First Year International Students’ Experience in Universiti Malaysia Sabah
Internationalization is considered as an efficient step to increase international students’ enrolment in Malaysia to fulfill the national aspiration of becoming a higher learning hub of excellence worldwide. This study explores the first year experiences of international students by investigating the influencing factors on their decision to further study and their adaptation to the new environment in UMS. A qualitative research design using case study which involved 20 international students who were selected using purposive sampling was carried out. Semi-structured interview was used to gather information from these respondents. Based on the analysis of collected data, five themes were identified as the influencing factors on their decision to further study in UMS which are: academic, culture, financial, university services and social. These themes were further divided into sub-themes. Among them are the advantages and disadvantages of studying in UMS, education system differences, education program variety, educational course syllabus and mastery of English language under the academic theme. The culture theme was divided into sub-themes like new experience, UMS culture, and external world view while financial theme is divided into financial resources from family and scholarship award. University services are divided into two sub-themes of facilities and infrastructure, and international office. Further to that, the social theme is represented by three sub-themes comprising of parents and friends’ recommendation, social integration development and local community and college environment. Findings also presented the respondents’ view on the international students’ adaptation to new environment. These were represented by eight themes, which are: mastery of English language, group assignment, and instructional quality of academicians, cultural shock, adventure and gaining new experience, food access, satisfaction on facilities and infrastructure, and international student safety. Overall, feedback from the international students implied their satisfaction and positive first year experience in UMS. Findings from this study is hoped to contribute to the Higher Education Ministry and UMS management in promoting greater enrolment and portraying UMS as the prime choice of study destination among international students.