Exploring the experiences of postgraduate Lesotho students at Stellenbosch University
Thesis (MEd)--Stellenbosch University, 2018.
ENGLISH ABSTRACT : This thesis focuses on the experiences of six international students who attended Stellenbosch University, a Historically White Institution, for their postgraduate studies. The six participants chosen for this study each had two or more years of experience as postgraduate students at this university. They completed their undergraduate studies at the National University of Lesotho. For these students, there was an expectation that they would have some knowledge and the skills to navigate their studies at a university in a foreign context. However, little is known about how international postgraduate students experience the institutional culture of a new foreign university. Not much research has focused on the experiences of postgraduate students from a predominantly black African country who attend a Historically White Institution in South Africa for their postgraduate studies only. This qualitative study provides an interpretation and analysis of students’ experiences by responding to the question: How do postgraduate students from Lesotho experience their education at Stellenbosch University? Situated in the interpretive paradigm, the research explored the educational and non-education experiences of participants who completed their undergraduate degrees at The National University of Lesotho. Drawing on Bourdieu’s concept of cultural capital, and Yosso’s (2005) notion of Community Cultural Wealth, this study shows how the participants draw on various forms of capital in order to navigate and mediate their postgraduate studying experience in an environment that is culturally dissonant to the previous university and home culture. Through purposive sampling, the students who were doing the Honours, Masters and PhD degrees were chosen from different faculties of SU. A focus group interview and individual in-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with students in order to understand how they established their experiences at Stellenbosch University. The study’s findings showed that the challenges they experienced included difficulties in making friends, difficulties in keeping up with academic work due to cultural differences, learning to adapt to a different institutional culture, and language differences. Key to the students navigating and adapting to the culturally dissonant university field in which they found themselves was the support and assistance they received from the international office, as well as support from their family in Lesotho, and friends in Stellenbosch University. What this shows in relation to Bourdieu’s notion of playing the game is that the students used their cultural capital strategically in an attempt to navigate the university, in consequence of which they were able to open a productive, if culturally challenging, educational path which secured their university success.
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