which they belong, moving boundaries or borders over nations. Exchange students could thus gain a global mind in the global world. As international agents, these exchange students could bring more reputation to the university as a proxy for quality. The university’s global ranking would eventually go up. In that sense, more universities would begin to explore international institutional partnership worldwide, for internationalisation could do more good than harm. Internationalisation brings benefits to a university. International accreditation would then exist when two commensurable academic courses allow flexible credits transfer in student exchange programmes. As a result, global branding of a university could promote more student exchange programmes to foster more internationalisation of a university. It guarantees that students from exchange programmes would have a global mind in the global world. The global branding image echoes with a promising outlook of students taking part in student exchange programmes in an international university. As Tadaki and Tremewan (2013) emphasise, more scholarship on ‘the politics and transformative potential of consortia as deliberative spaces capable of reframing internationalization agendas’ needs to be addressed.

Knight and De Wit (1997) give different viewpoints as stakeholders’ perspective on why and how HE should be internationalised:

  • The government sector – government units such as foreign affairs, culture, economic development and trade, and science and technology.
  • The education sector – students, teachers, researchers and administrator.
  • The private sector – heterogeneous: varied interests of manufactory, service or trade companies.

Government, education and the private sector have their own justifications of why HE should be internationalised. From the government’s perspective, student exchange programmes could promote foreign affairs and culture and have an impact on economic development, trade and science and technology. From the education’s perspective, exchange students could benefit students, teachers, researchers and administrator in terms of embracing cultural diversity and global awareness of individual’s cultural differences. For the private sector, exchange students could contribute to the heterogenous society, leading to varied interests of manufactory, service or trade companies. From these perspectives, it is well-justified as to why HE should be internationalised by implementing student exchange programmes.

Internationalisation and globalisation

Internationalisation means intensifying exchange between nations. Globalisation means the process of progressive integration of economic structures within the global (King et al. 2011). Internationalisation and globalisation indicate a growing confusion and movement (Guruz 2008).

National policies on foreign relations, trade, immigration, employment, science and technology, and education can have direct bearings on internationalisation of HE (Guruz 2008). Internationalisation of HE can take place in some countries independently or in other countries in an integrated manner (Guruz 2008).

One obvious challenge globalisation poses on the university is the promotion of national cultures in an increasingly global environment (Guruz 2008). How can a university promote its national culture, especially its indigenous culture, in the global world? The preservation of the indigenous culture was explored in the data analysis of and discussion on the respect for cultural diversity.

Certainly, internationalisation of HE is a ‘response to globalisation’ (Guruz 2008). As Maringe and Foskett (2012) note, ‘Universities all over the world are increasingly recognising the challenges of globalization and the pressures towards internationalization’. In HE, HE policy necessarily involves internationalisation as an ‘international’ element at both institution and national level in order to address the challenges imposed by globalisation (Guruz 2008). As Knight points out, ‘Internationalization of higher education is one of the ways a country responds to the impact of globalization yet, at the same time respects the individuality of the nation’ (Knight & de Wit 1997:6). Knight (2015a) concludes that internationalisation brings important benefits as well as risks.

Internationalisation and student exchange programmes

International relations mean that people from different parts of the world collaboratively work together with people who do not know about each other’s history, culture, in an established relationship (Knight & de Wit 1997).

Student exchange programmes enable students to build up international relations with others. As Guruz (2008) points out:

Being in contact with each other, living in other countries, and exposure to other culture generally create goodwill and contribute to global peace and security. Hosting foreign students is intended to spread the host country’s cultural and political values as well as nurturing friends in other countries. The various national and international scholarships and exchange programs are driven by this rational and national policies based on it are referred to as the ‘mutual understanding approach’ to the internationalization of higher education. (p. 141)

Higher education plays a key role in national building (Guruz 2008). National building capacity aligns with the mission statements of institutes of HE (Guruz 2008).

What satisfies students from student exchange programmes is the ‘international experience’ which they cannot have in their own countries. To be international, they have to move across countries to broaden their horizons. Turner (Turner & Robson 2008) notes:

International experience is recognized as both personally desirable and as a useful addition to the curriculum vitae. Students may be motivated to study abroad by a desire to travel, to meet new people, and to experience other cultures, and by aspirations and intentions to develop language skills, intercultural competencies and global awareness in order to enhance their career prospects. (p. 55)

Internationalisation: Global skills in the global labour market

Internationalisation influences over the expectations of global skills in the global labour market. The ‘how’ of internationalisation that aims to identify, measure and improve HEIs’ (higher education institutions) policies and practices has become more practical in approaches, to which more recent attentions had shifted (Gao, Baik & Arkoudis 2015). In this study, the global skills to gain competence in the global labour market had been classified and analysed.

Internationalisation is no longer confined to the study of foreign languages and cultures (Stiasny & Gore 2013). It is now an end in itself (Stiasny & Gore 2013). It has ‘intensified in response to globalisation’ (Stiasny & Gore 2013). ‘Intercultural’ skills are one of the most desirable attributes in the emerging global workforce (Stiasny & Gore 2013).

In fact, the ability to work in an ‘international’ environment by the ‘intercultural’ skills acquired through student exchange programmes becomes a key requisite for employment in the global job market (Stiasny & Gore 2013). Higher education plays a central role in preparing the workforce (Green, Marmolejo & Egron-Polak 2012).

In the globalising marketplace, employers are seeking graduates with skills that enable them to be more competitive in the international arena (Turner & Robson 2008, cited in Industry Task Force on Leadership and Management Skills). Successful outcomes of internationlisation of HE could be seen and measured indeed (Deardorff & Van Gaalen 2012). In this study, a list of global skills required for work in the ‘international’ context that employers identify through the process of institutions liaising with employers by the Newcastle University, Global Skills blueprint, had been adopted in an attempt to classify these skills acquired by HKU Worldwide Exchange students (i.e. International Abroad) as shown in their exchange stories for analysis and discussion (Table 1).

TABLE 1: Global skills.

Leadership, among all global skills, is the most important, for leadership could improve our society in the global world. A good leader could have a massive impact on the global world across nations. A global learning framework, according to Kahn and Agnew (2017), has benefits beyond teaching and learning and could contribute to the deliberate internationalisation of HE.

