South East Asian Female Doctoral Students’ Sojourning Experience in New Zealand: A Process of Gaining by Losing
Che Arr, Faridah
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International doctoral students make immense contributions to their host country’s universities. They bring with them economic benefits, boost universities’ ranking via research, create cultural diversity, and to a certain extent, strengthen diplomatic ties between countries. Given that doctoral study takes considerable years to complete, an understanding of their everyday living overseas is essential to the stakeholders. Everyday living, which represents daily occupations such as cooking, shopping, childminding and commuting, is an integral part of international doctoral students’ experience and an under-researched area. This occupational science-based study employed Straussian grounded theory methodology to fill in the existing knowledge gap and address the following research question: How do international female doctoral students from South East Asia manage everyday living in New Zealand? Data collection using in-depth interviews and participant observation methods was undertaken with 23 South East Asian international female participants who lived, or had lived, in one of the metropolitan cities in North Island, New Zealand, while undertaking their doctoral degree. The use of constant comparison, theoretical sampling, memoing, and theoretical sensitivity—as the core elements of grounded theory—and going through an iterative process of data collection and analysis led to the generation of a substantive theory of Gaining by Losing. The substantive theory encompasses three categories, each with two subcategories: Choosing to be Student Sojourners comprised Exploring Opportunities and Making Sacrifices; Meeting Challenges subsumed Encountering Difficulties and Making Adjustments, and Returning Transformed included Living With The Choice and Experiencing Changes. Findings from the study signified that temporary relocation to a new country and living in an expensive urban area elicited occupational and lifestyle changes. To sustain their living, participants adopted a minimal lifestyle and enacted two important strategies—pulling in and pulling back, which resulted in negative and positive consequences. The findings of this study enhance knowledge concerning this area of research and provide information for universities to better accommodate the needs of this specific group of student sojourners. Supporting students to have rewarding educational experiences in New Zealand is a governmental aspiration and a sustainability initiative for universities to stay competitive. Therefore, it is recommended that future research be conducted to examine further and evaluate the resources, assistance, and support provided to international female doctoral students in terms of managing their everyday living to ensure their gains far outweigh their losses.