A Leap of Academic Faith and Resilience
Nontraditional International Students Pursuing Higher Education in the United States of America
Keywords:international students, non-traditional students, adult learners, higher education
International students pursuing higher education in the United States are faced with a multiplicity of challenges such as navigating an unfamiliar educational system, relocating to an unfamiliar country, overcoming negative stereotypes associated with being an educational student, and, in some instances, having to learn a foreign language. Despite such challenges, international students remain motivated to pursue higher education in the United States. This qualitative study, utilizing Schlossberg’s adult transition model as a theoretical framework, explored the lived experiences of 16 international students pursuing higher education in the United States. Emphasis was placed on their transitional experiences in relation to their learning. The major theme that emerged was “major adjustment.” Subthemes that emerged regarding these students’ adjustment included (a) diversity and cultural differences in the learning environment, (b) comparative differences in the learning environment, (c) language barriers, and (d) combatting stereotypes. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.
Anderson, M. L., Goodman, J., & Schlossberg, N. K. (2011). Counseling adults in transition: Linking Schlossberg’s theory with practice in a diverse world. Springer Publishing Company.
Baba, Y., & Hosoda, M. (2014). Home away from home: Better understanding of the role of social support in predicting cross-cultural adjustment among international students. College Student Journal, 48(1), 1-15.
Bista, K., & Dagley, A. (2015). Higher education preparation and decision-making trends among international students. College and University, 90(3), 2-11.
Campbell, T (2015). A phenomenological study on international doctoral students’ acculturation experiences at a U.S. university. Journal of International Students, 5(3), 2166-3750. DOI: https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v5i3.422
Center for Internationalization and Global Engagement (CIGE). (2012). Mapping internationalization on U.S. campuses: 2012 edition. American Council on Education.
Chiswick, B., & Miller, P. (2010). Educational mismatch: Are high-skilled immigrants really working in high-skilled jobs, and what price do they pay if they are not? In B. Chiswick (ed.), High-skilled immigration in a global labor market (pp. 111-154). American Enterprise Institute. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1434614
Chu, H. C., Hsieh, M. C., & Chang, S. C. (2007, February). A study of career development, learning motivation, and learning satisfaction of adult learners in unconventional scheduling graduate programs. Paper presented at the Academy of Human Resource Development International Research Conference in the Americas, Indianapolis, IN.
Constantine, M. G., Anderson, G. M., Berkel, L. A., Caldwell, L. D., & Utsey, S. O. (2005). Examining the cultural adjustment experiences of African international college students: A qualitative analysis. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 52(1), 57-66. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-0220.127.116.11
Eccles, J. S., & Wigfield, A. (2002). Motivational beliefs, values, and goals. Annual Review of Psychology, 53, 109–132. https://www.doi.org/10.1146/annurev.psych.53.100901.135153 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.psych.53.100901.135153
Jackson, M., Ray, S., & Bybell, D. (2013). International students in the U.S.: Social and psychological adjustment. Journal of International Students, 3(1), 17-28. DOI: https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v3i1.515
Gardner, S. K. (2009). The development of doctoral students: Phases of challenge and support. ASHE Higher Education Report. Jossey-Bass.
Gebhard, J. G. (2012). International students’ adjustment problems and behaviors. Journal of International Students, 2(2), 184-193. DOI: https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v2i2.529
Golde, C. M. (2000). Should I stay, or should I go? Student descriptions of the doctoral attrition process. Review of Higher Education, 23, 199–227. https://www.doi.org/10.1353/rhe.2000.0004 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1353/rhe.2000.0004
Golde, C. M. (2005). The role of the department and discipline in doctoral student attrition: Lessons from four departments. Journal of Higher Education, 76, 670–700. https://www.doi.org/10.1080/00221546.2005.11772304 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1353/jhe.2005.0039
Gonzalez, J. C. (2006). Academic socialization experiences of Latina doctoral students: A qualitative understanding of support systems that aid and challenges that hinder the process. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, 5, 347–365. https://www.doi.org/10.1177/1538192706291141 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1538192706291141
Goodman, J., Schlossberg, N. K., & Anderson, M. L. (2006). Counseling adults in transition: Linking practice with theory. Springer Publishing Company.
