UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

"You can study with joy" : exploring international students' attitudes and opinions regarding their educational experiences in a Canadian secondary school Arnott, Amanda Gail


International students from around the world are increasingly being recruited and admitted to secondary schools and universities across Canada. As neither immigrants nor native-born Canadians, international students occupy a special space in the student landscape and have significantly different identities than other groups of culturally and linguistically diverse students. The unique experiences and perspectives of adolescent international students in Canadian secondary schools requires further study as this area has been largely overlooked in the literature. This exploratory study investigated the experiences of international students in a Canadian secondary school through semi-structured interviews with three students, one from Korea and two from Japan. Prior to the interviews, students were given the interview questions in the form of a questionnaire translated into their first language and asked to reflect on and respond to the questions in writing. Students were asked to share their perspectives on the educational and cultural differences between the school(s) they attended in their home country and their school in Canada. The interview transcripts and written responses revealed reoccurring themes corresponding to the key words or ideas within each reply. The students in this study were very positive in their perception of the Canadian education system and unanimously agreed that they preferred studying in Canada over studying in their home countries. The cultural differences discussed in the interviews were perceived as positive and beneficial rather than problematic. The social differences between Canada and their home countries, in terms of how they were allowed to interact with others and how others, especially their teachers, responded to them, were found to be the most important and meaningful differences for all three students. These social differences included having more personal autonomy and freedom, both in and out of the classroom, having positive and “comfortable” relationships with teachers and the student-centered nature of Canadian teaching methods. Environmental differences, such as the school schedule and student course load, were also mentioned several times. Strictly instructional differences, in terms of types of class activities and assignments, were only discussed when I asked about them directly.

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