The student experience of internationalization in a U.S. and Dutch higher education context
Mazon, Bradley K.
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The topic of this study is the student experience of internationalization at the University at Buffalo (UB) in Buffalo, New York, and at the Universiteit van Amsterdam (UvA) in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The data for this study was collected using a purposeful sampling technique in order to choose particular participants believed to facilitate the understanding of student experiences. A qualitative approach is used in order to advance the dialogue about the student experience of internationalization. At both UB and UvA, the population of interest includes students who have engaged in internationalization experiences, as well as practitioners responsible for campus internationalization on their respective campuses. The purpose of this study is to answer the following two research questions: (1) How do students at a U.S. and Dutch research university engage with internationalization; and, (2) What are the intentional and unintentional elements of campus internationalization that affect the student experience of internationalization during college. Knight's (2004) four rationales for internationalization are used as the conceptual framework for this study, with her social rationale for internationalization proving to have the greatest salience for students in both the UB and UvA contexts. The student experience of internationalization is a highly personal one. The students' backgrounds, resources, and supports – or individual push – either align or not with institutional pull, or those formal internationalization elements that institutions offer to engage students in internationalization. The students are consumers of internationalization products made available to them through both the intentional and unintentional campus internationalization. Ultimately, the students engage with internationalization in ways that make meaning for them. The findings show that while students with an a priori awareness of internationalization opportunities may engage with internationalization whether the campus is internationalized or not, those without such an awareness may not engage with it if internationalization remains unintegrated with the student experience. Campuses must not allow the unintentional forms of campus internationalization to serve as the primary form of student engagement with internationalization. The data show that when this happens, the experience of internationalization – even for students who are predisposed to engage with it – is incomplete. The result is that the student experience of internationalization becomes an exercise in cherry picking, with students engaging with internationalization when and where they want to without a sense of how it fits into their broader goals.