The essence of global skills: Global citizenship

The ultimate goal of the HKU Worldwide Exchange Programme is to nurture students to become ‘global citizens’. This is applied to other universities worldwide. As Ng (2012) argues, internationalisation of HE contributes to building more than economically competitive and politically powerful states. Rather, it represents a commitment to the development of an internationalised curriculum where ‘the pursuit of global citizenship, human harmony and a climate of global peace is of paramount importance’.

What is global citizenship?

A citizen has his or her rights and responsibilities, duties and entitlement in society, bounded by nation.

A citizen is global only through the action carried out upon the future of the globe (O’Byrne 2003:127). To think local, act global is the slogan of a global citizen. In HE, we live in ‘glonacal’: global + national + local (King et al. 2011) to nurture global citizenship.

Global citizenship is a myth, as O’Byrne (2003) says that it is a performative social practice, in response to the Planet Earth, one common home of humanity (Davies 2006). It is believed that we are already born citizens of the world (O’Byrne 2003). There lies in the assumptions that human beings all have our ‘contracts’ with the world because of our strong bonding to the world. We have conscious and a commitment to our world to sustain peace. ‘Global citizenship suggests that we should regard ourselves not only as belonging to our own nation, but to the world, to human beings, to all life’ (Davies 2006).

However, the world is divided into territories that a citizen is constrained by the laws of the nation state (O’Byrne 2003). Global citizenship is idealistic. It is ‘a metaphor, a linguistic fancy which deliberately appears a national political reality to a wider world order’ (Davies 2006). Honestly, ‘we cannot be citizens of the world in the way that we are of a country’. The globalised world is beyond the power of nation states. ‘So is global citizenship a fiction, a seeming paradox or oxymoron? (Davies 2006)’. Whether one can be a global citizen is questionable, doubtful and sceptical.

‘Globalization is a threat or opportunity’ (Davies 2006). To become a global citizen, one must be active or even proactive. A global citizen respects cultural diversity and bears in mind peace, justice and equality in the pursuit of a better future for the globe or the world. Transcending boundaries of nation states is now a globalised phenomenon for one to go beyond borders to sustain peace amid conflicts and wars.

According to Oxfam Global Citizenship Guides (2015) here are the key elements of global citizenship (Table 2).

TABLE 2: Key elements of global citizenship.

These key elements include equity, social justice and peace. It is important for HKU Worldwide Exchange students to develop a global mindset to gain more assets in a mobilised world to move across nations.

Global paths for the University of Hong Kong Worldwide Exchange students

A university, in some ways, should be linked with the industries, especially with the ‘multinational’ organisations, for which the exchange students prepare to enter the global world (Blumenthal 1996). According to Harvey and Held et al.:

Globalization is associated with the actions and interests of transnational corporations, the workings of global financial ad labor markets, the development of new forms of production based on new technologies, and the compression of time and space resulting in an ascendency of real time over clock time. (King et al. 2011, p. 41)

By enabling exchange students to gain global skills to prepare them for the global world, it is obvious that HE has responded to globalisation in this fast, changing world. The University of Hong Kong Worldwide Exchange Programme works exactly in the best interests of transnational corporations by nurturing exchange students to have global minds in the global world.

The literature listed above logically links together, constituting scaffolding of this study in an attempt to answer the research question – How does the participation in HKU Worldwide Exchange Programme prepare HKU students for the global world? Obviously, internationalisation of HE and global attributes of HKU Worldwide Exchange students could be correlational. It is worthwhile to call for the government to invest more money on HE (Tillman 2010), especially for student exchange programmes, because global attributes of exchange students are inextricably linked to internationalisation of HE. In doing so, attractive financial and scholarship packages as marketing and recruitment strategies have to be adopted (Hazelkorn 2015). Personal and professional transitions for individuals and communities are essential to transformative internationalisation (Robson 2011). Internationalisation of HE upholds a competitive agenda (Rust, Portnoi & Bagley 2010).

Methodology

Students from student exchange programmes can be classified as international abroad (international HE as a national export) and internationalisation at home (the embedding of international or intercultural perspectives into local educational settings) (Turner & Robson 2008). International abroad, as Knight perceived, is ‘an export product’ (Knight & de Wit 1997, cited in Knight). In this study, international abroad had been selected only to study what global skills they have acquired through studying abroad.

This study explores the narratives of HKU Worldwide Exchange students submitted in the recent academic year, 2013–2014, to the HKU Office of International Student Exchange (OISE) to find out more about the latest findings of the global attributes of these HKU Worldwide Exchange students. The sources were reliable and valid, as the narratives were up-to-date reports submitted to OISE given the consent of the HKU Worldwide Exchange students. Voices from HKU Worldwide Exchange students were heard through the analysis of narratives given the methodology of discourse analysis with prior coding given for keeping the students’ identities strictly confidential. This could benefit students who are interested in applying for HKU Worldwide Exchange Programme by following the shadows of their predecessors. What is more, we can get a better understanding of the effectiveness of implementing the HKU Worldwide Exchange Programme in HKU with regard to producing HKU Worldwide Exchange students having global attributes who can fit into the global job market.

In this study, one to three HKU Worldwide Exchange students (i.e. international abroad students or outgoing students) from universities selected in each representative country – United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Australia in a random sampling were investigated to classify global attributes they had acquired through participation in the HKU Worldwide Exchange Programme in preparation for the global world. As Brooks and Waters state (2011) in ‘Student Mobilities, Migration and the Internationalization of Higher Education’, students’ perspectives on motivations, objectives and experiences should be taken into account to fill the gap.

The book Internationalization of Higher Education (Cheng, Cheung & Ng 2016):

reviews and analyses the issues and policies of internationalization and exportation of higher education and investigates the strategies and models of education hub development in the context of globalization, with Hong Kong in the Asia-Pacific region as a case study.

Setting the scene for this study. Besides, the book Internationalization of Higher Education in East Asia: Trends of Student Mobility and Impact on Education Governance (Mok & Yu 2013) asserts East Asia as an education hub that transports higher education into the education market, making the set of the scene for this study feasible. Conceptions, typology and issues can be examined to give recommendations for future development of Hong Kong and international communities (Cheng et al. 2016). Hong Kong’s higher education faces challenges and adopts internationalisation strategies to increase income (Ng & Tang 2016). Asian regionalisation of higher education is of paramount importance (Knight 2012).

