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Lifting the Veil: Muslim women's adjustment to a New Zealand university

Abstract Due to a decline in the number of domestic students in many New Zealand and other foreign Western countries' universities, there is more recruitment of international students. In New Zealand universities, beside the increase in the number of other foreign international students, the number of Muslim international students and especially Muslim women students has increased in the past few years. This is due to internationalisation of New Zealand education and the economic benefits which international students provide to New Zealand economy. The reason for undertaking this study is because as a Muslim women and a student myself, I wanted to investigate the adjustment problems of the increased number of Muslim women international students at the University of Waikato. This is because, it would provide information to researchers, theoreticians and policy developers regarding adjustment issues that might be specific to Muslim women. Unfortunately, this area is under researched; hence this study could assist in filling the vacuum in this area. The literature so far has discussed the adjustment issues of international students in general and from the literature there seems to be two main dominant areas where international students suffer adjustment problems. These two areas are the academic environment of the university and the socio-cultural environment of the university. The academic environment has many elements to which many international students are believed to face adjustment problems such as adjusting to the 'study shock'. On the other hand, in the socio-cultural environment, students are believed to face adjustment problem to the culture shock. However, there are many flaws in the existing literature which results in its weakness and hence the need for this study. In order to discuss the adjustment issues of Muslim women international students' one has to examine the educational background of these students. It is important to also examine the religious and cultural backgrounds of these students because religious beliefs and practices combined with their cultural background have an impact on their adjustment into the foreign academic and socio-cultural iii environment. Islam strongly encourages the acquisition of education for women. Looking at the history of Muslim women, one can find great scholars who achieved enormously from their right to education. However today there is great tension in the Islamic world regarding women's education which makes this issue very complex. This is due to the different interpretations of the Islamic scholars of the verses of the Quran, and Muslim people cultural and tribal codes. Therefore, many Islamic countries have taken different approaches to the education of their female population that is from very conservative to liberal ones. The qualitative approach used in this chapter helped in understanding the perspectives and world views of the respondents which would have not been possible otherwise. The confidentiality and anonymity of the respondents was catered for before conducting the interviews and pseudo names are used in this study to refer to the respondents of this study. This study is however limited in that the time constrain did not allow me to do a longitudinal study in order to discover the many un answered questions or ambiguous sentences. This study has revealed four major themes which were identified through this research as being specifically important to the adjustment of Muslim women international students. These women did not view their adjustment as a huge shift instead for them it required more of gentle shift in their adjustment. The similarities in the academic environment of the international students and that of New Zealand universities made the adjustment to the academic environment even smoother. There are also other positive adjustments these international students make while in New Zealand universities. They are more independent and are able to communicate in English language which for most international students seems to be main reason for coming to Western universities. There is need for the staff and students to understand the religious and cultural beliefs of these international students so that they can help them in the adjustment process. There is also increased need for the universities and policy developers to provide help and support for the international students. iv There are many issues that seemed to need further exploration which this study has not managed to find out. The research needs to be done to discuss the huge emotional or psychological impact on the international students' due to teachers' and local students' lack of knowledge of their religious and cultural beliefs. The researchers also need to investigate how this change in the personality and thinking of women impacts on them when they go back to their home countries. In theorisation, there is need to theorise the adjustments of students who belong to other religious and cultural groups and how it might impact their adjustment process. For the practitioners, there is need to investigate the role of the staff and institutes to clearly identify to the role of staff in how they could make international students transaction to the university smoother.
Type of thesis
Bahiss, Z. (2008). Lifting the Veil: Muslim women’s adjustment to a New Zealand university (Thesis, Master of Education (MEd)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/2493
The University of Waikato
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