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Voices of a New Generation: First-Year International Student Perspectives on Adjustment to College

Janet Ray, Johnson & Wales University


There has been substantial growth in the number of international students enrolling in higher education each year. This population contributes financially to institutions, bringing cultural awareness, diversity, and other benefits to campuses (Altbach, 1989; Institute of International Education, 2016; Lee, 2010). The US remains a top choice for many international students because of the reputable academic system. ^ Many researchers have investigated the experiences of international students as a homogenized group, from a specific region, or from specific countries (Altbach & Wang, 1989; Arenstein, 2015, Feng, 1991, Hayes & Lin 1994; Hurny, 2014, Lee, 2010; Yan & Berliner, 2011, 2013). Despite the increasing presence of this population, however, and the growing body of literature on international students, the research regarding the experiences of first-year international students’ adjustment to college is minimal. ^ Therefore, this qualitative phenomenological study explored the following research question: 1. How do first-year international students describe their lived experiences as they adjust to college? ^ A phenomenological study aims to illustrate or interpret the meaning, structure, and essence of the lived experiences of a person, or a specific group, around a specific phenomenon (Christensen, Johnson, & Turner, 2011) and should focus on the wholeness of experience and search for the essence of an experience (Moustakas, 1994). This phenomenological study was conducted by triangulating three data sources: N=9 first-year international student interviews, N=4 faculty dyadic interviews, and supplemental document analysis. Data were analyzed using Van Kaam’s seven-step modified method of analysis (Moustakas, 1994) Four prominent themes emerged from the student findings, corroborated with faculty findings and document review: 1) pull factors which influence study destination choices, 2) transitioning from home country to host country: acculturation and adjustment, 3) creating community connections with fellow students, and 4) academic expectations, challenges, and realities. This study may provide a foundation for understanding the adjustment of first-year international students as they acclimate to college life. College administrators may also use these findings to develop programs and services which would help international students transition to college. ^

Subject Area

International relations|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Ray, Janet, "Voices of a New Generation: First-Year International Student Perspectives on Adjustment to College" (2018). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI10824474.