Academic journal article Journal of International Students

Transformative Learning Experiences of International Graduate Students from Africa

Academic journal article Journal of International Students

Transformative Learning Experiences of International Graduate Students from Africa

Article excerpt


This article examines factors that influence transformative learning experiences of international graduate students from Africa. In general, 84.8% of the participants experienced transformative learning while 15.2% reported no transformative experiences. For those who experienced transformative learning, 26.1% of the transformative experiences were associated with education, 28.3% by non-education, and 30.4% were by both education and non-education. Follow-up interviews were conducted from 12 participants who were randomly selected to ensure representations across gender, age group, country of origin, and program of study. They identified classroom activities, faculty support, and learning a new language as the educational transformative learning, and factors related to new life experiences, as non-educational. Field notes and reflection journals were utilized to triangulate data to support these methods. Data analysis and results of the study indicate that participants experienced transformative learning through both educational and non-educational related activities.

Keywords: transformative learning, perspective transformation, international graduate students, Africa graduate students, faculty support, learning a new language.

"I had the greatest help from my advisor in doing research work as a graduate student. I was not used to this type of support in Africa. My mentor provided me with all the necessary academic support, and guided me on how to conduct research and present papers at conferences. I had to transition to this kind of support. This made me reflect back on my values, beliefs, and academic experiences. This was a true transformational experience."

The Institute of International Education's (2012) Open Doors Report states that the number of international students at colleges and universities seeking graduate degrees in the United States was 283,329 during the 2008/09 academic year; 293,885 in 2009/10; 296,574 in 2010/11, and 300,430 in 2011/12. The growth is due to an increasing number of international students from Asia, particularly from China, India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Taiwan. Not only has the number of international students seeking graduate degrees increased steadily but so has the total number of international students seeking other degrees. For example, the total number of international students in the United States in 2007/08 was 623,805 and 671,616 in 2008/09 - representing an increase of 7.7% change from 7.0%. In 2009/10 the total population of international students was 690,923; 723,277 in 2010/11, and 764,495 in 2011/12 representing an increase of 5.7% change from 4.7% in 2010/11 (Institute of International Education, 2012).

African international students are one of the least represented groups among the international students on campuses of U.S. institutions of higher education in comparison to international students from Asia, South America, Canada, and Europe. However, a recent report released by Open Doors (Institute of International Education, 2004) indicated that the African continent was ranked fourth among the top seven leading places of origin for international students. It is therefore imperative to acknowledge the transitional changes these students undergo in their quest to pursue higher education in the United States. For example, there were 36,937 international students from Africa in 2007/08; 32,491 in 2009/10; 36,890 in 2010/11, and 35,502 in 2011/12 (Institute of International Education report, 2012).

In the 21st century, acquisition of graduate studies from a U.S. institution allowed international graduate students to be competitive for employment (Erichsen, 2009; Kung, 2007). The students envision having more opportunities, advancing their careers, and improving their social mobility. However, international graduate students have multiple and complex roles as learners with major language and cultural backgrounds (Erichsen, 2009). …

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