The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Ontario International Graduate Students: An Auto-Ethnography


  • Rakha Zabin Brock University
  • Sandra Bosacki Brock University
  • John Novak Brock University



Emotional Intelligence, internationalization of higher education, international graduate students, institutional recommendations, auto-ethnography


Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is a multifaceted ability that helps us to sense, understand, value, and effectively apply the power of emotions as a source of information, trust, creativity, and influence (Goleman, 2006; Salovey, Caruso, & Cherkasskiy, 2011). The five components (self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, motivation, and social skill) embedded within EQ may work solely or collectively and may individuals cope with everyday life events. Such an emotional tool kit may help multicultural international students to help cope with several adverse situations. The focus of this study was to provide an auto-ethnographic account of a female university student’s experiences as she transitions to become a full-time international graduate student in an Ontario university. The author reflects on the hurdles and socio-emotional challenges experienced during the transition to becoming a graduate student in Ontario. Overall, based on the student’s experiences, findings suggest the need for Canadian universities to incorporate multiple components of EQ into their international university services, including mindfulness, self-regulation, and stress management.  


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Rakha Zabin, Brock University

Rakha Zabin is a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Education, Brock University, Canada. Her research interest lies in the internationalization of higher education, auto-ethnographic reflection, institutional policy, and educational administration and leadership. Her doctoral research focuses on the internationalization of higher education and exploring disorienting experiences of international students in Ontario universities.

Sandra Bosacki, Brock University

Dr. Sandra Bosacki is a Professor at the Faculty of Education at Brock University. Her research interests lie in the field of emotional and socio-cognitive development in children and adolescents, theory of mind, self-esteem and social competence, school bullying/victimization experience, spiritual and moral development.  

John Novak, Brock University

Dr. John Novak is an Emeritus Professor for the Department of Graduate and Undergraduate Studies in Education at Brock University. His research interest lies in areas of educational philosophy, invitational theory and practice, educational leadership, and the social-cultural context of education. 



Adams, K. (2019). Navigating the spaces of children’s spiritual experiences: influences of tradition(s), multidisciplinary and perceptions. International Journal of Children’s Spirituality, 24(1), 29–43.

Alqudayri, B., & Gounko, T. (2018). Studying in Canada: Experiences of female graduate students from Saudi Arabia. Journal of International Students, 8(4), 1736–1747.

American College Health Association. (2014). National College Health Assessment II: Spring 2014 Reference Group executive summary. Hanover, MD: Author.

Anderson, J. R., & Deslandes, C. (2019 Anderson, J. R., & Deslandes, C. (2019). Religion and prejudice toward immigrants and refugees: A meta-analytic review. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 29(2), 128–145.

Appel, J. E., Park, C. L., Wortmann, J. H., & Schie, H.T. (2019). Meaning violations, religious/spiritual struggles, and meaning in life in the face of stressful life events. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 29(2).

The Association of Universities and Colleges in Canada. (2011). Trends in higher education: Volume 1—Enrolment. Ottawa, ON: Author.

Bamber, M. D., & Morpeth, E. (2018). Effects of mindfulness meditation on college student anxiety: A meta-analysis. Mindfulness, 10(2), 203–214.

Bjork, L. (2019). 17 Simple Ways to Relieve Worry, Stress, and Anxiety.

Bosacki, S., Moriera, F., Sitnik, V., Andrews, K., & Talwar, V. (2019a). Theory of Mind, Emotion Knowledge, and School Engagement in Emerging Adolescents. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education. 11. 529-538.

Bosacki, S., Moriera, F., Sitnik, V., Andrews, K. & Talwar, V. (2019b). Theory of Mind, Self-Knowledge, and Perceptions of Loneliness in Emerging Adolescents. The Journal of Genetic Psychology. 181. 1-18.

Bosacki, S., & Tardif-Williams, C. (2019). Children’s Mental State Talk, Empathy, and Attachments to Companion Animals, Psychology of Language and Communication, 23(1), 284-301.

Brackett, M. A., Rivers, S. E., & Salovey, P. (2011). Emotional intelligence: Implications for personal, social, academic, and workplace success. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 5(1), 88–103.

Canada’s International Education Strategy (2020). Building on Success: International Education Strategy (2019-2024).

Calder, M. J., Richter, M. S., Mao, Y., Kovacs Burns, K., Mogale, R. S., & Danko, M. (2016). International students attending Canadian universities: Their experiences with housing, finances, and other issues. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 46(2), 92–110.

