Multilingual International Students at a Canadian University: Portraits of Agency

Vander Tavares 1 *

AM J QUALITATIVE RES, Volume 5, Issue 2 (In Progress), pp. 92-117

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This paper draws on the theoretical concepts of individual agency and academic buoyancy to explore the ways in which three multilingual international students responded to and overcame the challenges they encountered while studying at a university in Canada. This investigation is situated within and against the discourses of deficit and disruption that have traditionally surrounded the accounts of international students who use English as an additional language (EAL) in institutions of higher education. Methodologically conceptualized through the lens of portraiture, which focuses on identifying goodness in participants, this paper presents the portraits of the three students with an attention to the physical and sociocultural contexts where the students were embedded. Individual semi-structured interviews and observations of the host institution were conducted in order to gain an in-depth understanding of the students’ experiences. Findings indicate that the students’ challenges were complex, found primarily in the linguistic, academic, and social dimensions, and originating from both structural and individual factors. Simultaneously, the students strategized and employed agency by seeking support in conventional and alternative ways and by refusing to conform to institutional expectations. This paper is concluded with a discussion about the importance of considering the context when examining multilingual international student agency.

Keywords: Agency, ESL, Higher Education, International Students, Multilingual, Portraiture.