Gregory, Jodi (2018) Integration experiences of international students: A situated case-study. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This thesis examines the integration experiences of a case-study group of international students undertaking postgraduate research degrees at a UK university. It places a deep focus on their individual stories, and situates these within the academic and policy discourses of integration, which are found to have a lack of consideration in terms of the integration of international students. The study uses key understandings of social capital to examine how the participants have mobilised the resources embedded within their social networks to enable their interaction and participation in society beyond the university campus.The specific aims of the research are to examine the nature of the social networks and social interactions of a case study group of international students, to decipher how their experiences relate to the discourses of integration, and to analyse how their integration experiences relate to the network theory of social capital. The study is qualitative, and uses interpretative phenomenology as a guiding framework to analyse and present the data. Three distinct methods of data collection were used:Ego-network mapping, sit-down interviews and walking interviews.

The situated case study was conducted in an ethnically diverse town in the north of England, which has been a significant factor in the participants’ experiences. The findings show that the majority of the study’s participants have each developed a substantial social network during their time in Britain. They have an even mix of co-national and international friends, and some have developed co-national friendships with British people with ancestral links to the their home country. Indeed, a substantial finding from this study, is that the ‘host’ community is seen as both the settled ethnic minority communities within which the participants interact, as well as the conveniently diverse nature of Hill town. The participants are strategic and often use rational choice when forming friendships, in particular when seeking friendships with ‘local’ people for help with language and local cultural knowledge.

Despite the consuming nature of their research, all participants acknowledge that they have to impose their own limits on how much time they spend working on it each day and look for ways to break up their routine and break free from the grasp of their studies, which leads to their interaction and participation in the wider society. The way they do this allows the study to interrogate key terms found in the integration discourse, such as ‘shared’ British values and sense of belonging, as the participants view the British ways of being and doing in a relative way. Nonetheless, they often show certain elements of integration that might be expected of permanent migrants such as an engagement with the local community or a wish to give back something to society.The study also reveals a certain resilience when faced with issues such as perceived discrimination or explicit racial abuse in the street.

The study expose a sense of appreciation as the participants are able to easily recreate their consumption habits from their home countries, owing to the presence of international chains as well as the multi-cultural nature of Hill town. In addition, the fact that the participants themselves all have some previous experience of working in different countries or for international companies means that they can be described as natural transnationals, and there is evidence that they become a useful social contact for others who arrive in Hill town. Finally, there is strong evidence within the participants’ accounts that they mobilise the social capital resources from their social networks to find information, accommodation and employment.

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