The purpose of this study is to trace out the development process of international students’ friendship networks in Norway and identify the main factors contributing to this development. This study distinguishes between good friends and close friends within one’s friendship network. A qualitative research strategy was adopted. Data was collected by use of a quasi-longitudinal design and by use of the role-model approach and the affective approach. Twelve international students (six from each year) from three two-year master programmes at the Faculty of Education at the University of Oslo were interviewed approximately one or two months before the end of 2009 spring semester. The similarities and differences between the first year cohort and the second year cohort in terms of the characteristics of the friendship networks and the environmental background of the friendship networks were indentified from the data.
The results indicated that the overall friendship network development process can be demarcated by three periods occurring in temporal succession: the initialization, the development and the maintaining and refining of the friendship network. During the first year, the international student’s friendship network development is characterized by an exponential increase of friends, this is termed as a “network developing year.” In other words, the process of tie formation basically takes precedence over the process of tie maintainence and deepening. During the second year, the evolving route of the international student’s friendship network is characterized by the polarizing process, termed as the “network maintaining and refining year.” That is to say the process of tie maintainence and deepening basically gains ascendency over the process of tie formation. It should be highlighted that students also benefit greatly from the pre-context social capital. So, pre-context can be termed as the ”inception ( initialization) of the friendship network.” All the international students’ friendship networks more or less converge on this three-period development route.
On top of this, the results show that the differences of the number of local ties within one’s friendship network composition might be mainly influenced by personal determinants while the dynamics of the overall network size may be mainly influenced by environmental determinants.