Contact with Cultural Others – The Friendship Family Programme


  • Sidonie Ecochard Edinburgh Napier University
  • Kirsteen Wright Edinburgh Napier University



international transitions, support, sociocultural integration, staff-student interactions, multi-cultural awareness


The Friendship Family Programme is a cultural exchange initiative piloted this year at Edinburgh Napier University. It is designed to give international students a chance to have first-hand experience of the local culture and way of life, in addition to life on campus. Students are paired with volunteer staff families, who also get the chance to better understand international transitions and learn about the students' home countries and cultures.

The programme was grounded in research findings which indicate that social support and friendship with host nationals reduce the acculturative stress and ease the transition of international students. Indeed, international students do not have a full-scale support system in the United Kingdom (UK) and tend to experience loneliness and homesickness during their stay. Meanwhile, the literature also indicates the need for all university staff to understand the background of their students and to be aware of the unique challenges that confront them in the UK. Internationalisation includes mutual cultural awareness and respect.

This ‘On the horizon’ piece introduces the Friendship Family Programme and the rationale behind the initiative, along with testimonials from participants.

Author Biographies

Sidonie Ecochard, Edinburgh Napier University

Sidonie Ecochard is a research assistant at the Department of Learning and Teaching Enhancement at Edinburgh Napier University. She is involved in Edinburgh Napier University’s answer to the QAA (Scotland) Enhancement Theme Student Transition, and conducts initiatives and research on international transitions, internationalisation of the curriculum and the nexus culture-learning. Starting October 2017, she will move on to complete her PhD at Strathclyde University.

Kirsteen Wright, Edinburgh Napier University

Kirsteen Wright is a Publications Officer in the Department of Learning and Teaching Enhancement at Edinburgh Napier University and also a zero-hours lecturer supervising dissertation students on the Masters in Publishing. She is also the Journal Manager for JPAAP. Kirsteen has worked in publishing for almost 20 years, varying her roles from editorial to design, and from Scotland to Japan. She continues to freelance and samples of her work can be found at


Akanwa, E. (2015). International students in western developed countries: History, challenges, and prospects. Journal of International Students, 5(3), 271–284.

Bai, J. (2016). Perceived support as a predictor of acculturative stress among international students in the United States. Journal of International Students, 6(1), 93–106. Available from:

Ecochard, S., & Fotheringham, J. (2017). International students’ unique challenges – Why understanding international transitions to higher education matters. Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice, Special Issue Student Transition.

Burdett, J., & Crossman, J. (2012). Engaging international students: An analysis of the Australian Universities Quality Agency (AUQA) reports. Quality Assurance in Education, 20(3), 207–222.


Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) (2015). Supporting and enhancing the experience of international students in the UK. Retrieved from:

Ramachandran, N. T. (2011). Enhancing international students’ experiences: An imperative agenda for universities in the UK. Journal of Research in International Education, 10(2), 201–220.







On the Horizon