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Transitioning from homelands to South Africa: coping mechanisms employed by international students at institutions of higher learning.

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While the number of international students studying in South Africa has increased in the past years, South Africa has become one of the few African countries where higher education is attainable and tertiary institutions are ranked amongst prominent international universities. However, the transition of international students from their homelands to South Africa may have a toll on them, which poses some unforeseen challenges. The aim of this study is to explore and analyse the experiences of international students and the various strategies or mechanisms they adopt to cope in South African universities and other institutions of higher learning. The secondary data used in this study was accessed through existing previous research studies, credible and authenticated published research from different reputable universities and credible online news sources. A content analysis strategy was used to analyse this information. Research shows that universities are increasingly required to educate a new generation of internationally competitive students to create an environment where innovation, adaptability, and change are encouraged, to make connections between global and local demands, and to maintain their cultural identities. Findings of this study show that international students often experience a variety of challenges as immigrants in host countries, and these include cultural shock, financial incapability, lack of communication due to language barrier and home sickness. In addition, students reported experiencing xenophobia, social and financial exclusions, and poor integration into the new environment remains some of the critical issues that affect international students in South Africa. With these experiences, the international students have developed different coping mechanisms, including joining immigrant social organisations, religious organisations, adaptation through learning local languages as a security measure and relying on other international student communities to tackle different social and economic hurdles. This study recommends that universities should provide compulsory local language proficiency training for international students, make services and opportunities inclusive and freely available for international students and encourage them to seek professional help for any psychological challenges due to different life stress and academic pressures.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.