Graham, S., & Donaldson, J.F. (1999). Adult students’ academic and intellectual development in college. Adult Education Quarterly, 49(3), 147-162. https://www.doi.org/10.1177/074171369904900302 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/074171369904900302
Halx, M. D. (2010). Re-conceptualizing college and university teaching through the lens of adult education: Regarding undergraduates as adults. Teaching in Higher Education, 15(5), 519-530. https://www.doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2010.491909 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2010.491909
Hechanova-Alampay, R., Beehr, T. A., Christiansen, N. D., & Van Horn, R. K. (2002). Adjustment and strain among domestic and international student sojourners: A longitudinal study. School Psychology International, 23(4), 458–474. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0143034302234007
Hunter-Johnson, Y. (2017). Demystifying educational resilience: Barriers of Bahamian nontraditional adult learners in higher education, The Journal of Continuing Higher Education, 65(3), 175-186. https://www.doi.org/10.1080/07377363.2017.1275230 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/07377363.2017.1275230
Hunter-Johnson, Y. (2016). Against all odds: Socio-cultural influence on non-traditional international learners pursuing higher education in the United States. Proceedings of Commission for International Adult Education Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
International Institute of Education (2017a). International students. Open Doors Data. http://www.iie.org/
Jinkens, R. C. (2009). Nontraditional students: Who are they? College Student Journal, 43(4), 979- 987. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ872313
Kahanec, M., & Králiková, R. (2011). Pulls of international student mobility. (IZA Discussion Paper No. 6233). DOI: https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1977819
Khadria, B. (2011). India amidst a global competition for its talent: A critical perspective on policy for higher and university education. In S. Marginson, S. Kaur, & E. Sawir. (eds.), Higher education in the Asia-Pacific: Strategic Responses to Globalization. Springer Science & Business Media. https://www.doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-1500-4_21 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-1500-4_21
Kim, D., Bankart, C. A. S., & Isdell, L. (2011). International doctorates: Trends analysis on their decision to stay in US. Higher Education, 62, 141–161. https://www.doi.org/10.1007/s10734-010-9371-1 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-010-9371-1
Kim, E. (2012). An alternative theoretical model: Examining psychological identity development of international students in the United States. College Student Journal, 46(1), 99-113.
Kuo, Y. H. (2011). Language challenges faced by international graduate students in the United States. Journal of International Students, 1(2), 38-42. DOI: https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v1i2.551
Lacina, J. G. (2002). Preparing international students for a successful social experience in higher education. New Directions for Higher Education, 117, 21-27. https://www.doi.org/10.1002/he.43 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/he.43
Habib, L., Johannesen, M., & Øgrim, L. (2014). Experiences and challenges of international students in technology-rich learning environments. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 17(2), 196-206. http://www.jstor.org/stable/jeductechsoci.17.2.196
Li, M., & Bray, M. (2007). Cross-border flows of students for higher education: Push–pull factors and motivations of mainland Chinese students in Hong Kong and Macau. Higher Education, 53, 791–818. https://www.doi.org/10.1007/s10734-005-5423-3 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-005-5423-3
Lovitts, B. E. (2008). The transition to independent research: Who makes it, who doesn’t, and why. Journal of Higher Education, 79, 296–325. https://www.doi.org/10.1080/00221546.2008.11772100 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00221546.2008.11772100
Mesidor, J. K., & Sly, K. F. (2014). Mental health help-seeking intentions among international and African American college students: An application of the theory of planned behavior. Journal of International Students, 4(2), 137-149. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1054822.pdf DOI: https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v4i2.474
Metzner, B., & Bean, J. (1987). The estimation of a conceptual model of nontraditional undergraduate student attrition. Research in Higher Education, 27(1), 15-38. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00992303
Mwaura, J N. (2008). Non-traditional age black African international students’ experiences: Phenomenological heuristic inquiry, Adult Education Research Conference. http://newprairiepress.org/aerc/2008/papers/44
Nilsson, J. E., Berkel, L. A., Flores, L. Y., & Lucas, M. S. (2004). Utilization rate and presenting concerns of international students at a university counseling center: Implications for outreach programming. Journal of College Student Psychotherapy, 19, 49-59. https://www.doi.org/10.1300/J035v19n02_05 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1300/J035v19n02_05
Rajapaksa, S., & Dundes, L. (2002). It’s a long way home: International student adjustment to living in the United States. College Student Journal, 35(1), 52–62. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2190/5HCY-U2Q9-KVGL-8M3K
Rendon, L. I., Jalomo, R. E., & Nora, A. (2000). Theoretical considerations in the study of minority student retention in higher education. In J. M. Braxton (Ed.), Reworking the student departure puzzle (pp. 127-156). Vanderbilt University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctv176kvf4.10
Sato, T., & Hodge, S. R. (2009). Asian international doctoral students’ experiences at two American universities: Assimilation, accommodation, and resistance. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 2(3), 136-148. https://www.doi.org/10.1037/a0015912 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/a0015912
Schlossberg, N. K. (1981). A model for analyzing human adaptation to transition. The Counseling Psychologist, 9(2), 2–18. https://www.doi.org/10.1177/001100008100900202 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/001100008100900202
Schlossberg, N. K. (1984). Counseling adults in transition: Linking practice with theory (1st ed.). Springer Publishing Company.
