U.K. universities are under increasing financial and political pressure to recruit higher numbers of international students. Providing adequate support for these students is considered important not only to the satisfaction of the students’ educational experience but also to the institute and nation as a whole. Research has suggested that, in addition to coping with the general pressures experienced by most students, overseas students may also face problems concerning adjustment to life in an unfamiliar country. This study investigated the nature of these problems and the extent to which they may be attenuated through participation in the university sport and recreation service. Following ethical approval, statistics were obtained from the university management information system detailing student recreation memberships. Questionnaires were distributed to the international student body examining choices of activity, reasons for participation, benefits of participation, and potential barriers. A focus group with students was completed to further explore key themes and to allow for methodological triangulation. Data from the facility management information system demonstrated that international students accounted for approximately 25% of students using the recreation facility on a daily basis, despite constituting only 13% of the student body. Qualitative data demonstrated that students a) relied on the recreation service as a means of relieving stress, b) felt that integration was often difficult but that the service could be a means of befriending Scottish students, c) felt that the influence of alcohol in Scottish culture impeded integration and d) felt that Scottish culture did not emphasise health and fitness in daily life as they were accustomed to in their own cultures.
The findings demonstrated the importance of an appropriate sport and recreation service to the needs of international students and suggest additional measures could be taken to further support and integrate overseas students utilising sport as a tool.
|Keywords:||Theme: Sports Education-College Sports, Higher Education, International Students, Integration, Sports Participation|
Lecturer, Department of Sport, Health and Exercise, University of the West of Scotland, Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, UK