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The multicultural experience of international students in Portugal: a narrative approach

Cosmin Ionut Nada (Centre for Research and Intervention in Education (CIIE-FPCEUP), University of Porto, Portugal)
Helena Costa Araújo (Centre for Research and Intervention in Education (CIIE-FPCEUP), University of Porto, Portugal)

Journal for Multicultural Education

ISSN: 2053-535X

Article publication date: 14 August 2017




The aim of this paper is to explore qualitatively and holistically the experience of international students in the context of Portuguese higher education. This paper interrogates the potential that an experience abroad provides for multicultural learning and for enhancing interaction between students with different cultural backgrounds.


To provide depth to the understanding of their experiences abroad, the narratives of 12 international students in Portugal were constructed and analysed interpretatively. The findings presented in this paper result from a solid set of data based on 41 interviews with an average duration of two hours each.


Regarding students’ levels of multicultural contact, the findings presented in this paper are not consistent with previous research literature which indicates a tendency for segregation among international and local students. Aside from one exception, all the interviewed students were rather comfortable to interact with their local peers and even established meaningful friendships with them. Concerning students’ learning throughout the sojourn, the findings indicate that the experience of living in a different country provides numerous opportunities for multicultural learning.

Research limitations/implications

Even though the findings suggest that multicultural learning is part of international students’ lives, it is beyond the scope of this paper to identify institutional strategies to further support students’ learning.


The study adds to knowledge production in the field of multicultural education by bringing data from Portugal, a country seldom approached in the research literature.



The authors would like to thank the Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences from the University of Porto for providing all the conditions that made possible this research. They would also like to thank the FCT (Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia) for funding this research through the scholarship number: SFRH/BD/90745/2012. Last but not least, they are extremely grateful to the students who accepted to participate in this research and voluntarily shared their stories with them.


Nada, C.I. and Araújo, H.C. (2017), "The multicultural experience of international students in Portugal: a narrative approach", Journal for Multicultural Education, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 176-188.



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