Academic journal article Journal of International Students

Expectations and Experiences of Inbound Students: Perspectives from Sweden

Academic journal article Journal of International Students

Expectations and Experiences of Inbound Students: Perspectives from Sweden

Article excerpt

Nowadays, a growing number of university students have become 'mobile', with more opportunities than ever before to study abroad. One important reason for this is the increase in courses taught in English in non-English speaking countries. For that very reason, Sweden has seen a large increase in inbound international students in the last decade. The language of instruction is a critical factor for receiving international students. The wide range of courses and programs taught in English makes it easier to recruit international degree students, accept incoming exchange students, and cooperate with international partner universities. Consequently, Sweden has emerged as a new player on the global education market. When Sweden introduced tuition fees for non-European students in 2011, a sharp drop in new enrollments was observed (see Table 1). It is noteworthy that domestic students and students from within Europe are able to study without paying tuition fees. This option is now available to most students, and many will have an international study experience during their studies. Thus, emphasizes Knight (2012), international student mobility has transformed the higher education landscape. Since the 1970s, the number of students studying abroad has increased considerably worldwide. Approximately 800,000 university students were enrolled in studies outside their country of citizenship in 1975, compared to over four million today (OECD, 2013). Therefore, for many students, international education and student mobility have become an important part of their university experience.

Students studying abroad lead to questions about their expectations and how these are met. By choosing to study abroad, students take a significant step in setting in motion their own individual life projects, and it can be assumed that they have dreams and aspirations of having a great experience, be it for academic or personal development. However, little is known regarding whether the students' expectations are fulfilled after studying abroad. Thus, learning more about whether and how expectations are met is crucial both for a deeper understanding of student mobility, and understanding the rationales and drivers behind it. This article deals with international student mobility. Students' expectations are compared with what they actually experienced while studying abroad. They arrive with a set of expectations, and depart with their own experiences of having studied abroad, and all are influenced by their studies, their environment, the cost of living, etc. The aim here is to study the expectations inbound students had when enrolling, and the experience they gained after approximately six months of studying in Sweden. This study, following the same students over a period of time, adds new knowledge to the field of student mobility when it comes to inbound students' expectations and experiences.

Conceptual Framework

Push-Pull models

External and internal environment play an important role for mobility and internationalization in general. The interplay of multiple push and pull variables is complex. Some variables have hindered mobility but many more have enabled it to grow for decades worldwide (Choudaha & de Witt, 2014). The conceptual framework of this study was inspired by 'Push-Pull' models (e.g. Mazzarol & Soutar, 2001; Li & Bray, 2007) in order to learn more about studentsexpectations related to student mobility. We know, based on these models that economic and social forces can push students abroad, and cultural awareness and curiosity about another country can attract or pull them. However, some have observed a reversed push-pull force (Li & Bray, 2007), positive forces at home and negative forces abroad can also explain why some students stay put or decide to study closer to home. It is obvious that many factors can attract students to study abroad. Their expectations depend on, among other things, the length of time spent studying abroad. …

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