Issues drawn from the previous study ‘Assessing Student Exchange Programmes: Putting Students at the Centre of Internalization Efforts’ by David X. Cheng, were employed in this study for data analysis and discussion. Examples are making friends from different cultural backgrounds, travel and explore the world, cultural shock, financial problems, academic problems, communication problems and homesickness (Stiasny & Gore 2013, cited in Cheng).

Some capacities which student exchange programmes helped students to develop, as stated in the previous study ‘Assessing Student Exchange Programmes: Putting Students at the Centre of Internalization Efforts’ by David X. Cheng, were adopted to analyse the global skills. These are critical thinking, communication skills, cultural awareness, adaptation flexibility, interpersonal skills, being proactive and problem-solving skills (Stiasny & Gore 2013).

A similar study ‘A Case Study of Issues of Strategy Implementation in Internationalization of Higher Education’ (Jiang & Carpenter 2013) analyses resource allocation, communication, operational process, cooperation and coordination, organisational culture, resistance to change, student support and external environment. Research findings indicate that most issues are rooted internally. Higher education internationalisation is deemed to be integration and cohesion. The University of Hong Kong is of no exception. Internationlisation of HKU is integrative to and cohesive of issues articulated in HKU Worldwide Exchange students’ narratives.

This study ‘international students as a Resource for Internationalization of Higher Education’ (Urban & Palmer 2014), which identifies multiple areas of opportunities for higher education to facilitate international students’ active contributions to the university’s strategic goal of global engagement and internationalisation while also positively impacting the manner in which international students perceive their HE experience, also serves as a good modelling of our study for HKU Worldwide Exchange narratives in relation to internationalisation of HKU in HE.

Data analysis

The following are the global attributes of HKU Worldwide Exchange students (which shall be useful for their employment in the global job market upon graduation) we classify based on their narratives of HKU Worldwide Exchange students’ stories:

Embracing cultural diversity

Getting acquaintance with a large diversity of people from all over the world makes HKU Worldwide Exchange students ‘international’:

‘Undergraduates (come) from States, Russia, Britain – from different nations!’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 2, University of Toronto, Canada)

In getting along with people of such a large diversity, the HKU exchange students have to be ‘open-minded’ and receptive to as well as sensitive to similarities and differences between cultures to explore so as to show respect for each culture. Celebrating the vibrant diversity of cultures underlines embracing cultural diversity:

‘The lecturer, a Canadian-European who spent a few years in Japan, had sheer sensitivity towards appreciation of similarities and differences between different cultures and always reminded students of the ‘vibrancies of different cultures’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 1, University of British Columbia, Canada)

When embracing cultural diversity, it is essential that we show respect for other cultures, while others have authentic interests in our own culture. Harmony, peace and respect are necessary for fostering ‘internationalisation’:

‘I got along with people of different cultures, race and background. I show respect and sincerity for others while others also had authentic interests in my own culture’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 1, University of California, Irvine, United States)

However, local students have a strong bond in the existing circles that there might be conflicts between international students and local students owing to cultural differences:

‘Nearly one-third students are international students with different races and cultural background: international students are usually friendlier than local students as local students already had a strong bond between each other’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 2, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom)

‘I could hardly find local students who are interested to get us involved as they have their existing social circle already – conflicts arise due to cultural difference – the lack of understanding and consideration by a small group of local students in the hall’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 1, Monash University, Australia)

Accommodation, participation in student clubs and exchange activities, and doing group works allow HKU exchange students to interact with others coming from different parts of the world to embrace cultural diversity.

Accommodation

‘… Flat-mates are from US and Italy, having casual talking in the common room discussing current affairs or comparing different cultures – Italians are great chefs, French are passionate!’ (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 2, King’s College London, United Kingdom)

‘I lived with flat-mates who are from U.K., Switzerland and Italy in the residence where most exchange students were accommodated … Sometimes I cooked with my flat-mates and held parties’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 2, University of British Columbia, Canada)

‘I live in a big student accommodation where I was able to meet housemates from different countries, such as Malaysia, China, Indonesia, Belgium, Taiwan, Australia, etc.’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 2, the University of Melbourne, Australia)

Participation in student clubs and exchange activities

‘I got to know lots of people from Canada and all around the world by participating in activities held by student association and exchange student clubs …’ (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 1, University of British Columbia, Canada)

‘I participated in university choir and felt music is a universal language across borders to build up relationship with others’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 2, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom)

Group works

‘I learnt and made friends with international students – I particularly like the group projects with them since this allowed me to expose to various cultures and think from different perspectives but so brought me friends from many countries’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 1, the University of Melbourne, Australia)

Communication skills

Having daily interactions with others opens up a ‘casual, open and friendly foreign’ culture in which more interactions take place for exchange of ideas. Others surrounding the HKU exchange students were easy going, warm, outgoing and willing to share views on different daily life issues openly as a community practice. They include friendly and warm locals, children on the streets and even travellers around the world. Effective communication skills have thus been exercised:

‘People were friendlier and more willing to interact with each other: chatting with another student at the station, getting on the bus, saying hello to the bus driver, hopping off the bus saying thank you to the friendly driver, speaking to other students: more interaction between people …’ (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 1, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom)

‘Children asked me to take photos on the street, then in return they talked about religion, views on family, money and work to exchange ideas about daily life with me’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 1, University of California, Irvine, United States)

‘I met a Thai businesswoman in Venice and she shared with me her view to Thai politics’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 2, King’s College, London, United Kingdom)

The locals were very helpful and kind. When the HKU Worldwide Exchange students got into trouble and encountered difficulties, they were always there to help. Even the taxi driver kindly offered them help by their problem-solving skills:

‘Australians are very friendly and nice. Whenever getting troubles and encountering difficulties, they put efforts to help you. When I arrived at the Airport, I was not able to find the gathering point proposed by the university. The nearby taxi driver drove me to the gathering point’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 2, the University of Melbourne, Australia)

Yet, the native speakers spoke fast with strong accents. In return, these HKU Worldwide Exchange students’ English proficiency had been improved through interacting with them. They had more confidence to speak up and had more international exposure. They could communicate with them about Hong Kong:

‘I had to concentrate on their speaking, and choice of words as well as cultural difference: they speak so fast with strong accents’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 3, the University of New South Wales, Australia)

