Acculturation stressors and facilitators for African international students at a Canadian university: Racialization, Pragmatic competence, and Intercultural Friendships

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Laseinde, Ajoke M.
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Mount Saint Vincent University
“When it comes to adjusting, I would take the race path, I guess. In Ghana, I was just female but when I came here (to Canada), I slowly realized that I'm not just a woman. I'm a Black woman. There's a difference with how you are related to, so I think that was one of the things that I had to slowly adjust to.” Ruth (from participant data) Above is an excerpt from the participant data to foreground the overarching effect of African International Students’ (henceforth AIS) racialized identities on their acculturation experiences. Learning to adapt to a different culture and develop meaningful relationships is challenging for anyone. More so for AIS in Canada who must navigate a new cultural and academic context characterized by limited research to better understand and improve their acculturation experiences and educational outcomes. It is like being visible yet unheard. By adopting a qualitative method of inquiry with a theoretical framework that includes Africentricity, language socialization, intercultural pragmatics, and critical race theory, this study examined acculturation stressors and facilitators for six AIS at a small urban-based Canadian university. Focus groups and semistructured individual interviews were conducted. Thematic analysis revealed challenges that AIS encountered with accessing pragmatic knowledge relevant to their academic acculturation and their experiences as they developed pragmatic competence. Findings also shed light on factors that facilitate and those that inhibit intercultural friendships between AIS and Canadians. Further, analysis revealed the intersection between AIS’ racialized identities and their acculturation experiences, providing evidence for the complexity of AIS’ acculturation experiences. These findings point to the pivotal role that universities must play in providing relevant instruction and supporting the AIS population.