Schlossberg, N. K., Waters, E. B., & Goodman, J. (1995). Counseling adults in transition: Linking practice with theory (2nd ed.). Springer Publishing Company.
Sherry, M., Thomas, P., & Wing-Hong, C. (2010). International students: A vulnerable student population. Higher Education, 60(1), 33-46. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-009-9284-z
Sue, E., & Rawlings, M. (2013). Preparedness of Chinese students for American culture and communicating in English. Journal of International Students, 3(1), 330-341. DOI: https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v3i1.516
Sullivan, C., & Kashubeck-West, S. (2015). The interplay of international students’ acculturative stress, social support, and acculturation modes. Journal of International Students, 5(1), 1-11. DOI: https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v5i1.438
Summers, M., & Volet, S. (2008). Students’ attitudes towards culturally mixed groups on international campuses: Impact of participation in diverse and non-diverse groups. Studies in Higher Education, 33(4), 357-370. https://www.doi.org/10.1080/03075070802211430 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/03075070802211430
Telbis, N. M., Helgeson, L., & Kingsbury, C., (2013). International students' confidence and academic success. Journal of International Students, 1(2), 43- 49.
Trifonovitch, G. J. (1977). Culture learning/culture teaching. Educational Perspectives, 16(4), 18-22.
U. S. Department of Education (2002). Nontraditional undergraduates. National Center for Education Statistics. https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2002/2002012.pdf
U. S. Department of Education (2005). Digest of education statistics. National Center for Educational Statistics. U. S. Department of Education.
Valdez, G. (2015). US higher education classroom experiences of undergraduate Chinese international students. Journal of International Students, 5(2), 188-200. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1060060.pdf DOI: https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v5i2.434
Verbik, L., & Lasanowski, V. (2007). International student mobility: Patterns and trends. World Education News and Reviews, 20(10), 1-16.
Wigfield, A., & Eccles, J. S. (2000). Expectancy-value theory of motivation. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25, 68–81. https://www.doi.org/10.1006/ceps.1999.1015 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1006/ceps.1999.1015
Yakushko, O., Davidson, M., & Sanford-Martens, T. C. (2008). Seeking help in a foreign land: International students' use patterns for a U.S. university counseling center. Journal of College Counseling, 11(1), 6-18. https://www.doi.org/10.1002/j.2161-1882.2008.tb00020.x DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2161-1882.2008.tb00020.x
Yi, J. K., Lin, J. C. G., & Kishimoto, Y. (2003). Utilization of counseling services by international students. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 30(4), 333-342.
Young, A. (2011). First time international college students’ level of anxiety in relationship to awareness of their learning-style preferences. Journal of International Students, 1(2), 43-49. DOI: https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v1i2.552
Zhao, C. M., Kuh, G. D., & Carini, R. M. (2005). A comparison of international students and American student engagement in effective educational practices. Journal of Higher Education, 76(2), 209–231. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1353/jhe.2005.0018
Zhou, J. (2015). International students’ motivation to pursue and complete a Ph.D. in the US. Higher Education, 69(5), 719-733. https://www.doi.org/10.1007/s10734-014-9802-5 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-014-9802-5
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2022 Journal of International Students
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
All published articles are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 Unported License.