Patrick McMahon


The aim of this study was to produce a grounded theory to describe the experiences of international students living in the UK and studying in a British university, and to understand and explain their behavioural responses to those experiences. Eighteen postgraduate international students were interviewed at a university in the south-west of England and the data was analysed using classic grounded theory methodology. The theory proposes that international students’ two biggest concerns are in regard to their English language skills and their detachment from home students. Students felt that their language skills were inadequate and they perceived themselves to be disadvantaged because of having to operate in a second language. They felt ignored when they attempted to reach out to home students and as a result they turned to co-nationals and recreated their home environment. International students were surprised at the size of the challenge they faced when they took up their studies and had to work hard to bridge the gap that existed between their academic and sociocultural skills and those needed in the UK. International students provided emotional, practical and academic support to each other but the academic support they offered to each other was not always good quality. International students engaged in a process of identity change during their stay in the UK which reflected the multiple and changing nature of their identities and during which they gained the skills they needed to be academically successful.

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