PUB710 Perception of International Students Learning Experience in University of Sunshine Coast
PUB710 Health Research Project B 2019
Assessment task 2: Journal article
”PERCEPTION OF INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY STUDENTS ABOUT QUALITY LEARNING EXPERIENCE STUDYING IN UNIVERSITY OF SUNSHINE COAST”
Research Aim: This paper will explore the perception of international students about their quality learning experience while studying at the University of Sunshine Coast, Australia.
Methods: 6 international students were interviewed to learn their perception about studying at the University of Sunshine Coast. A qualitative approach was used to understand their challenges and coping strategies.
Results: As per the findings of this research, international students face their main difficulties with few of the followings: Language proficiency, Cultural difference, academic difficulties and psychological stress. But they also showed resilience and their strategies to cope up with difficulties.
Conclusion: The findings of this research paper are based on a very small and limited number of students; therefore, for a broader perception, current research work is not strong enough. But current research can provide an idea about the perception and a bigger student base can help with providing substantial data to understand the international student's perception.
Research Background and context
The most numbers of international students are seen in the UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. As per the student's statistics, Australia is the third most popular destination for studying. The international students’ percentage is 24.3% among all the students in Australia1. For students, studying in a foreign country is not easy and full of challenges, they have to make a lot of adjustments while they continue their studying. Universities and faculties often provide support for international students by identifying their challenges and their personal preferences. This helps faculties to identify these students' comfort zone.
Some students in the University of Sunshine Coast may experience a range of stress such as academic demands, educational system or social environments. As international students, these stress factors may become more challenging for them. Also, international students can experience additional challenges such as cultural shock, different education system, communication difficulties, financial issues and isolation from other domestic students2. These stressors impact their wellbeing, and as a result, their learning is impacted too. To cope with these challenges, students also follow a few strategies as well. Academic, emotional, social difficulties among international students have always been a psychological issue, and there are many previous studies to support this3.
Qualitative Method was used to study the international students' perception about studying at the University of Sunshine Coast. There are some advantages to a qualitative approach for this study because rather than explaining the causes, this method focuses on understanding how student's perspectives are impacted by their situational experiences4. By collating the data, this ethnographic approach aims to capture the multiple realities and leaves the participant’s perspective intact. This allows for a more accurate concept distinction.
Data analysis methods
For the qualitative approach, a focus group needs to be selected, and this method is much faster than a quantitative approach. This qualitative method works by generating a discussion5; as a result, this helps with the exchange of ideas and cultural sensitivity and these empowers these minorities. Therefore, the participants and this process benefit from communication by generating ideas to manage issues.
The opinions of the students were taken into consideration after asking for their consent. Discrimination based on race, religion, gender and other factors had not been encouraged or practised in this regard.
Participants: To use this method, a total of 6 international students were convinced to participate in this focus group. Their mean duration of staying in Australia was around 14 months. These international students are enrolled in the University of Sunshine Coast and in various years and under different faculties. These students were from Asia and South-East Asian countries; they were from Iran, India, China, Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia. Few students among them also worked on a part-time basis.
Instruments: The interview process for this focus group consisted of the 2 main questions, the participants view on “the difficulties of an international student” and “how as an international student they cope up with their difficulties and their suggestions to the other group members.”
Procedure: Participants were recruited through a direct face-to-face approach from the university campus. Participants were informed about the purpose of this focus group study, and they voluntarily accepted to join the focus group. Focus group was scheduled for 90 minutes sitting, and this was scheduled as per these students’ mutual free time. While the interview and discussion process went on, notes were taken down. The discussion was initiated and while proceeding with it and as probes developed a debate was encouraged between the participants.
To identify the commonly occurring issues were facilitated with Qualitative Data Analysis6. The data collected from this group discussion and interview was then studied to analyse to identify the root causes. The analytical works were continued by looking for similar data to find overlapping issues related to each theme. Themes were revised, refined and then followed to define the different categories7. Student backgrounds, their countries of origin, their financial conditions, courses they are enrolled with, information like this were used to look for patterns. To ensure confidentiality, the obtained data were kept anonymously.
As mentioned before, a total of 6 international students participated in the focus group. Four of them were male, and 2 were female. All of them are full-time students at the University of Sunshine Coast. All the participants were studied thoroughly to ensure the success of this report.
Focus group participants more or less faced a problem with accommodation renting when they arrived in the country. This reported being a major stumbling block.
“It was tough to get a house, both qualification and a lot of money are needed upfront" (Female, China).
Lack of knowledge about public transport routes was also a hassle for them. But some of them got help from pedestrians a few times, which were helpful. They suggested using a maps application to navigate around the campus and city.
“During my early days in Australia, I wasn’t sure which public bus to catch and was always nervous about at which stop do I get off to reach my destination” (Male, Vietnam).
4 of the participants emphasised on becoming independent before their arrival to a new country as a student.
“International students should have some basic independent skills. For instance, financial dealing skills, grocery marketing and culinary skills may be considered. It becomes more helpful if you can find a job that won’t hurt your studying” (Male, India).
Even though 4 of them emphasised on becoming independent, all 6 of them agreed on the cooking skills as it would enable them to prepare less expensive meals.
Participants were also stressed about their interaction with other students; they all had experienced loneliness for a brief amount of time during their stay. They also felt that sometimes the domestic students had isolated them because of their lack of knowledge about the Australian culture.
"After college, while I am coming back to my apartment, I always feel the need to be around people, maybe just talk to someone and to engage myself in some activity" (Male, Iran).
Their language skills also negatively impacted their ability to communicate as well as the understanding of Australian accent has affected their studies.
“A Lecturer for my course has a very Australian accent which is why I find it difficult to understand him” (Female, Indonesia).
They also reported to have difficulties with the education system and also talked about how different their education system and the Australian education system are. Their expectations were influenced by various media, and now they rather find it difficult to cope up with.
“In my country college is fun, time flies while you are in college” (Male, Singapore)
Overall, they all faced more or less similar difficulties while in Australia. They faced problems with their commute around the city, difficulties with studies and their financials, communication is also a big factor, and they also felt they are isolated because of cultural differences. They reported that these issues impacted them psychologically and were the reasons for their stress. Because of the high cost of studying and living, they also discussed how much getting a part-time job had helped them financially, but sometimes it also impacted their studies. They agreed that sharing problems with other international students was a helpful idea. They also indicated the fact that being aware of these obstacles as an international student will help future students to manage these stress in a better manner.
This study of international students' perception of their learning experience used a qualitative approach. This approach was used to explore their experience as a student in Australia. As per the thematic analysis, these students have faced challenges in all the important aspects of life despite the existing services and faculties to assist them. They also reported that university life and study is not what they expected when they came to this country. This was the result of an education system difference and cultural shock8. However, they seemed to have found part-time jobs easily and which had helped them with the feeling of isolation and as well as financially.
These students have demonstrated strong resilience and used various range of strategies to cope with the difficulties they faced. They suggested future students become familiar with universities and educational systems by contacting people who are already studying there. Using social media sites and blog posts can help with that they suggested. They also suggested that joining a number of organizations and activities might help with isolation. Also learning about the culture before they arrive will help them to establish a common ground of interaction with domestic students. They also agreed with the fact that in a difficult situation, international students should seek help from university counselling centres.
This study on international students was performed to find the difficulties they face when they are in Australia, and the psychological stress they face because of it. Even though the number of people in the focus group is very less to come to a conclusion, but the findings will increase the insight into their struggles and coping strategies. University counselling strategies may require development as per this study. Developing more effective international student policies will help the wellbeing of these students.