My very first UK conference experience

Seminar: Intercultural Communication in Higher Education – Principles and Practices, Newcastle University, May 16-17, 2013

I attended a seminar organized by the British Association for Applied Linguistics, Special Interest Group in Intercultural Communication. It was my very first UK conference of my PhD student life outside the University of

Richard and I at Newcastle University

Richard and I at Newcastle University

Manchester. Unfortunately, I did not give a presentation there because I’m still in my ‘learning to walk’ process, but it’s my ambition to share what I have been looking from a Thai perspective next year. Anyway, I have learned a great deal from participating and observing the event. Let me share those observations to you especially to our colleagues who couldn’t be there.

Intercultural communication in the internationalized Higher Education

The theme of the conference centered around the internationalization of Higher Education, not only of the British but others like Korean and Japanese HE too. The notion of “internationalization”, for me then seemed to be differently interpreted in the “western” and “non-western” contexts. In the west or the English Speaking World, the internationalized education has attracted international (speakers of other languages) students and of course has been a major industry of the country. On the other hand, from the non-Western point of view, to internationalize an institution heavily depends on the use of English as the medium of instruction. I came across a new term “Englishization” which I think it has been confusedly used in non-English speaking countries like Thailand. From my experience many people think that if a university uses English as the language of teaching, it is then international. Actually, there are a lot more than that to make a university “international”.

From the talks, I could say that the issues of internationalization of HE seemed to be examined from two major perspectives; the British (institutions, staff and students) vs. international students. Intercultural awareness of British professionals, staff and students was an issue highlighted at the conference. With reference to one of the keynote speakers, the internationalization of the HE cannot happen without intercultural competence and understandings from people who are involved in the HE and that “reciprocal learning” – learning from each other—will benefit both the British and international staff and students.

The issues related with ‘international students’ seemed to catch attention of many researchers. In the British university context, Asian students, especially Chinese seemed to be put in the spotlight. I personally felt that there are strong stigmatized images of Asian students in terms of low participation and inadequate English communication skills. However, in non-western contexts, international students seemed to be regarded much more positively from the institutions (for instance they dare to ask questions in class; lecturers have to use English therefore they simplified there lectures which also benefit their home students’ understanding the subject, etc.).

Research methods and presentation

Apart from the content of the seminar, I also have observed the following points regarding research methods and presentations:

–        You can give a talk of anything you have done related to the theme of the conference; it doesn’t have to be limited to the results of a completed empirical study. For instance, many presented there published papers, initial findings and literature review. Furthermore, some presenters gave their talks via video/voice recording.

–        I am not very confidence with my English. I am always afraid that I will make mistakes and will be very nervous to talk in front of native speakers at prestigious conference. But I learned from attending the event that I don’t have speak “perfect” English but the most important things are to have a clear understanding of what I have done and be able to get my ideas across to the audience.

–        Visual aids are still very crucial for an effective presentation.

In conclusion, attending the event was an eye-opening experience to me as a PhD student. I am looking forward to opportunities to present what I have learned and found real soon. Finally, a million thanks to Richard who recommended me to join the event and for encouraging me to make the most of this event. Thank you all for reading this and don’t forget to pray for me. 🙂 🙂 🙂

Here is the link to the seminar’s program and BAAL IC group.


  • I also found it interesting when someone asked what it meant by “intercultural communication” at the very end of the seminar! Maybe problematizing intercultural communication in Thai context might be a good broad topic for my PhD.

  • Richard Fay

    Thanks Khwan for this full and interesting reflection on this event.

    For me, the main learnings from being there were: a) just how problematic the whole field of internationalization (of HE) is; b) how confusingly the ‘intercultural’ is discussed in the context of such internationalisation; c) how bedevilled the discussion is with culturist images of the other; and d) and how complicated it all becomes once the role of English is considered (but what an ugly word ‘Englishization’ is! – Englishification?),