Cetin, M. (2019). Effects of religious participation on social inclusion and existential well-being levels of Muslim refugees and immigrants in Turkey. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 29(2), 64–76.

Chen, J., & Zhou, G. (2019). Chinese international students’ sense of belonging in North American postsecondary institutions: A critical literature review. Brock Education: A Journal of Educational Research and Practice, 28(2), 48–63.

Cherniss, C., Extein, M., Goleman, D., & Weissberg, R. P. (2006). Emotional intelligence: What does the research really indicate? Educational Psychologist, 41(4), 239–245.

Clayton, M. (2012, January 24). There is more to emotional intelligence than Daniel Goleman [Web log post]. Management Pocketbooks.

Collier, S. (2021, March 29). 8 Of The Best Places To Study Abroad In Asia. QS Top Universities.

Cooper, C., & Yarbrough, S. (2016). Asian-Indian female international students: A photovoice study of health and adaptation to the immigration experience. The Qualitative Report, 21(6), Art. 3, 1035–1051.

Duggal, A. (2017). Review of the book The newcomer student: an educator’s guide to aid transitions, by L. H. Kreuzer (Ed.). International Review of Education, 63(5), 773–774.

Ellis, C. (2004). The ethnographic I: A methodological novel about autoethnography. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.

El Masri, A., Choubak, M., & Litchmore, R. (2015). The Global Competition for International Students as Future Immigrants: The role of Ontario universities in translating government policy into institutional practice. Toronto: Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario.

Fabio, A. D., & Kenny, M. E. (2019). Resources for enhancing employee and organizational well-being beyond personality traits: The promise of emotional intelligence and positive relational management. Personality and Individual Differences.1-11.

Feuerborn, L. L., & Gueldner, B. (2019). Mindfulness and socio-emotional competencies: Proposing connections through a review of the research. Mindfulness, 1-14.

Firang, D. (2020). The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on international students in Canada. International Social Work, 63, (6).

Firang, D., & Mensah, J. (2021). Exploring the Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on International Students and Universities in Canada. Journal of International Students, 12(1).

Fredrickson, B. L., Cohn, M. A., Coffey, K. A., Pek, J., & Finkel, S. M. (2008). Open hearts build lives: Positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 1045–1062.

Ge, Y., & Ho, K.C. (2014). Researching international student migration in Asia: research design and project management issues. Journal of Population Research 31, 197–217.

Gelkopf, M., Gonen, B., Kurs, R., Melamed, Y., & Bleich, A. (2006). The Effect of Humorous Movies on In patients With Chronic Schizophrenia. The Journal of nervous and mental disease, 194 (11). 880-883.

Goleman, D. (2006). Emotional intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ (10th ed.). New York, NY: Bantam.

Goleman, D. (2011). HBR’s 10 must reads on leadership. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R., & McKee, A. (2002, February 20). The emotional reality of teams. Journal of Organizational Excellence, 21(2), 55–65. DOI:10.1002/npr.10020

González-Castro, J. L., Ubillos Landa, S., Puente Martínez, A., & Vera Perea, M. (2020). The Role of Emotional Intelligence and Sociocultural Adjustment on Migrants' Self-reported Mental Well-Being in Spain: A 14 Month Follow-Up Study. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(4), 1206.

Hsiu-Fen, L. (2018). The “invisible” group: Acculturation of international women partners on United States campuses, Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 55(3), 334–346.

Hwang, Y.-S., Medvedev, O. N., Krägeloh, C., Hand, K., Noh, J.-E., & Singh, N. N. (2019). The role of dispositional mindfulness and self-compassion in educator stress. Mindfulness, 10(8), 1692–1702.

Jin, L. & Acharya, L. (2020). Dilemmas and coping strategies of talking about Chinese international students’ mental health problems: from the parents’ perspectives. Journal of International Students, 11(1).

Jones, C. (2020). California schools turn to mindfulness to help students cope with stress. EdSource, Highlighting Strategies for Student Success.

Keung, N., & Teotonio, I. (2020, April 8). “Billions of dollars are at risk.” Colleges and universities scramble to protect international student sector amid COVID-19 pandemic. The Star.

