The crossroad : experiences of non-EU/EEA international Masters students in their last year of study in the UK

Antonino, Raffaello (2017) The crossroad : experiences of non-EU/EEA international Masters students in their last year of study in the UK. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


International students (IS) are arguably a population facing both educational and migratory challenges. These are understood within Culture Shock (CS, Oberg, 1960), a process of culture learning. Available literature on IS seems to focus mainly on the phases of CS between the arrival in the host country until adaptation, or at the later stage of returning home. The last part of the IS journey in the host country, before the possible return home, appears neglected. Research suggests that in this period, named the ‘crossroad’ in this study, important decisions could be made, such as whether to stay in or leave the host country.

Internal struggles, dilemmas and uncertainty can arise due to the possible changes to self that IS can develop while abroad, and could be exacerbated by immigration laws. Thus, the crossroad can be a phase of psychological struggle, which can be of interest to mental health professionals. There is limited qualitative evidence on this sub-phase of CS on IS and this research attempts to address this gap by looking holistically at the subjective experiences of these students and letting their specific psychological needs arise.

Methodology and main findings:
An interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was chosen for this research, using semi-structured interviews. Three superordinate themes emerged from the analysis of the transcripts: a) Changes to self and identity; b) Uncertainty, temporariness and emotional responses; c) Dilemmas at the crossroad. The crossroad emerged from the results as a phase dominated by uncertainty towards the future, leading to experiencing difficult emotions such as worry, anxiety and low mood. From the participants’ accounts, it seemed that the limitations imposed by the UK immigration law were the main trigger for such uncertainty, and that IS perceived their circumstances as largely out of their control. The IS’ psychological and emotional responses seemed connected with having developed a sense of belongingness to the UK, resulting from a process of changes to self and identity experienced during their time abroad.

AntoninoRaffaello - DProf Full Thesis.pdf - Published Version

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