International migration is a worldwide phenomenon, with an increased presence of international students (i.e., short-term migrants) residing in host countries for limited periods of time. Migrants may be exposed to hazards in their host country that they may not be aware of. Specific knowledge of short-term migrants’ vulnerability and capacities in the face of disasters is limited. The purpose of this research was to explore the vulnerability and capacities of international students in the event of a disaster.
A qualitative descriptive study informed by the interpretive paradigm was conducted. Semi-structured interviews with ten international students and four key informants representing the local government and tertiary institution were conducted in Auckland, New Zealand.
Four themes, with 15 sub-themes, were generated: (i) daily challenges; (ii) well-being; (iii) seeking information and support; and (iv) disaster (un)awareness. International students expressed diverse perceptions of disasters, ranging from tangible to hypothetical depending on their prior experience(s). Auckland and New Zealand were viewed as safe and organised places to live, which influenced international students’ trust in the ability of the local government and tertiary institution to provide them with adequate support in the event of a disaster. International students were interested in being included in disaster risk reduction efforts (e.g., co-creating workshops).
Government agencies and tertiary education institutions are encouraged to broaden their focus to include short-term migrants in disaster risk reduction efforts, while strengthening their awareness of and accessibility to information about local hazards, preparedness, and emergency and disaster policies and practices.