International Female Graduate Students' Experience at a Midwestern University: Sense of Belonging and Identity Development


  • Anh T. Le University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Barbara Y. LaCost University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Michael Wismer University of Nebraska-Lincoln



international students, sense of belonging, identity development, graduate students, female students


International female graduate students have to negotiate multiple aspects of their identities as non-native learners and women in a society with different gender norms than their home countries. However, their experiences have not been well researched within the scholarship on international students. In this study, using the phenomenological approach, we explored the phenomenon of being an international female graduate student in the U.S. The seven participants are diverse in terms of countries of origin, academic programs, and life situations. Using open-ended questions, we conducted indepth one-on-one interviews with the participants. The findings indicate that the participants perceived being international female graduate students at this university as a positive, life-changing, and transformative experience.

Author Biographies

Anh T. Le, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

ANH T. LE, PhD, is currently an academic advisor/success coach for international students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). Her research focuses on factors contributing to international students’ success and identity development in undergraduate and graduate education in the United States. 

Barbara Y. LaCost, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

BARBARA Y. LACOST, PhD, is an associate professor in Educational Administration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She has more than four decades of experience in the field of educational administration. She holds a doctorate from Louisiana State University. She has written several monographs and articles on educational administration, educational budgeting, and women in educational leadership. 

Michael Wismer, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

MICHAEL WISMER, MA, holds a master’s degree in Educational Administration from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is currently the Coordinator of Orientation Activities in the New Student Enrollment office at UNL. 




How to Cite

Le, A. T., LaCost, B. Y., & Wismer, M. (2016). International Female Graduate Students’ Experience at a Midwestern University: Sense of Belonging and Identity Development. Journal of International Students, 6(1), 128–152.



Research Articles (English)