Waiting on BERA programme (GA) 'Somehow they became like my family': Discourses of adjustment for international for international postgraduate students
Short, M and Ashman, G, Waiting on BERA programme (GA) 'Somehow they became like my family': Discourses of adjustment for international for international postgraduate students, BERA Annual Conference 2016 Programme, 13-15 September 2016, Leeds, UK (2016) [Conference Extract]
PDF (BERA Abstract and submission details for Ashman and Short, BERA 2016) Pending copyright assessment - Request a copy 217Kb
The process of adjustment for international students studying in Australia has been a focus of research that seeks to better understand the conditions required for successful study in a variety of disciplines in tertiary institutions (Ladd & Ruby, 201 O; Snow-Andrade, 2006). Many of these studies have investigated the study experiences of international students who Jive in the larger urban areas of Australia (Chalmers & Volet, 2006; Khawaja & Dempsey, 2008; Ramsey, Barker & Jones, 1999; Samuelowicz, 2006). There is a need to better understand the experiences of postgraduate students studying in regional settings in Australia. Consequently, this study explored the experiences of postgraduate international students studying in a single faculty at a regional Australian university. The geographical isolation of the regional university and the relatively small culturally diverse population in which the university was situated provided further avenues to explore the process of adjustment of postgraduate students.
The guiding research questions for this project included sought to explore the discourses that shape the participants' adjustment to postgraduate study in a rural university setting in Australia. The research project drew from a combination of qualitative and quantitative data. The Revised Socio-Cultural Adaptation Scale, or R-SCAS, (Wilson, 2013) was delivered electronically to students to provide an initial measure of their self-reports of adjustment via three the adjustment dimensions -social, cultural and academic. The responses from the R-SCAS provided a foundation for the individual semi-structured interviews with all participants. Analysis of the interviews utilised a thematic coding and categorisation process and a critical discourse analysis approach to interpret the interview data. The combination of thematic coding in addition to a critical discourse analysis allowed for the identification of discourse relations created by and through the ideologically and politically saturated activities of teaching and learning.
The findings suggested that the process of adjustment for international post graduate students was both an individualised and socially dependent process. Students reported struggling with feeling 'visibly different' in a relatively mono-cultural environment and described how they negotiated discourses of 'being other' in their new temporary 'home'. There were also strong indications in the data that the adaptation process was dependent on the relationships that developed between the students in the postgraduate cohort. Of particular interest were findings that suggested that adapting to the cultural context was considered to be 'more difficult' for students than coping with the demands.