An Exploration of the Early Career Experiences of Tongan Nationals on Returning Home After Tertiary Education Abroad
Mafi, Losaline V.
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While there is some understanding of the study abroad phenomenon there is still very limited research specifically focused on Tongan nationals who have completed tertiary education abroad and have returned to Tonga. There is also little known about what happens to young people on their return home and how their early career develops. With that in mind, this dissertation sets out to explore not only the study abroad experience but also the early career experiences of a number of young Tongan people who have returned to their homeland. There are four guiding questions to this dissertation, which are: 1. What were the motivators behind seeking university education? 2. What were the participants’ career aspirations and dreams? 3. What were the challenges and benefits of studying abroad? 4. What was their early career story since returning home to Tonga? The questions were addressed within a narrative inquiry framework. The findings of this dissertation were analyzed using Braun and Clarke’s thematic analysis. Data was collected using in-depth interviews with ten participants. The study revealed that family was a strong motivator for the participants of this study, while other contributing factors were potential career development, residency status and scholarship availability. The majority of the participants aspired to pursue a career in business, healthcare and education. Participants encountered numerous benefits from the study abroad experience, for example academic and professional qualifications and network development. There were also significant challenges such as financial hardship, language barriers, peer pressure, culture shock, family expectations and a lack of freedom. Overall participants were very clear that the benefits outweighed the challenges. The return home offered new career and personal challenges. Some had issues applying knowledge to the workplace while others encountered unexpected cultural and adjustment issues. Finally, in this ‘early career’ phase several were still reflecting on their career and saw their first job as a steppingstone to future study and career pathways.