The Future of Education

Edition 12

Accepted Abstracts

Successful study abroad for ‘international’ students in higher education

Tony Young, Newcastle University (United Kingdom)

Abstract

There are now over four million people, designated ‘international’ students (ISs), studying outside their countries of origin on degree programmes in higher education institutions all over the world.  Research has shown that the challenges facing ISs are greater than those faced by ‘local’ students.  However little prior research has indicated what might contribute to making the IS experience a success. This study integrated associations between a very broad range of IS adjustment measures  –  academic grades, psychological wellbeing, and satisfaction with life in the new environment  – and contributory factors such as aspects of participants’ intercultural competence, their language proficiency, and the degree, quality and patterns of social contact during their sojourn.  The study used a mixed methods design, involving a questionnaire with both quantitative and qualitative responses, triangulated with the findings from semi-structured interviews over the period of study.  Participants were 108 non-UK postgraduate students from a variety of countries worldwide studying in the UK. Analysis showed significant associations between participants’ language proficiency, cultural empathy, openmindedness, social initiative and degree of contact with non conational international students, and their academic achievement.  There were also significant associations between language proficiency, emotional stability, amount of social contact with the host community and the quality of social support (both in the UK and from home), and participants’ psychological wellbeing during the sojourn.   Participants’ general satisfaction with life in the new environment was significantly associated with their proficiency in English, their emotional stability and their degree of social contact with hosts.  These findings provided empirical foundation for a new model of IS adjustment, which adds considerably to our understanding of what makes for a happy and successful IS study abroad experience. I will detail this, and discuss some implications for researchers, educators and policy makers.  

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