‘Going overseas builds up international exposure, boost self-confidence and enhance ability to communicate: share thoughts and ideas in the country, what they know about Hong Kong and China, ideologies on work and life aspirations to achieve innovative goals’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 1, Monash University, Australia)

‘After 5 months living in foreign countries, my English proficiency has been improved. I am now able to adapt to a new environment. I understood the culture and living style of locals and met some friends who shared with the same interest. I became brave and positive to meet new challenges’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 2, University of Melbourne, Australia)

The ability to argue effectively

Influenced by westernisation, HKU Worldwide Exchange students learnt in a Socratic way. Learning is not about spoon feeding. Learning is achieved by questioning, challenging, arguing, organising and summarising. They argued in response to questioning in Socratic debate in class, and then organised information into a framework by self-learning:

‘The Professor adopted ‘Socratic’ style of teaching to challenge my thoughts by aggressive questioning during class so that I could argue to respond and organize dispersed information into a framework through self-learning and questioning’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 2, Boston University, United States)

Critical thinking: Self-knowledge and reflection

No regrets of going for exchange! There have been some significant changes before and after exchange.

The HKU Worldwide Exchange students felt a sense of completion after going for exchange. They had no regrets of going on exchange. On their arrival for the first time, they had a mixed feeling of excitement and anxiety. However, when returning back home from exchange, they realised that they were more confident with high self-esteem, in contrast to being anxious and uncertain upon arrival. The University of Hong Kong Worldwide Exchange benefits students in personal growth and development. The exchange experience is an adventurous life experience through which one can explore possibilities of life options to grow up.

Excitement versus anxiety in first arrivals

‘Excitement comes from the eagerness of a newcomer to explore the host institute and the country while at the same time anxiety arises from practical issues in life settlement – basics: bank account, course enrollment, grocery visit, worries about social life in an entirely different country, for instance, outings and social gatherings by the exchange club’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 1, Monash University, Australia)

Changes before and after exchange

‘I was feeling stressed and anxious when I set off to United States; now I was content and got a clearer sense of direction when I came back’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 2, Boston University, United States)

No regrets of going for exchange

‘I used to be a person who had little tolerance for uncertainty. I had to follow my plans. I did not take risks. I doubted if I should go for exchange. I doubted any chance for a graduate job, my Grade point average (GPA), etc. Now I can tell firmly to everyone I do not regret having this exchange experience because it did open my eyes and show me high (sic) big the world is. I learnt to be more flexible, and I aimed to reach the new heights of accomplishment, no failure in trying, I tried and I gained more than I gave’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 1, the University of Melbourne, Australia)

Exchange experience had been a life-altering roller coaster ride

‘I could make new friends and learn new things in the alien city, look at the self in a differed light – see the strengths and weakness, put into perspective of others and view what is truly important in life and what does not matter much’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 2, Boston University, United States)

Critical reflection on cultural similarities and differences

The HKU Worldwide Exchange students discovered similar aspects of different cultures, while at the same time observed cultural differences.

Cultural similarities

… living in a foreign place for a certain period enables me to learn a lot more about the lifestyle of people and how they live their life: even though we live in different places, people of different races and cultural background actually are similar in some aspects’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 2, the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom)

Cultural differences
  • Toronto (Canada) customer’s services require tips and tax: ‘… waiters and waitresses in Toronto depend on tips from customers so they are warmer and friendlier’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 1, University of Toronto, Canada) ‘… have to pay tips implicitly, approximately 15% of the total bill excluding tax’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 2, University of Toronto, Canada)
  • Melbourne (Australia) is tranquil and has a relaxing lifestyle, in contrast to busy Hong Kong: ‘Australia is known for its laid-back lifestyle; however, Australian students are hard-working, while the lifestyle is relaxing … I did not really get used to this relaxing but boring life. As time goes by, I finally appreciate and started to love the tranquility in this country. At weekend, I hanged around at Sunday markets to see handicrafts or simply went to beaches or parks to have picnic with friends. Why is Hong Kong always so noisy, busy and stressful?’ (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 1, the University of Melbourne, Australia)
  • People in Canada (Vancouver) treasure the quality of life more in a slow and relaxing pace, in contrast to the fast and hasty Hong Kong where people strive for excellence and efficiency at the expense of personal values in life: ‘People in Canada value the quality of life much more, such as time with family and friends, and fresh air in the great natural environment – this is what Hong Kong should learn’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 2, the University of British Columbia, Canada)
Critical reflection: Feeling compassionate about the needy in host country

The HKU Worldwide Exchange students were concerned with the basics in life during exchange, and felt compassionate about the beggars in the poor area and the mentally ill people on public transport. They critically reflected these conditions as to how they could help the needy to deeply express their sense of justice in their hearts. What Hong Kong must learn from the United States are equality, justice, indiscrimination and humanities:

‘I live in poor area in London and felt compassionate about people begging for money that I would think twice before buying the most basic bread: lucky to experience different cultures and thankful for this, and grateful to help others’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 2, King’s College London, United Kingdom)

‘I was surprised that people in California accepted people who have mental problems on the public transport and showed no sign of discrimination in the hope that Hong Kong could also become a place with no discrimination’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 1, the University of California, Irvine, United States)

Evaluating the academic culture of the host country and of Hong Kong

The HKU Worldwide Exchange students in the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia evaluated the unique academic cultures, in contrast to that of Hong Kong.

