Social Integration of International Students in High School: Friendship Matters

[Speaker] Arthur, Nancy M:1
[Co-author] Zhao, Xu:1, Jafari, Helia:1
1:University of Calgary (Canada)

Growing numbers of international students study at the secondary school level, often as unaccompanied minors. These younger international students are a critical period of life when peer interactions are important for their development. Social relationships, including friendships with local students, help international students to navigate their cross-cultural transitions and also help them to feel a sense of belonging in the host culture. In this paper, international students' views of friendships will be discussed, based on interviews with 20 students attending high schools in Western Canada. The results of the study show that many international students are challenged to bridge cross-cultural friendships with local students, which poses a gap between their expectations and actual experience. Key factors were identified that help international students to build friendships and, conversely, lead to a sense of social isolation. Recommendations for fostering the social integration of high school students will be discussed.
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