Imagined social capital in the transition from school to university in Chile: narratives of first generation university students

Garcia & Wood / Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education / August 2022

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The purpose of this article is to analyse first-generation Chilean students' transition experiences from secondary school to university. This article presents the analysis results of 12 visual narratives of first-generation Chilean university students, who provided an account of their transition experience from secondary school to university. Participants explored the connections between their most valuable learning experiences during photo-elicitation interviews. The study used Quinn's notion of imagined social capital to understand the transition experience. The analysis reveals the significance of secondary school experiences in understanding students' attitudes toward the university. In an extremely segregated school system, participants' secondary school experiences demonstrated a strong bond with classmates from their social class and a feeling of distance from institutions and their hierarchical structure. In this context, the university space is symbolically recreated into a learning space consistent with their social background. The research study highlights the need to increase understandings of school experiences and how these shape university transitions in order to effectively support students during the first years of university. In addition, it draws attention to the need to develop strategies that recognize the complex, collective and contextualized understandings of students' transition. The research aimed to understand the experience of transition of first generation students from their own narratives and relational perspectives in contrast with the prevailing paradigms which are often individualized and linear.