  • United Kingdom: Students were ‘eager’ to speak up: ‘students in King’s College London are more eager to speak due to difference between Asians and Europeans: professors in King’s College London would encourage students to answer question, or even to challenge their teaching – this could spark discussion between students … HKU students are more capable in applying knowledge in real life cases Versus King’s College London students are more focus in theories’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 2, King’s College London, United Kingdom)
  • Canada: Interactive e-learning: ‘e-Learning is intellectually stimulating to interactively engage students in the Lecture: 1) using an ‘i-clicker’ to answer multiple-choice questions to check the concepts, 2) peer-wise: students create their own multiple-choice questions for other students to answer and rate and make comments – these could be adopted in Hong Kong’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 1, University of Toronto, Canada)
  • Australia: Friendly, proactive, attentive and hard-working students despite laid-back lifestyle: ‘Unlike typical Hong Kong students, students in Monash are friendly and proactive: they are open to express opinions and take the initiatives to actively participate in class – still, face many assessments and examinations and lead a hard life’.(HKU Worldwide Exchange student 1, Monash University, Australia) ‘I had to complete more assignments in Melbourne University than in HKU, while students in Melbourne University were more attentive to classes, hard-working and serious amid the laid-back and relaxing atmosphere’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 1, the University of Melbourne, Australia)
Comparing hall life of the host university and that of the University of Hong Kong

The HKU Worldwide Exchange students in Nottingham University found the focus of hall life there very different from that of Hong Kong:

‘at HKU, more focus is put on hall team spirits, which have been reinforced by many inter-hall competitions versus in Nottingham University, it is more about vibrant student life – meeting people and having student parties, hanging around with other students each night, having dinner and drinks in parties or clubs …’ (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 2, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom)

Setting the goals and planning actions

The HKU Worldwide Exchange students were determined to set goals to aim at what they would like to achieve at the start of the exchange to make their life experience a more fruitful and rewarding one. Study-life balance was attempted. A sense of achievement could be obtained if the goals were fulfilled:

‘I spent sometimes in setting goals for myself: more aspirations for art of photography, more books reading … but failed to do exercise’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 1, the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom)

‘I set up goals because I did not want to get lost without goals in the relaxing culture. I should devote more time on what I wanted to achieve: cooking, sports, and choir, before embarking on exchange …’ (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 2, the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom)

‘I rode a bike to campus every day which took 5-10 minutes; after exam, I and two friends rode to Frankston on raining and windy days. With support by friends, we finally achieved the goals after 6 hours, feeling exhausted by a sense of achievement back home!’ (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 2, University of Melbourne, Australia)

Activeness: Taking the initiative

The HKU Worldwide Exchange students in the University of British Columbia actively took the initiative to experience what could not be offered in Hong Kong in order to taste the ‘local’ flavour in the ‘foreign’ land:

‘I took some courses that were common in North America which are not offered in HKU to experience what I could not experience in my study in Hong Kong …’ (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 1, University of British Columbia, Canada)

Adaptability to a new curriculum

The HKU Worldwide Exchange students had to adapt the curriculum differences between the host university and the HKU:

‘U.S. is 4 years long while HK is 3 years … I had to take more courses to adapt; luckily I passed them all and learnt a lot from prestigious professors …’ (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 1, University of California, Irvine, United States)

‘University of Toronto’s undergraduate degree is 4 years, unlike HKU 3 years … courses in University of Toronto were stimulating and exciting …’ (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 1, University of Toronto, Canada)

Versatility: High adaptability to a new academic life in the ‘foreign’ land

Adapting to a new academic life in the foreign land enabled HKU Worldwide Exchange students to tackle novel situations by solving ill-defined problems in their studies.

The HKU Worldwide Exchange students concentrated on long lectures hard to adapt. They were attentive and kept on jotting down notes.

‘It was the 3 hours lecturers in huge class size without tutorials: listening to an entire chapter material being covered in lecture, and TAs [Teaching assistants] were not approachable and helpful either …’ (HKU Worldwide exchange student 1, University of Toronto, Canada)

‘… lecturers were not used to distributing hard copies of handouts to students. I had to attend every class to jot down words on the whiteboards on my notes. A portion of assessment goes to pop-up quizzes that skipping class is not possible’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 2, University of Toronto, Canada)

However, the lecture delivered in University of British Columbia was dominated by student debates in a dynamic way throughout the class that the HKU Worldwide Exchange student found it hard to follow that even a single point could not be jotted down. Discover the importance of raising questions to think deeply:

‘I found it hard to follow the dynamics in class, since the lecture was dominated by students having debates: in HKU, the lecturer gave detailed elaboration on a specific topic Vs in UBC [University of British Columbia], students debated dynamically throughout the lecture to the extent that I could not even jot down a single note after a 3-hour lecture. I could not understand why the lecturer did not stop and resume the order. As time went by, I started to realize the importance of lecture to have students raised questions and the lecturer played the role of prompting students to think more deeply by attempting to offer some possible solutions’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 2, University of British Columbia, Canada)

Discussion could substitute lecture. In King’s College London, the lecturer prompted students a few questions to open up an engaging discussion in which students could freely discuss. In Nottingham University, law students spoke up and had a discussion with the professor or the tutor. The academic culture in Nottingham University was open. Even some had student-oriented and interactive tutorials more than lectures:

‘seminar participation and discussion are more engaging and lively, students were prompted by a few questions from the lecturer to begin a free discussion … there were more intellectual exchange in the seminars that challenged me to analyse literature more sophisticatedly deeper … very dynamic and active’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 2, King’s College, London, United Kingdom)

‘law students at the university are more willing to speak up and have a discussion with the professor or the tutor: students appear to be more engaged in the lectures and tutorials’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 1, Nottingham University, United Kingdom)

‘an open academic culture that encourages student participation, even some have tutorials more than lectures, students-oriented and interactive: good – express self and learn from the peers vs. bad: – knowledge peers share is from reading and less in depth than the points given by the lecturer’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 2, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom)

In contrast to dominant lecture or open discussion, the HKU Worldwide Exchange students in the University of New South Wales had fewer hours class but more independent study.

‘problems in credit-transfer: I had comparatively fewer lecture hours and assignments but more intuition and thorough understanding of course materials … grading is not as mild as HK, e.g. High Distinction = A’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 1, the University of New South Wales, Australia)

Interestingly, HKU Worldwide Exchange students had taken part in experiential learning.

The HKU Worldwide Exchange students in King’s College had experiential learning by getting a connection to creative writing and publishing industry, through studying plays and watching performance.

‘… since GPA is not affected on exchange, I tried creative writing course during which I was given a chance to attend lectures by authors and have seminars with professionals in the publishing industry … more reflective about own writing and inspire a new interest in creative writing … appreciation for this genre, and most enjoyable was to watch the live performance of plays studied in class on stage to have a holistic learning experience …’ (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 1, King’s College London, United Kingdom)

The HKU Worldwide Exchange law student in the University of British Columbia joined internship programmes to enhance experiential learning to improve problem-solving skills:

‘I joined legal advice program to serve Mandarin clients … I took part in Chin Law Links Program in which meetings were held to prepare trials for negotiation experiences … I worked with local lawyers to learn from them …’ (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 2, University of British Columbia, Canada)

Versatility: High adaptability to a new accommodation in the ‘foreign’ land

The HKU Worldwide Exchange students could not afford to live in the ‘foreign’ land. They had to look for a safe yet less expensive flat that require them to travel less. It was hard to strike a balance between the price of and safety of the flat, and the distance between the flat and the campus. Their high adaptability to a new accommodation in the ‘foreign’ land could strengthen their versatilities to be applied elsewhere.

