Internationalisation and EAL Student Adjustment at a Higher Educational Institution: A Leap Through the Dragon’s Gate
International student movement in the world has been significant over the last decades as many international students have taken up studies in countries other than their own, often leaving their familiar networks and support far behind. Moving from a familiar life situation to an unfamiliar educational environment and social setting means that a significant change takes place in their lives. One of these changes may be that they need to start using English as their additional language (EAL), in the new socio-culture, and for studies at higher educational institutions (HEIs). The HEIs typically aspire to offer high quality internationally recognised education, through initiatives of internationalisation set out in policies and plans. The aim of this study was to gain a deeper understanding of social, academic, and language adjustment by English as an Additional Language (EAL) students who study long-term at a Higher Educational Institution (HEI) in New Zealand. Using a multifaceted qualitative methodology - ethnographic with individual case-studies, and multiple analysis approaches, such as thematic, cross-case, and narrative analysis - the study examined the adjustment challenges students faced, how they were dealt with, and the impact of second language identity development on adjustment. This was investigated from the perspective of students, teachers, and advisors, in combination with the internationalisation efforts of the HEI. The main group of participating EAL/international students are presented through narratives. These stories enabled an understanding of both similarities and differences between the individual students, and the students as a group. The findings show that the students participating in the interviews adjusted well in what was, for them, an unfamiliar environment. Moreover, the study showed that language proficiency, and how to improve it, both within the HEI and outside it, played a role in student adjustment, and that language use impacted students differently, depending on the second language identity development phase they were in. Also, for some students, being an EAL learner contributed to achieving high academic results. These students’ experiences contributed to a deeper understanding of the concept of adjustment and mutual adjustment related to studies at HEIs and beyond. It was found that internationalisation at the HEI had a dual function: revenue and provision of excellent education, which created a tension amongst staff around fulfilling students’ needs and adhering to the prevalent teaching and learning, and which in turn caused adjustment challenges amongst the students. The study explored how mutual adjustment can become a joint undertaking by HEIs and international students, through negotiations of suitable areas of teaching and learning.