Original Research

Using narratives to understand the motivational factors and experience of being a self-initiated academic expatriate in South Africa

Tinashe T. Harry, Nicole M. Dodd, Willie T. Chinyamurindi
SA Journal of Human Resource Management | Vol 15 | a797 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhrm.v15i0.797 | © 2017 Tinashe T. Harry, Nicole M. Dodd, Willie T. Chinyamurindi | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 07 February 2016 | Published: 31 August 2017

About the author(s)

Tinashe T. Harry, Department of Industrial Psychology, University of Fort Hare, South Africa
Nicole M. Dodd, Department of Industrial Psychology (Military), Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Willie T. Chinyamurindi, Department of Industrial Psychology, University of Fort Hare, South Africa

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Orientation: A growing movement of foreign nationals is settling in South Africa. Given this, there is a need to understand not only those factors influencing foreign nationals to settle in South Africa but also their lived experiences as a basis for individual career development.

Research purpose: To investigate the expatriation motivational factors and experiences of selfinitiated academic expatriates in South Africa.

Motivation for the study: Calls have been made within the careers literature for more empirical focus on understanding career development using some of the neglected sample groups.

Research approach, design and method: The interpretive paradigm was adopted to understand the main purpose of the study. Guided by study objectives, unstructured interviews were conducted using a sample of foreign academics working in South Africa (n = 25).

Main findings: Individual stories and narratives highlighted that academics relocated for the following reasons: (1) individual preference, (2) economic meltdown and (3) political conditions. Furthermore, the lived experiences of the expatriates reflected discrimination within the workplace and the community of residences in South Africa.

Practical and managerial implications: Research findings indicate that the human resources (HR) function can come up with interventions that positively influence the lived experience and career development of foreign academics working in South Africa.

Contribution: The expatriate experience framed in this study provides a picture of the career development processes of neglected sample groups in the extant literature. Such an understanding is key in advancing literature and proposing interventions. All this is important given the global trend on labour and skills movement added to the role South Africa plays in the international arena.



self-initiated expatriates; academics; careers; narratives


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