Exploring narratives of community among American and international students at a research intensive, U.S. university

Memaj, Eron (2020-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2020.

Thesis

ENGLISH SUMMARY : Currently, more than four million students study in another country. There are several reasons to explain the significant increase of international student mobility within the past 15 years. First, student mobility is intertwined with the larger trends of globalization, where countries such as the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia are competing for the best and brightest minds to not only study in their respective countries, but to ultimately immigrate. Secondly, many students look to study in other countries to better their chances of finding employment once they return home. And lastly, many cash-strapped universities look to international students to help fill in budget gaps, as these students pay significantly higher fees than their domestic counterparts. Additionally, international students have a significant impact on both local and national economies in their host countries. As the top hosting countries compete for international student numbers, global debates have ensued regarding how international students are integrating on campuses. As campus communities continue diversifying, so does the concept of finding a sense of community. However, international students may assume that domestic students already have a sense of community on a university campus, but literature suggests domestic students struggle as well. The primary aim of this study was to conduct an in-depth exploration of narratives of both international and domestic students in order to compare how these students construct sense of community in an unfamiliar campus environment. Additionally, this study explores how international and American students negotiate belonging on campus, the dynamics about community when international and American students interact, and how these students negotiate their own and others’ cultural identities. As a result, this study provides practical implications for universities to enhance the experiences of both international and domestic students. The theoretical base of this study included acculturation theory, social representation theory, third space theory, Tinto’s Model of Student Retention, and the theory of mattering. With an epistemological constructivist paradigm, this study took a qualitative research approach with a case study research design. A total of 20 international and American students participated in this study through focus groups and weekly journals. A researcher’s journal was also utilized as a way to interpret the findings of the study. The findings of this study boldly underlines the importance of sense of community, though when comparing the narratives of the international and American students, the views of sense of community had similarities and differences. When examining the surface of the narratives, both international and American students expressed satisfaction with the university community. However, a deeper dive into the data provided a different story. Both groups of students shared feelings of not mattering to the university community, but perhaps mattering to certain individuals. This study also showcases how each set of students entered this new environment with certain social representations or “lenses”, especially regarding higher education. This suggests that students need platforms and opportunities to have complex and diverse interactions in order to learn and think differently about complex issues, such as sense of community. The implication of this study is to encourage a dialogue in defining sense of community on university campuses not just in the United States, but around the world. This study reinforces the impact sense of community has on the success of university students, as well as the impact it has on student recruitment and retention. Additionally, this study showcases the complexity of identity development and the delicate nature of how one processes cultural interactions.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING : Tans studeer meer as vier miljoen studente in ’n ander land. Daar is verskeie redes vir hierdie beduidende toename in internasionale studente-mobiliteit oor die afgelope 15 jaar. Eerstens is studente-mobiliteit nou verweef met die groter tendense van globalisering, waar lande soos die Verenigde State, Kanada, die Verenigde Koninkryk en Australië meeding vir die beste en blinkste verstande om nie net in hulle onderskeie lande te studeer nie, maar uiteindelik ook daarheen te immigreer. Tweedens kyk baie studente na ander lande as ’n geleentheid om hulle kanse te verbeter om werk te kry wanneer hulle teruggaan huis toe. Laastens kyk baie universiteite met ’n tekort aan kontantvloei ook na internasionale studente om gapings in hulle begrotings aan te vul, aangesien hierdie studente baie hoër studiegelde betaal as hulle Amerikaanse eweknieë. Daarbenewens het internasionale studente ’n beduidende invloed op beide die plaaslike en nasionale ekonomieë in hulle gasheerlande. Aangesien die top gasheerlande meeding vir getalle internasionale studente het daar wêreldwyd debatte ontstaan oor hoe internasionale studente op kampusse integreer. Soos kampusgemeenskappe toenemend diversifiseer, so doen ook die konsep van ’n sin van gemeenskap vind. Internasionale studente kan egter aanneem dat Amerikaanse studente reeds ’n sin van gemeenskap op ’n universiteitskampus het, hoewel die literatuur aandui dat Amerikaanse studente ook sukkel. Die hoofdoelwit van hierdie studie was om ’n in-diepte verkenning te doen van die narratiewe van beide internasionale en Amerikaanse studente om te vergelyk hoe hierdie studente ’n sin van gemeenskap in ’n onbekende kampusomgewing konstrueer. Daarbenewens verken hierdie studie ook hoe internasionale en Amerikaanse studente hulle sin van op die kampus behoort, onderhandel; die dinamika met betrekking tot gemeenskap wanneer internasionale en Amerikaanse studente met mekaar in kontak kom; en hoe hierdie studente hulle eie en ander se kulturele identiteite onderhandel. Hierdie studie verskaf dus praktiese implikasies vir universiteite om die ervarings van beide internasionale en Amerikaanse studente te verhoog. verteenwoordigingsteorie, derde ruimte teorie (third space theory), Tinto se model van studenteretensie, en die teorie van saakmaak (the theory of mattering). Met behulp van ’n epistemologiese konstruktivistiese paradigma het hierdie studie ’n kwalitatiewe navorsingsbenadering met ’n gevallestudie- navorsingsontwerp gebruik. ’n Totaal van 20 internasionale en Amerikaanse studente het deur middel van fokusgroepe en weeklikse joernale aan die studie deelgeneem. Die navorser het ook ’n joernaal gehou om die bevindinge van die studie te interpreteer. Die bevindinge van die studie onderstreep die belangrikheid van ’n sin van gemeenskap, hoewel ’n vergelyking van die narratiewe van die internasionale en Amerikaanse studente getoon het dat daar ooreenkomste en verskille in die sienings van ’n sin van gemeenskap was. ’n Ondersoek na die oppervlak van die narratiewe het getoon dat beide die internasionale en Amerikaanse studente hulle tevredenheid met die universiteitsgemeenskap uitgedruk het. ’n Dieper kyk na die data verskaf egter ’n ander storie. Beide groepe studente het gesê hulle voel dat hulle nie vir die universiteitsgemeenskap saak maak nie, hoewel hulle dalk vir sommige individue saak maak. Hierdie studie vertoon ook hoe elke stel studente hierdie nuwe omgewing met sekere sosiale voorstellings of “lense” betree het, veral met betrekking tot hoër onderwys. Dit stel voor dat studente platforms en geleenthede benodig om komplekse en diverse interaksies te kan hê om te leer van en anders te dink ook komplekse kwessies, soos ’n sin van gemeenskap. Die implikasie van hierdie studie is dat ’n dialoog aangemoedig moet word om ’n sin van gemeenskap op universiteitskampusse nie net in die Verenigde State nie, maar ook orals oor die wêreld, te definieer. Hierdie studie versterk die impak van ’n sin van gemeenskap op die sukses van universiteitstudente, asook die impak wat dit het op studentewerwing en -behoud. Daarbenewens vertoon hierdie studie die kompleksiteit van identiteitsontwikkeling en die delikate aard van hoe mense kulturele interaksies verwerk.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/109138
This item appears in the following collections: