The perceptions of mainland Chinese international students towards Auckland, New Zealand
Globalisation and advancement of education internationally has led to a rising number of international students, and this has highlighted the education market as a significant area of research. Previous literature has focused on teaching and learning experiences and little has been done on the importance of international students’ perceptions of a country that may influence their choice of education destination. International students play an increasingly significant role in New Zealand. International education contributed $2.5 billion dollars to the New Zealand economy in 2013 (Ministry of Education, 2013). Mainland Chinese are the predominant nationality, comprising 30.7% of the total number of international students (Ministry of Education, 2013). This research aims to provide insights into the perceptions of Chinese students towards Auckland, their experiences on arrival and whether Auckland met their expectations of the ‘real’ New Zealand experience. An interpretive paradigm was adopted to enable the study to discover the opinions and experiences of Chinese students who were staying in Auckland. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews and selection of participants was done through snowball sampling. Data was analysed through thematic analysis by identifying and developing themes within the data (Gray, 2009). The study findings indicated that all the participants had similar positive perceptions of Auckland, New Zealand. Upon arriving in Auckland, some participants agreed that, contrary to their expectations, Auckland is a developed city yet it is still beautiful and safe compared to other parts of the country. Individual’s perceptions are influenced by place of residency, safety concerns, service issues and transportation matters. However, some participants felt that there was still much more to explore because they had not stayed in Auckland long enough to ascertain whether what they had experienced was in line with their initial perceptions. The study results are useful and can enhance the initiation of strategies to improve factors like place of residency, safety, service efficiency, and advertisements to create realistic expectations and attract more international students and tourists. Results on aspects are specific and require adoption of strategies in the specific areas of concern to improve the experiences of both international students and tourists.