Kong, F., Gong, X., Sajjad, S., Yang, K., & Zhao, J. (2019). How is emotional intelligence linked to life satisfaction? The mediating role of social support, positive affect and negative affect. Journal of Happiness Studies.

Kulkarni, A. (2021, June 26). Asia continues to rise, but rankings highlight challenges. University World News.

Laslett, B. (1999). Personal Narratives as Sociology. Contemporary Sociology, 28(4), 391-401. doi:10.2307/2655287

Lei, D., Woodend, J. D., Nutter, S. K., Ryan, A. R., & Cairns, S. L. (2015). The forgotten half: Understanding the unique needs of international student partners. Journal of International Students, 5(4), 447–458.

Liu, J., Chen, X., Zhou, Y., Li, D., Fu, R., & Coplan, R. J. (2017). Relations of shyness–sensitivity and unsociability with adjustment in middle childhood and early adolescence in suburban Chinese children. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 41(6), 681–687.

Lombas, A. S., Jimenez, T. I., Arguis-Rey, R., Hernandez-Paniello, S., Valdivia-Salas, S., & Martin-Albo, J. (2019). Impact of the Happy Classrooms Programme on psychological well-being, school aggression and classroom climate. Mindfulness, 10(8), 1642–1660.

Lu, Y., Chui, H., Zhu, R., Zhao, H., Zhang, Y., Liao, J., & Miller, M. J. (2018). What does “good adjustment” mean for Chinese international students? A qualitative investigation. The Counseling Psychologist, 46(8), 979–1009.

Mairean, C., Turliuc, M. N., & Arghire, D. (2019). The relationship between trait gratitude and psychological wellbeing in university students: The mediating role of affective state and the moderating role of state gratitude. Journal of Happiness Studies, 20(5), 1357–1377.

Mayer, J. D., Salovey, P., & Caruso, D. R. (2000). Selecting a measure of emotional intelligence: The case of ability scales. In R. Bar-On & J. D. Parker (Eds.), The handbook of emotional intelligence (pp. 320–342). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Mayer, J. D., Salovey, P., Caruso, D. R., & Cherkasskiy, L. (2011). Emotional intelligence. In R. J. Sternberg & S. B. Kaufman (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of intelligence (pp. 528–549). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

McClintock, A. S., Rodriguez, M. A., & Zerubavel, N. (2019). The effects of mindfulness retreats on the psychological health of non-clinical adults: A meta-analysis. Mindfulness, 10(8), 1443–1454.

Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development. (2018). Educating global citizens: Realizing the benefits of international postsecondary education. Toronto, ON: Queenʼs Printer for Ontario.

Moore, K. (2018). Improving Higher Education Productivity and Its Measurement: Linking Productivity and Student Success in Australia. International Journal of Chinese Education, 7(1), 107-128.

Neff, K. (2020). Guided Self-Compassion Meditations. Self-Compassion.

Neff, K. D. (2020). Commentary on Muris and Otgaar (2020): Let the empirical evidence speak on the Self-Compassion Scale. Mindfulness. Advance online publication.

Neff, K. D., Bluth, K., Tóth-Király, I., Davidson, O., Knox, M. C., Williamson, Z. & Costigan, A. (2020). Development and validation of the Self-Compassion Scale for Youth. Journal of Personality Assessment. Advance online publication.

Netierman, E., Harrison, L., Freeman, A., Shoyele, G., Esses, V., Covell, C. (2021). Should I Stay or Should I Go? International Students’ Decision-Making About Staying in Canada. Journal of International Migration and Integration.

Novak, J., Armstrong, D. and Browne, B. (2014). Leading for educational lives: Inviting and sustaining imaginative acts of hope in a connected world. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Odou, N., & Brinker, J. (2015). Self-compassion, a better alternative to rumination than distraction as a response to negative mood. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 10, 447-457.

Patil, N. (2020). Benefits of Meditation for Students. Knowledge Review.

Pang, D., & Ruch, W. (2019). The mutual support model of mindfulness and character strengths. Mindfulness, 10(8), 1545–1559.

Pool, L. D., & Qualter, P. (Eds.). (2018). An introduction to emotional intelligence. West Sussex, UK: Wiley.

Qualter, P., Urquijo, I., Henzi, P., Barrett, L., & Humphrey, N. (2018). Ability emotional intelligence and children’s behavior in the playground. Social Development, 28(2), 430–448.

Redden, E. (2019, May 31). International Student Well-Being. Inside HigherEd.

