Integrating International Exchange Students into Local Service-Learning Projects in Hong Kong


  • Yin Lee Chan The Education University of Hong Kong
  • Robin Stanley SNELL Lingnan University



cohesiveness, cultural differences, communication strategies, developmental outcomes


Through qualitative research, which involved qualitative interviews and focus group meetings with members of four student teams, we identified a number of barriers to the development of cohesiveness in teams of local and international exchange (IE) students, who were undertaking service-learning (SL) together. Lack of cohesiveness in such teams resulted in the psychological withdrawal of some of the IE students and appeared to reduce opportunities to derive developmental benefits. Barriers to cohesiveness identified by the students included language, conflicting priorities, and East-West cultural differences. We also identified how students took action to remove the barriers to cohesiveness. These actions included conducting internal team meetings in English and arranging for local students to provide interpretation in meetings with community stakeholders. Students reported that the major developmental benefits associated specifically with working cohesively in a cross-cultural team were improved English language skills, greater interpersonal adaptability, and appreciation of diversity. We offer practical suggestions about how educators can prepare local and IE students to work together effectively on SL projects and about further research. Studies of projects undertaken by inter-cultural SL teams at host universities in other jurisdictions would facilitate the generalizability of the findings.

Author Biographies

Yin Lee Chan, The Education University of Hong Kong

Maureen Yin Lee CHAN is engaging in research work in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction of The Education University of Hong Kong. She has professional experience in training and human resource development. Her research interests are student learning and development, service-learning and leadership. Her teaching interests include human resource management, organizational behavior and management. She received her PhD from Lancaster University and her work appears in journals such as Journal of Management Education, Leadership & Organization Development Journal and Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning.

Robin Stanley SNELL, Lingnan University

Robin Stanley SNELL is an adjunct professor in the Department of Management of Lingnan University in Hong Kong. His research interests include service-learning, service leadership education and practice, qualitative approaches to organizational behaviour research, organizational learning, business ethics, corporate social responsibility, and creating shared value. He has completed several competitively funded research projects. Prof. SNELL has also conducted consultancy projects in public sector organizations, and has run workshops on business ethics for senior managers in the private sector.


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