International postgraduate students' experiences of learning in a selected university in KwaZulu-Natal.
The voices of international postgraduate students are more often than not missing from the conversation about their learning experiences at their host university. Therefore this study explores the international postgraduate students’ experiences of learning in a selected university in KwaZulu-Natal. By exploring these diverse students’ learning experiences, this study also explored the influence of experience on the type of resources these students uses to support and improve their learning in the host university. The study clarifies the role of internationalisation policy on the mobility of international students and the students’ learning in different context. The bio-ecosystemic theory was used to guide the study. The study followed the qualitative approach and adopted the interpretive paradigm in conducting a single case study research in one university in KwaZulu-Natal. The photovoice participatory visual method and focus group discussion were the methods employed by the researcher to generate data from eight full time international postgraduate students enrolled in a MEd. and PhD programme in 2014.The data from the students’ responses was analysed thematically and the results of this study are illustrated and discussed. The findings are that the international postgraduate students viewed the university as both an enabling and also a constraining learning environment as they identified diverse factors which impacted on their learning within and outside the university environment. The Influence of the international postgraduate students’ experiences on their learning were identified. The findings showed that the students’ developed diverse personal and academic skills that shaped their learning and enabled them to achieve their academic goals. In addition, the result also identified diverse university resources used by the international postgraduate students such as various teaching and learning activities like conferences, presentations, ICT, workshops, seminars etc., the academics and sports and recreational facilities that supported and enabled their learning. This study therefore challenges the argument that international students are ‘victims of pathology’ in experiencing only hardship in their host environment, hardship that negatively affects their learning. The study concludes that international students’ learning is a result of their interrelationships and interactions with people, resources and the environment which helped to develop their personal experiences, improve their knowledge, develop skills and enable change in behaviour to achieve their academic goals. Furthermore, this study also concludes that the use of photovoice as a participatory visual method enabled dialogue among the international students and bring into visual awareness international postgraduate students’ ideas about their learning experiences.