Connections, Identity and Resilience Amongst International Students at Victoria University
This study used a re-storying methodology to develop narratives of 13 Asian students who came from overseas to study in New Zealand at Victoria University. These narratives considered connections the students made both on and off campus and their reflections on how these connections shaped cultural identity. The research also explored students’ experiences of resilience and agency. Their stories revealed strong connections made with other international students but less well formed relationships with domestic students, where ties are superficial despite programmes designed to facilitate these connections. The exception was the stronger connections students developed with domestic minority learners, such as Pasifika and Maori students. Volunteering, rather than paid work or homestays, were contexts that offered community connections. Student narratives suggest that the experience of studying at VUW refreshed home country identity but also encouraged a flexible identity with a growing awareness of cultural diversity, which for some students, constituted a global citizen perspective. While all students reported struggles, they maintained resilience in the face of challenges, using their networks to sustain them, rather than formal support services. They demonstrated agency in making moves to improve their situation and that of prospective students. Micro-aggressions encountered did cause social suffering but students confronted racism, in their own way, trying to enlarge cultural space at university. Leadership opportunities taken, along with the difficult social encounters they navigated, lead to personal change and growth. Implications of these findings, for policy makers and providers of support services, are discussed.