“Doing College” Amidst COVID-19

A Comparative Study Exploring Differences in the Psychological Experiences of International and Domestic Students in the U.S.


  • Narmada Paul University of Kentucky
  • Jaeyun Han University of Kentucky
  • Ellen L. Usher Mayo Clinic




international students, adaptability, mindset, engagement, COVID-19, mental health


Mindset beliefs (beliefs about malleability of human attributes) likely influenced the psychological adjustment of undergraduate students during the pandemic. This study investigated the role of mindset beliefs about adaptability (the ability to adapt to change) in shaping the mental health and behavioral engagement of international and domestic students in the U.S. The psychological experiences of 98 international students and 98 domestic counterparts enrolled at a public U.S. institution during Fall 2020 were compared. Tests of mean differences showed that, relative to domestic students, international students reported a stronger belief that people could become more adaptable to changing circumstances. International students also reported better mental health. The two groups did not differ in their academic behavioral engagement. Path analysis showed that mental health mediated the relationship between international student status and behavioral engagement, whereas mindset beliefs about adaptability did not. The findings highlight the psychological strengths of international students.

Author Biographies

Narmada Paul, University of Kentucky

NARMADA PAUL, PhD, is a Clinical Assistant Professor in Educational Psychology in the Department of Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology at the University of Kentucky in the United States of America. Her major research interests lie in the areas of motivation, collaborative learning, and multiculturalism. Email: narmada.paul@uky.edu

Jaeyun Han, University of Kentucky

JAEYUN HAN, PhD, is a recent graduate from the Department of Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology at the University of Kentucky in the United States of America. Her major research interests lie in the areas of academic motivation, achievement, and higher education research. Email: jaeyun.han@uky.edu

Ellen L. Usher, Mayo Clinic

ELLEN L. USHER, PhD, is a Career Education Scientist in the Office of Applied Research and Education Science at the Mayo Clinic in the United States of America. Her research interests focus on understanding the role of self-beliefs and motivation in academic and clinical settings. Email: Usher.Ellen@mayo.edu


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How to Cite

Paul, N., Han, J., & Usher, E. L. (2023). “Doing College” Amidst COVID-19: A Comparative Study Exploring Differences in the Psychological Experiences of International and Domestic Students in the U.S. Journal of International Students, 13(4), 240–260. https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v13i4.4923



Research Articles (English)