• Positive Experiences, Dreams, and Expectations of International Master’s Students at a Southern Ontario University: An Appreciative Inquiry

      Ankomah, William Sarfo; Department of Graduate and Undergraduate Studies in Education
      This study used appreciative inquiry (AI) as a methodological and theoretical framework and positive psychology theory to investigate international master’s students’ positive experiences, dreams, and expectations in their programs and institution to inform policies, programs, and practices. Although the literature describes international students’ mixed experiences in Canada, including developing critical thinking skills, making friends with other nationals, culture shock, and financial challenges, previous studies seldom focus on life-affirming conditions that enrich and improve such students’ schooling experiences. The first three stages of AI’s 4-D cycle—discovery, dream, and design—informed the study’s data collection methods (14 semi-structured individual interviews and three focus group discussions) to generate strength-based data for analysis, resulting in five key themes: (a) personal well-being and sense of belonging, (b) instructors’ pedagogical practices, (c) financial constraints and employment opportunities, (d) career development, and (e) policies. Based on its findings, the study makes six recommendations to inform international graduate student policy and practice: (a) allow international master’s students to study with their domestic counterparts, (b) increase international student diversity, (c) regularize socializing events for students and community members, (d) bridge the gap between theory and practice (hands-on experience), (e) work with all stakeholders to make international master’s students’ tuition fees more affordable, and (f) create on- and off-campus employment opportunities. Participants’ first-person accounts emphasize the need to include student voices in their own education and also shift the conversation from a deficit lens to a more positive discourse to balance the narratives around international students’ experiences.