‘I got rejected by landlords in Boston, finding hard to find a living place near campus – luckily, I rented a flat in the suburb … I felt petrified in darkness in the first two months, and then started to grow bolder and even enjoyed the natural tranquil side of the suburb such as morning sunshine and stars in the sky…’ (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 2, Boston University, United States)

‘I had been allocated to one of the most expensive residence provided by Kings College London – costing around HK $40,000 for a semester and this takes long hours, 45 minutes, to travel and it is not safe’. (HKU Worldwide student 2, King’s College London, United Kingdom)

Versatility: High adaptability to the choice of transportation in the ‘foreign’ land

The HKU Worldwide Exchange students encountered transportation problems in the ‘foreign’ land. Unlike the locals who had a car to travel around, they could not afford a car so they had to take the public transport to travel, even for long distances:

‘… public transport is not common in California, most people there have their own cars to travel … local friends were surprised of me taking the public transport so often, only people who could not afford a car take the public transport … not enough money to afford the expensive taxi fee or buy a car so I had to travel by public transport …’ (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 1, University of California, Irvine, United States)

‘it took at least 2 hours to travel from my house to campus …’ (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 2, University of Toronto, Canada)

Problem-solving skills: Independence fosters life survival skills

To ‘survive’ in a ‘foreign’ land, HKU Worldwide Exchange students exercised problems-solving skills to solve daily problems to become more independent. Crisis fostered their survival skills through crisis management in life:

‘… the standard of living is higher: opened a bank Commonwealth Bank, bought a prepaid SIM card, high currency or exchange rate, a Chinese dish costs more than AUD $10; public transport is expensive – buses or a ticket that incorporates train, tram and bus tickets … socket, adaptor, blankets and linen, kitchenware, cheap local flight tickets, Mastercard for online shopping … loneliness in living alone without family: some challenges in routine life …’ (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 3, the University of New South Wales, Australia)

‘black out … tried to get power from elsewhere, e.g. torch, chargers new a power plug at restaurant (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 1, University of Toronto, Canada)

I had chest pain in midnight so I went to hospital to check-up, luckily the housemate accompanied me to see the doctor and make sure I am alright – I remembered family was always with me when I was in trouble in Hong Kong, in a foreign land I felt afraid and scared in being alone to solve problems during crisis on my own …’ (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 1, University of Toronto, Canada)

The power of decision-making in life to gain independence

The HKU Worldwide Exchange students had the power to make decisions on their own to gain independence. These decisions are related to self-care which includes doing housework, being concerned with tight budget on meals and cooking:

Doing housework

‘I did housework after a day of work, through which I understand that how spoiled I was when my parents were around … now I learnt to take good care of myself and become independent …’ (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 1, the University of Melbourne, Australia)

Being concerned with tight budget on meals

‘I took care of meals in a tight budget that I looked for cheap recipes’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 2, King’s College London, United Kingdom)

Cooking

‘I need to cook for myself for every meal in ‘Broadgate Park’, self-catered accommodation: lived in a flat with six students, sharing a kitchen, a toilet and a bath room, sharing the same kitchen so there are chances to meet each other’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 2, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom)

‘what I learnt most is to take care of my own daily life, the price level in Melbourne is high that dining out was un-affordable so I had to cook every day to have my cooking training started: went to Queen Victoria market to buy food, cooking by myself could help me to concentrate and forget all about pressure’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 1, the University of Melbourne, Australia)

Global citizenship: Respect the indigenous culture in the globalised world

The HKU Worldwide Exchange students in Monash University had the awareness of preserving indigenous culture in Australia with respect to promoting global citizenship:

‘Australians are NOT the sole majority: student learnt to respect the indigenous culture of Australia while embracing globalization in the 21st Century – Aboriginal culture: Aboriginal performance – anti-racism!!!’ (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 1, Monash University, Australia)

Global citizenship: Viewing policies in light of multiculturalism in the pursuit of peace

The HKU Worldwide Exchange student in University of British Columbia recommended exchange students in Vancouver to pay more attention to local policies with respect to globalisation in view of multiculturalism in the globalised world.

‘I recommend exchange student in Vancouver to pay more attention to local policies and social dynamics between people of different backgrounds to rethink issues of globalization, to understand multiculturalism and to develop a sense of global citizenship’. (HKU Worldwide Exchange student 1, University of British Columbia, Canada)

The list of findings

To sum up, the HKU Worldwide Exchange Programme enables HKU graduates to have these global attributes (as discussed) acquired in the globalised world:

  • Embracing cultural diversity.
  • Communication skills.
  • The ability to argue effectively.
  • Critical thinking: Self-knowledge and reflection.
  • Critical reflection on cultural similarities and differences.
  • Critical reflection: feeling compassionate about the needy in the host country.
  • Evaluating the academic culture of host country and that of Hong Kong.
  • Comparing hall life of the host university and that of the HKU.
  • Setting the goals and planning the actions.
  • Activeness: Taking the initiatives.
  • Adaptability to a new curriculum.
  • Versatility: High adaptability to a new academic life in the ‘foreign’ land.
  • Versatility: High adaptability to a new accommodation in the ‘foreign’ land.
  • Versatility: High adaptability to the choice of transportation in the ‘foreign’ land.
  • Problem-solving skills: Independence fosters life survival skills.
  • The power of decision-making in life to gain independence.
  • Global citizenship: Respect the indigenous culture in the globalised world.
  • Global citizenship: Viewing policies in light of multiculturalism in the pursuit of peace.

The participation in HKU Worldwide Exchange Programme could best prepare HKU students for a globalised world.

