Being international students in a large Italian university: Orientation strategies and the construction of social identity in the host context

Laura Soledad Norton, Marilena Fatigante


International students at universities are considered by the literature both as a “reward” value and as a vulnerable group. This article focuses on the experience of international students enrolled in a large Italian university with the purpose of documenting their studying and living paths and conditions, focusing on the identity construction triggered by the host context. As a result of qualitative and discursive analysis undertaken on (14) in-depth interviews, interpretative repertoires were identified as representing a progressive degradation of the (pre)constituted identity under the label of "international students", revealing blurred, temporary and precarious borders. Moreover, the students’ narratives bring forward a critical perspective on the reception system. Finally, the participants’ identity emerges as an intercultural one and, as such, constructed, negotiated and challenged (Mantovani, 2004) in the encounter / clash with the other. Limits and conclusions of the present study are discussed.


international students; migration; discursive identity; universities; interculturality

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