The purpose of the study was to develop a deep description of the experiences of first-generation Punjabi students who have no familial history of Canadian postsecondary education, in order to understand their challenges, their support systems, their community and their overall experiences with postsecondary education. Bourdieu’s (1977a, 1986) social reproduction theory was used as the conceptual framework using descriptive case study methodology to answer the research question: What are the experiences of first-generation Punjabi students at Simon Fraser University? The interview conversations explored the navigation of multiple worlds, notably the family environment, the university environment, and the Punjabi community. The conversations described the navigation of experiences that inform students' experiences as first-generation Punjabi university students. Core experiences with navigation of race and ethnicity, gender, role as a university student, role within the Punjabi community, and role within family represent multiple and intersecting dimensions significant to students' experiences as first-generation Punjabi university students. The findings show first-generation Punjabi university students negotiated Punjabi values and expectations, Canadian values and expectations, university and family responsibilities, pioneering postsecondary education, responsibility to give back to family and the Punjabi community, and pressure to uphold family honour. Living at the connection of numerous worlds, including experiences as the first family member to attend university and engaging both in Punjabi culture and in Canadian culture. Participants associated five strengths with being first-generation Punjabi university students: family, Punjabi culture, immigration, support network—before university and during university, and a strong sense of seva (i.e., selfless service). This study has implications for theory, research, and practice in Canadian postsecondary education. This research supports the need for university services tailored to students who are the first in their family to attend university.
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Thesis advisor: Pidgeon, Michelle
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