Fish out of water? A collective case study on identity negotiation of rural students in higher education

Zhang, Xiaoxiao (2020) Fish out of water? A collective case study on identity negotiation of rural students in higher education. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Students from rural background are more likely to become the first generation in their families to attend higher education. Growing up in an environment where the geographical and cultural features are hugely contrasted with that of urban areas, rural students will come across more challenges and difficulties when they arrive in university, where they would meet students and faculty with different social class backgrounds and experience a diversity of cultures. The upward social mobility university brings will push for a transformation of identity, which can be a challenge to the rural students as they often lack the economic and cultural assets that are usually possessed by those students coming from well-off families. This research adopted the qualitative research method and chose a collective case study research design to investigate the identity negotiation issues of rural students in higher education. Through interviewing ten participants who are currently studying at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, this research reveals some insights into the lives of rural students in a new social context, one that is largely different from where they came from. Drawn on Bourdieu’s sociological perspective, this research has found that since they were back in the rural community, these participants have started to “think outside the box” and have developed a reflexive habitus, which helps the participants to plan for higher education since they were young and decide to follow a different life path as most rural people. After they have entered university, they kept on modifying themselves to adjust to the lives in a different social context and conquer various academic and non-academic challenges brought by symbolic violence and social reproduction. In the end, they are able to develop a dual identity, which is consisted of their old rural identity and the new identity they have acquired in the university. This dual identity not only helps them to fit in the field of the university but to balance their lives between the rural context and the urban context.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 14519
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 148-167).
Keywords: Pierre Bourdieu, Rural students, Identity negotiation, Higher education, habitus
Department(s): Education, Faculty of
Date: September 2020
Date Type: Submission
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Rural college students--Newfoundland and Labrador--Interviews; Education, Higher--Newfoundland and Labrador--Sociological aspects.

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