Discussion

Cultural diversity

Cultural diversity, one of the aims of internationalisation of HKU, enables HKU Worldwide Exchange students to embrace a diversified culture when studying abroad. The University of Hong Kong Worldwide Exchange students, in the future, if they move across nations to work with a global mind in the global world, would get to know how to appreciate and respect others’ culture in reflection of themselves. This underlines that the HKU Worldwide Exchange Programme as part of internationalisation of HKU could foster HKU Worldwide Exchange students to embrace or even celebrate cultural diversity.

This corresponds to the HKU’s intention of internationalisation, which is to create an environment where students must interact with people from different cultures. It adds values to the cultural and social rationalises of internationalisation in the form of academic exchange to promote culture of one’s own and to appreciate others’ culture to enhance global awareness. It is an ethos approach to internationalisation by creating a culture on campus that promotes and supports international or intercultural initiatives. For example, HKU has an international campus for exchange students. The University of Hong Kong has a truly international staff and a diverse student body. The University of Hong Kong has a constant stream of international conferences and symposia in the university, numerous distinguished international professors visiting under their various schemes, and a huge number of international collaborations in research and teaching. The University of Hong Kong must ensure that it has an international approach to all that the university could do, bench-marking itself against international best practices and aspiring to achieve characteristics which define the world’s greatest universities (Mathieson 2015). There is also a process approach to internationalisation. Integration or infusion of an international or intercultural dimension into teaching and research can be found, for example in the design of some HKU courses like courses on Hong Kong cinema. It is strongly linked to Myth 1 about internationalisation – foreign students being trained as international agents. Through participating in HKU Worldwide Exchange Programme, students could acquire excellent communication skills and team-building the government sector could be interested in HKU exchange students who may hire them as diplomats, or leaders serving as nation’s ambassadors in the future. The private sector would also be interested in a heterogeneous working environment. Possible international professionals that could be in the global world in the future include diplomats, cultural ambassadors and international agents in multinational firms.

Communication skills and the ability to argue

One of the teaching and learning intended outcomes of HKU under internationalisation is to equip students with essential communication skills and the ability to argue to present ideas clearly. The University of Hong Kong Worldwide Exchange students could then excel in proficient communication skills to articulate arguments inside and outside the classroom when studying abroad. The University of Hong Kong Worldwide Exchange students, in the future, could be trained as global scholars who could communicate effectively in well-presented arguments in academic work. This helps to strengthen the higher education sector. The University of Hong Kong’s teaching and learning in an international environment as part of internationalisation could motivate HKU Worldwide Exchange students to communicate with others effectively with the ability to argue in academic settings.

This could facilitate academic intellectual enquiry in academic rationale of internationalisation. It corresponds to the multidimensions of internationalisation: international engagement by strategic international partnerships, high mobility because of inflow and outflow of exchange students, revenues gained in transnational programmes, knowledge sharing for training to be institutional leaders and widely use of English language on campus, on website and other media amid language diversity. This links to Myth 4 and Myth 5 about internationalisation – international accreditation and global branding. Academic programmes in international dimensions could be accredited that could push up the global branding. The competency approach to internationalisation also suggests that exchange students could be more competent by exercising language skills to present lucid arguments. This will link back to Myth 2 about internationalisation; quality of students could result in international reputation. Students could gain excellent communication skills as global skills – oral, interpersonal, written and others. Possible international professionals that they could be in the global world in the future include global scholars in academia, lawyers, public relations officers, managers and business consultants in multinational firms.

Critical reflection

Critical reflection is required in any university training. The University of Hong Kong is of no exception. When studying abroad, HKU Worldwide Exchange students could gain self-knowledge by critical reflection of their own, critically evaluate the similarities and differences of cultures between the West and the East, feel compassionate about the needy in the host country they are in, and compare the similarities and difference between hall education in HKU and that in the host country. The University of Hong Kong Worldwide exchange students in the future could be trained to become global scholars who can critically reflect upon their real life, for example their awareness of different cultures, their compassion towards the needy and their evaluation of what is the similarity or difference between the host country and their home country. Critical reflection is the essence of intellectual academic inquiry, the first aim of teaching and learning of HKU. The University of Hong Kong Worldwide Exchange students, after participating in the student exchange programme, could gain the ability of having critical reflection, which maps with the first key aim of teaching and learning of HKU – the pursuit of academic excellence by critical enquiry.

This could correspond to the multidimensions of internationalisation – knowledge sharing, programming and curriculum, and academic practices. Competency approach to internationalisation means that students could be more competitive by having acquired critical reflection in academics or other international professional leadership positions. With critical reflection, students would have a higher capacity to be international agents, as discussed in Myth 1, about internationalisation. They could have strong leadership skills, and could possibly be global scholars or diplomats. The government and the education sector would be interested in these attributes. The global skills they would have are self-knowledge and reflection, decision-making, creativity, problem-solving and leadership. Possible international professionals that they could be in the global world in the future include academics, government officials and directors.

Life-long learning, goal setting, making plans and taking initiatives

Life-long learning is what an ideal education HKU always aims at. It trains students to be good leaders by asking them to set up goals, make plans and take initiatives for their actions. These attributes could enable them to become global scholars. The University of Hong Kong Worldwide Exchange students could transfer these attributes in their solitary life in studying abroad to workplace. Before they embark on their exchange journey, they set up life goals and make plans, and take initiatives to respond to or adapt in an unfamiliar environment.

This corresponds to the economic and social rationale of internationalisation. Students as life-long leaders could bring economic growth to society by contributing more to the labour market in the society. It adds values to the multidimensions of internationalisation: high mobility because of making plans to act by initiatives to attain life goals and academic practice to experience local versus western cultures in life. Activity and competency approaches to internalisation could be adopted to understand that academic exchanges could enable students to be more competent to set goals and plan to act by initiatives as life-long learners. Global skills – such as self-knowledge and reflection, planning and organising, problem-solving and leadership – could be acquired. Possible international professionals that they could be in the global world in the future include teachers, government officials, policymakers and leaders.

High versality and adaptability

High versality and adaptability could be fostered by offering HKU students various experiences, like experiential learning, taking common courses, engaging in flipped classrooms and taking massive open online courses (MOOCs). By taking part in a wide exposure of myriad forms of learning, they could always switch modes to gain high versality and high adaptability. These global attributes could enable HKU Worldwide Exchange students to adapt to new curriculum, new academic life, new accommodation and new choices of transport in studying abroad, which in the future will help them to gain more assets in high flexibility when moving across nations in the global world to work in the future. They would be more versatile, highly adaptable to new situations to solve ill-defined problems, and more capable of working in the global world with a global mindset.