Ross, S. (2020, May 11). McGill and Concordia universities plan to move most classes online for fall term. CTV News.

Rubin, K. H., Coplan, R. J., Bowker, J. C., & Menzer, M. (2014). Social withdrawal and shyness. In P. K. Smith & C. H. Hart (Eds.), Wiley Blackwell handbooks of developmental psychology. The Wiley Blackwell handbook of childhood social development (p. 434–452). Wiley Blackwell.

Sidhu, R. & Ishikawa, M. (2020) Destined for Asia: hospitality and emotions in international student mobilities. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education. 1-19.

Smith, C., Whiteside, B., Blanchard, S., & Martin, C. (2013). International student services at Ontario universities. Strategic Enrollment Management Quarterly, 1(1), 55–66.

Sparkes, A. C. (2000). Autoethnography and narratives of self: Reflections on criteria in action. Sociology of Sport Journal, 17(1), 21–43.

Spencer-Oatey, H., & Dauber, D. (2019). Internationalisation and student diversity: how far are the opportunity benefits being perceived and exploited?. High Educ,78, 1035–1058.

Stavicka, A. & Odiņa, I. (2021). Subjective Well-Being of International Students in the Specific Context of Pandemic (COVID 19). Psychology and Education Journal, 58(3).

Tatter, G. (2019). How Making Time for Mindfulness Helps Students. Mind Shift.

Tehran Times. (2021, July 11). Attracting foreign students more than projected: official.

Thomson, C., & Esses, V. M. (2016). Helping the transition: Mentorship to support international students in Canada. Journal of International Students, 6(4), 873–886.

Tight, M. (2021) Globalization and internationalization as frameworks for higher education research. Research Papers in Education, 36(1), 52-74.

Tamtik, M., Trilokekar, R. D., & Jones, G. A. (Eds.). (2020). International Education as Public Policy in Canada. McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Tracy, B. (2017, October 30). Why emotional intelligence is indispensible for leaders [Web log post]. Forbes.

Trilokekar, R. & El Masri, A. (2016). Canada's International Education Strategy: Implications of a New Policy Landscape for Synergy Between Government Policy and Institutional Strategy. Higher Education Policy. 29.

Vracheva, V. P., Moussetis, R., & Rahma, A. A. (2019). The mediational role of engagement in the relationship between curiosity and student development: A preliminary study. Journal of Happiness Studies.

Wall, S.S. (2010). Toward a Moderate Autoethnography. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 15(1).

Weerakkody, U. & Jerez, E. (2018). International Student Success: A Multilevel Perspective on Factors That Contribute to the Success and Quality of the Experience Abroad. International Journal of Chinese Education, 7(1), 22-41.

Wong, J. Hian, B.T.C., Haldmann, A. & Agrawal, A. (2020, May 11). Interviews with international students in Canada about the Covid-19 situation. The World University Rankings.

Xiao, B., Bullock, A., Liu, J., & Coplan, R. (2020). Unsociability, Peer Rejection, and Loneliness in Chinese Early Adolescents: Testing a Cross-Lagged Model. The Journal of Early Adolescence.

Xu, X. (2021, June 1). What does the rise of Asia mean for global higher education?. The Campus.

Yang, L.,Yang, J. & Wang, C. (2021) The research-intensive university in a glonacal higher education system: the creation of the world-class university in China. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management. 1-20.

Yi, S. (2018). Why am I here? A self-study of an international art education student lost in transition. International Journal of Education through Art, 14(2), 197–210.

Yim J. (2016). Therapeutic Benefits of Laughter in Mental Health: A Theoretical Review. The Tohoku journal of experimental medicine, 239(3), 243–249.

Zhang, H., Chen, K., Chen, C., & Schlegel, R. (2019). Personal aspirations, person-environment fit, meaning in work, and meaning in life: A moderated mediation model. Journal of Happiness Studies, 20(5), 1481–1497.

Zhang, Y. (2021). Internationalization Higher Education for What? An Analysis of National Strategies of Higher Education Internationalization in East Asia. Journal of Comparative and International Higher Education, 12(6S1).

Additional Files



How to Cite

Zabin, R., Bosacki, S., & Novak, J. . (2022). The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Ontario International Graduate Students: An Auto-Ethnography. Journal of Comparative & International Higher Education, 14(4), 37–52.



Empirical Article