Coming to belong : a narrative analysis of international students’ experiences in an Australian university

Lin, Jung-Hsiu (2012) Coming to belong : a narrative analysis of international students’ experiences in an Australian university. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


This thesis reports on an interview study with 17 international students about their experiences of coming to belong in an Australian university. All used English as an additional language (EAL). The students’ narratives of ‘coming to belong’ are conceptualised through the theory of Bourdieu, in particular the concepts of field, capital, habitus and legitimation; and the methodological premises of critical realism’s layered ontology. The literature review argues that access to and accrual of a range of capital is critical to successful adaptation to a new educational system. This, and processes of legitimation by others in the fields, affects the senses of belonging for students of various linguistic backgrounds, of different countries of origin, studying from primary to higher education in diverse parts of the world. Data were collected by semi-structured interviews and email dialogues at three points during the students’ first year of study in Australia. The analysis shows how the students’ empirical experiences were ordered in terms of narrative structure—orientation, complication, evaluation, resolution and coda—and highlight the emotions generated by the sequence of events. The findings show that EAL international students sought new field positions through legitimation in multiple senses across (sub-)fields.

They also show that academic, social and linguistic legitimacy granted by others produced a spectrum of belonging: in the centre, at the margin, and/or to meaningful intercultural encounters. This study makes a contribution to the growing literature around the experience of international students in higher education, and to empirical literature using Bourdieu to understand educational relations.

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ID Code: 54680
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Dooley, Karen T.
Keywords: habitus, capital, field, legitimation, Bourdieu, sociology of education, higher education, international students, narrative analysis
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Office of Education Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 08 Nov 2012 04:26
Last Modified: 03 Sep 2015 11:20

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