Academic journal article Journal of International Students

International Students and "The Presentation of Self" across Cultures

Academic journal article Journal of International Students

International Students and "The Presentation of Self" across Cultures

Article excerpt

The Canadian government released its first international education strategy in 2014 (Canada's International Education Strategy: Harnessing our knowledge advantage to drive innovation and prosperity, 2014). The document recommends an overall increase of the international student population from 293, 500 to 450,000 by 2022 as a strategy for addressing Canada's human capital needs (Global Affairs Canada, 2014, p. 11). If implemented successfully, the plan will give an added boost to Canada's already surging international profile as a top 10 international student receiving country (Institute of International Education [IIE], 2016).

Canada's meteoric rise as an attractive, cost effective, provider of post-secondary education has resulted in yearly historic growth rates in its international student population (Canadian Bureau for International Education [CBIE], 2015). Currently, the top five sending countries of international students to Canada are China, India, Korea, Saudi Arabia, and France (CBIE, 2015). While traditional sending countries such as China, India, and Korea still account for the majority of the international student population in Canada, the fastest growing student populations are from Nigeria, China, Vietnam, Brazil, France, and India which have increased by 24%, 16%, 16%, 15%, 15%, 11% respectively (CBIE, 2015). Even though the overall growth rate of the international student population in Canada continues to trend upwards, the dispersion of students, once they arrive in Canada, is still very uneven, with 43.9% choosing universities in Ontario, 24% British Columbia schools, and 14.3% Quebec universities (CBIE, 2014).

Unsurprisingly, the majority of research projects that have explored the experiences of international students in Canada have focused almost entirely on international student populations in Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia. Consequently, our understanding of the experiences of international students comes mainly from the aforementioned provinces, resulting in literature that has not fully captured the nuances of international student experiences in Canada. For example, even though Nova Scotia attracts about 3.9% of international students who come to study in Canada, international education researchers have only given minimal attention to the experiences of international students in the province (Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission [MPHEC], 2012).

In this paper, I explore the notion of self-presentation across cultures by drawing on the findings of a dissertation study that investigated the living, and learning experiences of international students in Nova Scotia, a province which has increased its international undergraduate student population by 138%, and its international graduate student population by 101% within the last decade (MPHEC, 2012). I begin in section one by providing an outline of the international education research. In section two, I present the research methodology, and in section three, I highlight key research findings along with some implications for future research.


Within the international education discourse, international students are usually identified by researchers as ideal immigrants both because of their language ability, and for the recognizable qualifications they will possess upon graduation (Akbari, 2012; Kamara, 2012; Scott, Safdar, Trilokekar, & Masri, 2015). These so-called positive characteristics form the core of elaborate narratives that neatly weave together information about students' economic and social contributions to buttress rationale for expanding recruitment and retention strategies. While the economics of immigration still remains a dominant theme in the international education discourse, some researchers have adopted a comprehensive perspective that takes as its point of departure a fundamental recognition of the interconnectedness of students' social, academic, and psychological experiences (Andrade, 2006; Lee, Koeske, & Sales, 2004; Mori, 2000; Yang & Noels, 2013; Yeh & Inose, 2003). …

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