Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

The Adaptation of the Horn of Africa Immigrant Students in Higher Education

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

The Adaptation of the Horn of Africa Immigrant Students in Higher Education

Article excerpt


The Horn of Africa, a sub-region of East Africa, also sometimes called North Eastern Africa includes Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, and South Sudan (Feyissa & Hoehne 2010, Woodward, 2006). The Horn of Africa has been an unstable sub-region for ages due to the divide and rule policy of colonialists, wars among the countries and within the countries, the unfair interferences of superpowers, and natural calamities including droughts and famines. Bariagaber (2006) described the sub-region as one of the most conflict-ridden regions in the world and as a huge source of refugees and immigrants. Border disputes and displaced populations are the norms in this region. Hence, a large number of people have migrated from this sub-region to different parts of the world, especially to the United States of America, beginning at the end of the 1970's.

The Horn of Africa is believed to be a cradle of human beings. Thus, it is one of the areas in the world that has been first inhabited by man (Fattovich, 2001). Its proximity to the oil rich Middle East, to the Red Sea, and the Indian Ocean, which are important trade routes, makes it an important strategic region in the world. It is also a source of a large number of immigrants due to the continuous wars and the consequent natural calamities (Bariagaber, 2006). Among the immigrants are college students who aspire to continue their studies and improve themselves.

These immigrant students usually come to their destination with a lot of hope and ambition to change their lives for the better. However, immigrating to another country is not easy, as it has many ups and downs. Immigrant students face the same problems as other immigrants but have the added stress that comes with being in a new educational learning environment and the rigorous learning experience of higher education. Jaffe-Walter and Lee (2011, p. 281) noted that "recently arrived immigrant students face multiple issues related to linguistic and cultural dislocation."

As Pike and Kuh (2005) stated, the term "first generation college students" is defined in different ways. They defined first generation to mean the student is the first one in his/her family to attend college. In this study, first generation refers to the immigrant students who are the first in their families to go to college in the United States after their immigration, irrespective of their parents or siblings' education levels and/or the immigrant student's attendance of a college in his/her home country. Thus, this study is different from other first generation college students which explore the experiences of students who are the first to go to college among their family.

First generation immigrant students have various factors that motivate them to persevere and graduate from college. Peguero and Bondy (2011, p. 167) also argued that, "... first generation immigrant youth arrive in the United States with higher levels of educational aspirations, commitment, and determination for success and progress." But at the same time, there are many pitfalls that would hinder them from graduating or even attending college. They may take longer to graduate than the average years that it takes non-immigrants to graduate or they may encounter some challenging experiences. As Brilliant (2000) indicated, immigrant students are usually older than the traditional college age student because they spent a lot of time in the process of immigration, for some in refugee camps, and many need to work in order to save money to start school.

Isolation and lack of identity is more pronounced among immigrant students. Hutchison in Huchison, Quach, and Wiggan's study (2009) shared his experiences of a similar situation when he was asked in his home country if he is an African American and his experience in the United States. He underscored that ". back in the United States, I am never mistaken for a U.S.-born native, owing to (what I thought was) my 'unmistakable' African accent and parlance. …

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