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Where I Am Coming From


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Experiences of international students at Northumbria University

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Where I Am Coming From

  1. 1. Where I am coming from: international students’ learning cultures Pat Gannon-Leary and Rosie Crane
  2. 2. Introduction/rationale “Recruit and retain students and staff drawn from all sectors of the international community, engaging and developing them to their full potential.” (Northumbria’s Learning and Teaching Strategy) “At our campus in Newcastle city centre we welcome students from all over the world bringing a rich multicultural diversity to our programmes and social activities as well as the unique opportunity to share broader perspectives.” (Newcastle Business School website)
  3. 3. The methodology • Surveymonkey questionnaire • 34 responses from across the 9 schools • 25 undergraduates • 4 foundation, 13 first years, 6 second years • Bahrain, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Finland, Greece, India, Iran, Libya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia • Average age 23 years • Follow up interviews with 9 students from 5 schools
  4. 4. Reasons for studying in the U.K. • Perceived worldwide reputation of UK system “UK degrees have a strong reputation worldwide it was an easy choice to make.” • Better study environments “Nigerian Universities do not have the facilities required for my course (BSc. Computing Studies)” • Subjects not taught at home • Opportunity to experience UK life style “Since I was ten years old I wanted to try living and studying overseas, and especially here in UK because I will gain a lot of experience not just in my studies but also in my social life and learn how to depend on myself” • Improving English language ability • Better job prospects • Gaining an international perspective
  5. 5. Learning, teaching & assessment methods • Lectures and seminars “Here I have to go to lecture first and then go the seminar, back in Saudi, studies are done in one class explain the lesson then ask and discuss it in the same class.” • Group work “In our system at home the emphasis is on theories, individual studies… rather than practice, group work….” • Student led • Independent study • VLE
  6. 6. Learning, teaching & assessment methods • Stress placed on exams “In India the main aim …is to score in the exams at the end of every year…Here in Northumbria it is less stress as the tests are divided into 2 semesters and we also have the opportunity to score in homeworks & assignments.” • In-class tests “My secondary school assessment was based on continual tests that took place on irregular unpredictable intervals. Northumbria assessment was all mainly written, predictable and at set times.” • Presentations • Variety
  7. 7. Expectations vs actuality • Lack of emphasis on theory “UK education is more practice orientated, focuses on narrow fields and is results driven. My home country education provides a way much stronger theoretical basis with a broader general overview so that the specific topics are easier to put into context.” • Abilities/attitudes of home students “I was very surprised to see that some students are not prepared to continue their education and would rather work……At home people valued education” • Approachability of staff “Sometimes when we approach lecturers, they’ll say ‘it’s like what I said in lecture’ … so I think they don’t tell enough information” • Different relationship with teaching staff “I thought that the teaching style here would be more interactive, especially during lectures, where we are allowed to speak our mind. I expected the lecturers to be… approachable.”
  8. 8. Being in a class with a variety of international students • Vast majority were very positive “Being in a very diverse environment, whether in terms of cultural backgrounds or based on other work and education experiences, makes it more interesting and productive.” “The students from different parts of the world can often look at the same problem from very much different perspective. This can be very inspiring and group work in such situation often generates innovative results.” • However most wanted and expected more diversity “…if …. (nationality) mix is good not all one nationality in class. But if 80% of class are from China it’s like studying in China in England.” “people from the Gulf [are]] thrown together in classrooms and all end up talking Arabic which doesn’t contribute to their learning at all”
  9. 9. Making Friends with International students • Making friends with other international students seemed straightforward “When I started college immediately I got in with the International students group… that is where I felt comfortable ….there were people like me ……what I enjoyed was the variety of people from different places “ “Other international students….what you have in common with them is that they are also an international student, they also have no families around them so you have some common ground and that makes it easier to have friends and then you learn about each other.”
  10. 10. Making Friends with Home students • However, making friends with home students appeared to be possible and desirable but much more difficult, “ ….. local students were friendly once you go to know them, which doesn’t happen very often…” “(local students) meet in pubs I’m not interested in pub” “students already know each other /established groups which don’t talk to each other” “Class size (too large)” “Local students keep away from you if you don’t know the cultures, if you don’t know the slangs and you don’t go to the pub to have a drink with them at the end of the week, you are not friends…. so you’ve got to have to have something in common .”
  11. 11. In the Classroom: Teachers Talking • In lectures a perception of lack of information and theory imparted “ Teachers should tell more about the theory otherwise it’s a waste of time “ “ … (teachers) probably talking too much and we were sitting listening… but: wasn’t enough teaching going on” “ In lecture hall…. they only touch on main points they don’t tend to elaborate… so we are left in the dark “ • In seminars “teachers talk too much ….especially in seminars nobody talks” “even teachers are begging someone to answer” “teachers try to extract answers from students “ “…..teachers sometimes get awkward silence so give the answer themselves”
  12. 12. In the Classroom: Teachers Talking •  Over-use of PowerPoint was also a common theme “lecturer who stood there and just read from his PowerPoint … I didn’t need that……...very boring. “ “because of too much use of PowerPoint in nearly every class (lecture) don’t like this way of teaching - open data show - read the lines and click”
  13. 13. In the Classroom: Students Talking • Not enough opportunities for students to ask questions in lectures “…no discussion in the situation where the lecturer is using PowerPoint “ “…not chance to ask questions about things you don’t understand “ • Management of seminars was also an issue for some. “…question and answer and discussion is very useful. but needs to be managed”  “Students talking is useful if they have some knowledge and experience to contribute, the problem is when students don’t have enough experience here to make a useful contribute”  “…a lot of time in seminars nobody was stopped talking if they went on and on … …some people just like to hear their own voices…..”
  14. 14. Finally advice from the students.... advice to prospective students... • Most indicated that preparation in terms of English and academic study skills were essential You have to learn fast how to listen to teachers with different accents there is language pressure you have to absorb a lot Prepare for Academic writing and plagiarism (Prepare yourself) by improving research skills or you will face problems as you study more by yourself (here in UK) Learn how to deal with time (study skills) … you don’t need to prepare for group work –its easy • Others referred to specific aspects of study within the university focus on practical work as your theoretical knowledge is probably well above the average, but your practical experience is probably non-existent try to adapt to the relaxed atmosphere
  15. 15. Finally advice from the students.... advice to prospective students... • Many said that maintaining contact with family at home was crucial At Christmas you have to go home. Make sure communication with home and family support measures are put in place e.g parents should visit in first year. • Some offered practical advice Don’t be shy Ensure you are used to the cold weather and be prepared for the weather – especially the cold weather if you are coming from a country where it is summer all year long. Seek out help and advice from people who have already done the course See if there is real value in coming …… and compare of home country…. if not stay at home Do research and make informed decision what subject you want to do before you come (Don’t just listen to sales people and agents)