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'Different Ways of Looking': A Study of Personal, Professional and Civic Rewards from International Work-Based Learning Experiences for Community Youth Work Students at Ulster University, Northern Ireland

Eliz McArdle, Pat Henry


Northern Ireland is emerging from a 30-year local conflict, with new democratic local structures and a new landscape for civic engagement having been established. Community youth workers are well positioned to nurture these new political and civic structures; however, after decades of insular living and thinking, global skills and attitudes are acutely needed. This study gauges the extent to which the international placement of Ulster University (UU) students can help build a population who is “forward- and outward-looking” and how these students’ new perspectives, skills and knowledge can be used for and beyond a “new” Northern Ireland. This mixed-methods study explores the impact of international student placements and their effectiveness in fostering “global-ready citizens”. Findings from this study suggest that the preparation phase must attend equally to both the fear and the opportunities of internationalisation that face the departing student. The study also points to key elements needed in the preparation of students to develop their role as cultural nesters rather than cultural visitors (in their new context). The study illustrates an alignment between the development of intercultural competence and the vocational competence of the community youth work profession. This natural alignment suggests that community youth work students and professionals could further embrace and extend their intercultural skills abroad and their multicultural competence at home for wider and deeper impact.


cultural competence; youth work; international; conflict; work-based learning; civic engagement

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