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Title: Understanding international postgraduate students’ adjustment in a British university: motivations for study abroad and subsequent academic, sociocultural and psychological experiences
Authors: Zhao, Xuan
Issue Date: 2021
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: The rapid growth of international student mobility has become an increasingly important feature of the higher education landscape in recent decades (Yu and Moskal, 2019). With the continually growing population of students studying abroad, the subsequent adjustment experiences are receiving greater research attention (Wang, 2018). Therefore, following a growing trend in the UK research context (Young et al., 2013, Schartner and Young, 2016, Yu and Moskal, 2019), this longitudinal study investigated the adjustment process of full-time taught MA Degree postgraduate international students from the humanities and social sciences at a single British university. The focus was on their motivations for study abroad and subsequent academic, socio-cultural, and psychological adjustment. A mixed-methods research design was adopted, combing qualitative interviews and quantitative questionnaire surveys. The qualitative phrase aimed to identify students’ academic, socio-cultural, and psychological adjustment trajectories over time. The questionnaires were introduced as a complement to measure some specific issues, including perceived benefits of studying abroad, difficulties and relevant coping strategies, friendship, and social contacts (N=120, 108 and 102). Both interviews (N=16) and questionnaire surveys (N=120,108, and 102) were conducted in three stages across a nine-month period: The beginning of students’ programs of study (October 2018), the beginning of their second semester (February 2019), and the end of their taught period (June 2019). The findings indicated that adjustment is a complex process affected by many factors, and ‘success’ in all three domains’ was closely related to the help from co-nationals. The data revealed that the perceived value of the overseas study, personal or family-related reasons, and financial issues were deemed the main factors motivating students to pursue overseas study. The students themselves tended to focus more on academic rather than socio-cultural and psychological adjustment. Therefore, they felt more satisfied with their academic experiences. In the sociocultural domain, due to the issues such as personal agency or perceived cultural distance, international students usually lacked contact with host students. In terms of psychological adjustment, it was found that most of the students had a positive experience, although it was affected by their academic performance at times. Overall, the research data did not support the ‘U-curve’ hypothesis of adjustment. Various internal or external factors, individual attitudes, and expectations affected the adjustment directly or indirectly. This research provides theoretical and empirical knowledge on the adjustment of international students in the UK and fills an existing gap in cross-cultural perspectives. This research approach can be adopted in studies within other research contexts, especially in other global Western universities. In practical terms, it increases current knowledge or potentially enriches the quality of support international students when they study in the UK
Description: Ph. D. Thesis.
Appears in Collections:School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences

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