Academic journal article Comparative and International Education

I Came, but I'm Lost: Learning Stories of Three Chinese International Students in Canada/Je Suis Venu, Mais Je Suis Perdu: Histoires D'apprentissage De Trois éTudiants Internationaux Chinois Au Canada

Academic journal article Comparative and International Education

I Came, but I'm Lost: Learning Stories of Three Chinese International Students in Canada/Je Suis Venu, Mais Je Suis Perdu: Histoires D'apprentissage De Trois éTudiants Internationaux Chinois Au Canada

Article excerpt

The pursuit of international education and the internationalization of higher education have become a significant element of Canadian higher education (The Canadian Bureau for International Education, 2013). Where a decade ago they were of interest primarily to practitioners and a handful of scholars, it has now become central to discussions on higher education policy, for example, and has attracted government attention at both provincial and federal levels (Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, 2012). A measure of the success, effectiveness and value of a higher educational institution now includes its international dimension in teaching, research and service, and in particular, the number of international students that it enrolls. Indeed, statistics on the number of international students, the source countries, and their contribution to national and provincial economies are the most commonly presented information about international education in Canada (CBIE, 2013). The common rationale for increasing numbers of international students is the assertion that it is one of the highest contributing factors of internationalizing the campus (Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, 2007). In practice, however, they are mostly seen in terms of recruitment targets and economic gains. The fact that international students bring $6 billion to the Canadian economy, for example, is a statistic that is often used to promote international education and reflects the focus on the economic dimensions of internationalization (CBIE, 2013).

Along with the more obvious economic gains, the arrival of international students on Canadian campuses has seen the accompanying growth of English language services, including the business of English language testing. For 75% of the total of 178,000 international students studying in Canada, English is an additional language (CBIE, 2009). Students applying to colleges and universities must demonstrate their knowledge of English (or French1) if their first language is not English, and they must attain specific proficiency scores in tests such as the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) or TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) as one of the qualifying criteria for admission. Thus, language acquisition, language teaching, and the associated challenges have become important issues in the internationalization process. While the literature on second-language acquisition in relation to issues of identity and investment (Norton, 2010; Norton & Toohey, 2011; Zuengler & Miller, 2006), and the relationship between the language learner and the larger social world (Heller, 2007; Kanno, 2008; Toohey, 2000) is gaining momentum, little research has been conducted on the learning experiences of international students as they prepare for English proficiency tests to enter post- secondary institutions in host countries.

Existing scholarship on international student experience in Western universities address issues such as college and university students' social adjustments, learning strategies, and identity issues (Beck, 2008; Miller, 2000; Montgomery, 2010; Phan, 2008). Research on international student experience identifies language learning as a major challenge for international students in academic settings (CBIE, 2009, 2013; Feast, 2002; Montgomery, 2010; Sawir, 2005; Singh, 2005) despite the IELTS or TOEFL scores these students gained as a requirement for entering the university. Furthermore, in preparation for the language proficiency tests, international students undergo many difficulties and hardship. The 2009 CBIE survey finds that among non-English speaking international students, 25% reported that "passing the English proficiency test was at least somewhat of a problem" (CBIE, 2009, p.31). In particular, "East Asian students are the most likely to report problems with language proficiency tests" (Ibid, p.32). Their experiences can become "arduous, attenuated and even humiliating at times" (Skyrme, 2007, p. …

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