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  • 2018ahmadpazilphd

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Friendship and intimacy: exploring Malaysian students' experiences of living temporarily abroad

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Published
Publication date2018
Number of pages279
QualificationPhD
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Thesis sponsors
  • Ministry of Higher Education
  • Universiti Sains Malaysia
Publisher
  • Lancaster University
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Living abroad, albeit temporarily for the purposes of study, poses challenges for international students who must survive alone in unfamiliar surroundings at a relatively young age. The purpose of this study is to explore close friendships and intimacy practices of Malaysian students in the context of living abroad and how they form and maintain intimacy in their close friendships with both established friends in Malaysia and new friends in the UK. This study develops theories of ‘distance’ by exploring the meaning behind physical and emotional distance, as well as the situation of ‘being temporarily abroad’ and its relations to intimacy practices in close friendships. Distance is not only measured by geography or space but also by emotional closeness. Thus, the key question of this study is: does physical distance lead to emotional distance particularly in close friendships or does it enable new forms of intimacy?

Focusing on the Malaysian perspective, this study highlights the intimacy practices in close friendships in the context of gender practices and religious beliefs, family practices as well as emotional connectedness in online interaction. It highlights how Malaysian cultural norms and beliefs shape the ways in which students practice intimacy in close friendships. To understand the concept of distance, intimacy and friendship practices, an in-depth qualitative study has been conducted with 18 Malaysian undergraduate and postgraduate taught students living in the UK. By using friendship maps, digital diaries and in-depth interview techniques, this study provides an in-depth understanding of close friendship and intimacy practices in the context of overseas study. It concludes that the ways in which Malaysian students practice close friendships when they are living temporarily abroad suggests that we require a rethinking of established notions of intimacy in order to go beyond an ethnocentric and universalist application of the concept.