Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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A home away from home? An interpretative phenomenological analysis of Vietnamese students’ acculturation experiences in Aotearoa-New Zealand

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posted on 2021-02-28, 20:38 authored by Hau Ho
International students’ experiences are a major concern for universities and educational researchers. Globally, Vietnam is a top source country for international students. Universities in Aotearoa-New Zealand host an increasing number of Vietnamese students, but researchers often subsume this group into generic cultural and ethnic categories such as ‘Asian student’. As a result, little is known about their experience.

This study explores the everyday experiences of 10 Vietnamese master’s students from an Aotearoa-New Zealand university through a series of semi-structured in-depth interviews. An interpretative phenomenological analysis approach enabled me to capture the essential meanings of the participants’ experiences and understand what it was like to be Vietnamese students in Aotearoa-New Zealand.

As the participants built new lives in Aotearoa-New Zealand, they dealt with the practicalities of uncomfortable or difficult housing conditions as well as established relationships within the diverse cultural contexts of the host country. Accommodation issues had a significant impact on their studies and sense of security and belonging. The students had a hard time finding a place to live. Not feeling comfortable, safe or at peace in their new houses, they did not feel like they were at home. They did not view their houses as a place where they could take refuge and leave the hustle of life outside.

In academic settings, the students initially struggled to deal with a range of new and unfamiliar learning and teaching styles (e.g., classroom discussion) and conventions about referencing and citing. These made them feel overwhelmed and bewildered. During these formative months, many of them experienced language difficulties, a sense of cultural dislocation, and a deep yearning for their families. These difficulties forced them to learn to deal with challenges and become independent. The students drew strength from their Vietnamese cultural values and practices to overcome difficulties.

Based on the findings, I propose a framework for exploring the experience of short-term Vietnamese international students. The study provides implications for host universities to assist Vietnamese students as they orient themselves to daily life in Aotearoa-New Zealand.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

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Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Education


Doyle, Stephanie; Kidman, Joanna