This study analyses the academic and socio-cultural experiences of international students in Nigeria, as they transition from their home countries to the host country. It highlights the challenges international students face while trying to adjust to a new environment. The study also provides an insight into the efforts made by higher education institutions towards the smooth transition of international students. Furthermore, this study argues that recruiting international students is as important as ensuring their smooth transition into the host country and the host institutions. While studies reporting on the experiences of international students abound, very little attention has been directed towards the transition experiences of international students in Nigeria. Thus, this study investigated one primary research question, “How do international students experience academic and socio-cultural transition in Nigeria and the institutions they are studying at?”
In answering the research question, the study adopted a mixed-method research approach carried out in two universities (one public and one private) located in South-West Nigeria. Quantitative data was collected through structured and tested paper questionnaires from 64 international students at both universities (42 from the public university and 22 from the private university). A subset of 20 students (10 from each university) was further interviewed for qualitative analysis through a semi-structured and one-on-one interaction. Schlossberg’s theory of transition (1981) was employed to understand the phenomenon of transition in higher education, with regards to the international students in this study.
Key findings from the study reveal that language ranked as the highest cause of a difficult academic transition. Findings also show that international students from neighbouring countries in West Africa had a better sociocultural transition compared to those from other regions. More so, there were some significant differences in the demographic profiles of international students across the private and the public university such as first language, type of degree enrolled for and funding. Three topmost recommendations made by international students for a better transition experience are institutional support, orientation and English language support classes.
Based on the findings from this study, the researcher made a few suggestions that inform policy and practice with regards to international students’ experiences. This study contributes to the body of knowledge on the internationalisation of higher education globally and specifically in the context of Nigeria.