Thriving in the face of adversity: Mapping experiences of international students in a South African higher education institution.





International students, Agency, Photovoice, Experiences, South Africa, Higher Education.


Despite the diverse experiences, knowledge, skills, values, potentials, and abilities that international students studying in South African universities possess, their voices still remain unheard or silent. Therefore, this article presents a qualitative case study research approach of twelve international students in their postgraduate and undergraduate level of study critical dialogue concerning their experiences and wellbeing in South Africa. Meanwhile, this study was conducted with the purpose of exploring international students’ experiences in a South African institution of higher learning. As a result of the photovoice method and the focus group, discussion method was utilised for the data generation method. In addition, the purposive and convenience sampling method was used to select a specific group of students and the research context. However, this study was framed using the Bandura agentic capability theory in order to explore and understand the international student experiences in a South African higher educational institution. The findings of the study indicate that international students’ experiences of their host environment were diverse and mostly constraining. They identified several elements within the meso, micro, macro environment that inhibited their learning, growth, and development which needs to be addressed. The study highlights that addressing these inhibiting elements will help to improve the international student’s wellbeing within their learning environment. This article also concludes that by enhancing international student’s wellbeing and addressing the challenges they are experiencing will help in promoting and providing an enabling learning environment to assist them learn better, attain and achieve their academic goals as well as develop holistically in their host environment.


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How to Cite

NWOKEDI, P. . . . . G. (2020). Thriving in the face of adversity: Mapping experiences of international students in a South African higher education institution. Journal of Comparative & International Higher Education, 12(Spring), 49–66.



Winter 2020 Special Edition: Thriving in the Face of Adversity (Refugees)