This adds values to the cultural and social rationales of internationalisation – national culture, academic exchange and global awareness, which poses an impact on higher versality and adaptability of students. This also corresponds to the multidimensions of internationalisation – high mobility as well as reciprocity of Western and Eastern cultures in international collaboration and equality of partnerships. Reciprocity of two entire different cultural systems allows high versality and adaptability. Activity and ethos approaches to internationalisation could be understood – student exchange could lead to the development of knowledge and skills. This links to Myth 5 about internationalisation, that is high versality and adaptability of exchange students could be treasured as their global assets, which could result in global branding of a university. A global branding of a university, in other words, guarantees exchange students having the ability to move across nations to work in high versality and adaptability for their future jobs. The private sector in favour of heterogeneous culture (e.g. multinational firms) would be interested in hiring these students as they acquire global skills – adaptability, problem-solving, creativity, relationship building, collaboration and leadership. Possible international professionals that they could be in the global world in the future include tourist guides, think tank in the government and diplomats.

Problem-solving skills and independence of making life decision

Problem-based learning and having independence to make decisions are necessary skills to be learnt under HKU teaching and learning that would be helpful under internationalisation. The University of Hong Kong Worldwide Exchange students could then solve problems on their own and make life decisions independently when studying abroad. These students in future could exercise problem-solving skills to make life decisions independently when encountering difficulties in other nations. This echoes with one of the aims of teaching and learning in HKU – tackling novel situations and solving ill-defined problems. The University of Hong Kong Worldwide Exchange students could respond positively to unanticipated situations and problems, identify and define problems in unfamiliar situations, and generate and evaluate innovative solutions to problems. This would be beneficial for them to go to work in a global market; in particular, it would be extremely helpful for being a global scholar to solve problems in intellectual enquiry in academia.

This links to the multidimensions of internationalisation – academic practices and programming of internationalisation. The competency approach to internationalisation could be analysed – students could take advantage of problem-solving skills and independence of making life decision to tackle ill-defined problems in novel situation. The University of Hong Kong Worldwide Exchange students are well equipped to be global scholars. The University of Hong Kong must get them outside their comfort zones and experience adversity, take calculated risks and test themselves in challenging situations. It is in this way that the future global leaders would be born (The University of Hong Kong 2015). According to Myth 1 about internationalisation, the students would serve as international agents moving across borders to tackle problems in life or at work. The government and the education sector would be interested in hiring these students who have the problem-solving ability to make decisions independently, as they have global skills of problem-solving, decision-making and leadership. Possible international professionals that they could be in the global world in the future include global scholars, great leaders, senior management staff and troubleshooters.

Global citizenship

Global citizenship is the ideal role in the mission of what HKU would like its students to have. The university aims to produce students who can bear a strong responsibility to the global world. The University of Hong Kong Worldwide Exchange students thus not only respect the indigenous culture in the global world but also pursue peace in light of multiculturalism. This is one of the aims of HKU to achieve, fostering intercultural communication to reinforce global citizenship. Through participating in HKU Worldwide Exchange Programme, students could raise the awareness of their own culture and other cultures, develop cultural sensitivity and interpersonal skills for engagement with people of diverse cultures and perform social responsibilities as a member of the global community. Global citizenship is the ideal state that HKU would like to achieve under internationalisation. Performing social responsibility as a member of the global community is our commitment to protect our global world hands in hands with the global mindset.

This links to the cultural and social rationales of internationalisation. Programming and curriculum as one of the multidimensions of internationalisation allows the infusion of international dimension into courses, such as offering common core courses on global citizenship. Activity, ethos and process approaches to internationalisation could be understood as academic exchange increases the competitiveness of students by integrating intercultural dimension into teaching and learning at university. The Myth 5 about internationalisation works well. Exchange students serve as international agents. This would be a proxy to international reputation by the quality of exchange students. International institutional partnership agreements facilitate international accreditation of the programmes and courses, contributing to international branding of universities by the moving up of university ranking. All these are rooted in HKU Worldwide Exchange students who are in the pursuit of being the ideal global citizens. Education sectors, governments and world organisations would be interested in hiring these students who would attain the global citizenship. Global skills that they have include taking initiatives, leadership, relationship building and collaboration. Possible international professionals that they could be in the global world in the future include UN officials, NGO workers and education officers.

As discussed above, all these are global attributes of what these HKU Worldwide Exchange students have, which are essential for the global job market for their future.

Conclusion

To conclude, HKU has undergone ‘internationalisation’, which makes itself a global top-ranked university in the world. The University of Hong Kong Worldwide Exchange Programme is one of the effective key university strategies that focuses on collaborative international university partnership, contributing to HKU’s internationalisation. To extend this further, HKU aims to achieve a mandatory role for students to take part in one mainland and one international HKU Worldwide Exchange by 2022 in order to qualify a graduate having possessed a global mindset in the global world. This study makes significant contribution to the transferrable knowledge and skills from the students’ exchange experience to the global job market in the field of internationalisation in higher education. Further research can be conducted on employment opportunities of HKU Worldwide Exchange students, and students’ perception of mandatorily providing with one mainland and one international student exchange experiences under the new HKU Policy 2022. This may question what Pinar tends to suggest (Pinar 2007): how far does intellectual advancement progress?

Acknowledgements

The author would like to thank the Office of International Student Exchange (OISE), HKU, for the data collected from the stories of the latest 2013–2014 returned HKU Worldwide Exchange students (provided with consent of HKU Worldwide Exchange students given anonymous identities via special coding). This is an article based on the presentation ‘Global World, Global Mind: Narratives of HKU Worldwide Exchange Graduates’ (with slight extensions and updates) held in The Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia (HERDSA) Conference during the academic year 2013–2014. This study has been cited and extended further by Prof. John Spinks, Director of Undergraduate Admissions and International Student exchange, in the work entitled ‘Review of Exchange Students Report’ in HKU Quality Assurance Council (QAC) Audit Report [Institutional Submission], August 2015, page 1019, Appendix 4.4.

Competing interests

The author declares that she has no financial or personal relationships which may have inappropriately influenced her in writing this article.

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