“Don’t Change Yourselves"

International Students’ Concepts of Belonging at a Liberal Arts College

Keywords: higher education, international education, liberal arts, study abroad

Abstract

While international students face many similar challenges, regardless of their location of study, the unique aspects of learning institutions may lead to different outcomes. Cognizant of this situation, we conducted a study designed to analyze the experiences of 28 students attending an undergraduate liberal arts college. The comments expressed by our informants underscore the sense of agency students developed as they responded to challenging circumstances that did not always recognize their unique perspectives. The subcultures they formed with other international students helped them adjust to their new surroundings without feeling obligated to discard unique aspects of themselves. Although the lived experiences of the students we interviewed rarely matched the images they carried with them when they matriculated, their comments indicated that they ultimately achieved of their goals for studying abroad. These findings offer insights into the identities and experiences that are often overlooked in research on international education.

Downloads

Download data is not yet available.

Metrics

Metrics Loading ...

Author Biographies

Christopher Bjork, Vassar College, USA

CHRISTOPHER BJORK, PhD, is a professor in the Education Department at Vassar College. His research focuses on the translation and implementation of education reform, education reform in Asia, and high stakes testing

Anna Abrams, Vassar College, USA

ANNA ABRAMS is currently a Community Lead at WeWork in San Francisco. She graduated from Vassar College with a BA in International Studies and French and Francophone Studies. Her major research interests lie in international education and environmental justice.

Lilia S. Hutchinson, Vassar College, USA

LILIA S. HUTCHINSON is a business development associate at the New York City strategic communications firm Rubenstein. She graduated from Vassar College with a BA in Urban Studies, with concentrations in Education and Media Studies. Her major research interests include international education and urban education reform.

Nora I. Kyrkjebo, Columbia University, USA

NORA KYRKJEBO is an MA candidate at Columbia University. She previously received her BA in Science, Technology, and Society from Vassar College. Her major interests lie in climate policy, environmental justice, and international education.

References

Andrade, M. (2006). International student persistence: Integration or cultural integrity? Journal of College Student Retention, 8(1), 57–81.

Belford, N. (2017). International students from Melbourne describing their cross-cultural transitions experiences: Culture shock, social interaction, and friendship development. Journal of International Students, 7(3), 499–521.

Bittencourt, T., Johnston, C., Adjel, M., & Seithers, L. (2019). “We see the world different now”: Remapping assumptions about international student adaptation. Journal of Studies in International Education. doi:10.1177/1028315319861366

Brown, L. (2009). A failure of communication on the cross-cultural campus. Journal of Studies in International Education, 13(4), 439–454.

DeVita, G. (2007). Taking stock: An appraisal of the literature on internationalising higher education learning. In E. Jones & S. Brown (Eds.), Internationalizing higher education (p. 154–167). Routledge.

Fetterman, D. M. (1989). Ethnography step by step. Sage.

Fox, H. (1994). Listening to the world: Cultural issues in academic writing. National Council of Teachers of English.

Hersh, R. H. (2000). Generating ideals and transforming lives. In S. Koblik & S. Graubard (Eds.), Distinctively American: The residential liberal arts colleges (pp. 151–172). The American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Hill, C. (2012). Consensual qualitative research: A practical resource for investigating social science phenomena. APA Books.

Institute of International Education. (2019). Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange. http://www.iie.org/opendoors.

Jones, D. (2013). Cosmopolitans and ‘cliques’: Everyday socialisation amongst Tamil students and young professional migrants to the UK. Ethnicities, 13(4), 420–437.

Knight, J., & de Wit, H. (1995). Strategies for internationalisation of higher education: Historical and conceptual perspectives. In H. de Wit (Ed.), Strategies for the internationalisation of higher education (pp. 1-29). EAIE Secretariat.

Koblik, S., & Graubard, S. (Eds.). (2000). Distinctively American: The residential liberal arts colleges. The American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Leask, B. (2009). Using formal and informal curricula to improve interactions between home and international students. Journal of Studies in International Education, 13(2), 205–221.

Leask, B., & Carroll, J. (2011). Moving beyond ‘wishing and hoping’: Internationalization and student experiences of inclusion and engagement. Higher Education Research & Development, 30(5), 647–659.

Leder, G., & Forgasz, H. (2004). Australian and international mature students: The daily challenges. Higher Education Research and Development, 23(2), 183–198.

Lee, J. L., & Rice, C. (2007). Welcome to America? International student perceptions of discrimination. Higher Education, 53(3), 381–409.

Leong, P. (2015). Coming to America: Assessing the patterns of acculturation, friendship formation, and the academic experiences of international students at a U.S. college. Journal of International Students, 5(4), 459–474.

Montgomery, C., & McDowell, L. (2009). Social networks and the international students experience: a community of practice? Journal of Studies in International Education, 13(4), 455–466.

Organisation for Economic Development and Cooperation. (2014). Education at a Glance 2014. http://www.oecd.org/education/Education-at-a-Glance-2014.pdf

Page, A. G., & Chahboun, S. (2019). Emerging empowerment of international students: How international student literature has shifted to include the students’ voices. Higher Education, 78(3), 871–885.

Patton, M. Q. (1990). Qualitative evaluation and research methods (2nd ed.). Sage.

Rizvi, F. (2005). International education and the production of cosmopolitan identities. RIHE International Publication Series, 9, 77–92.

Thompson, B., Vivino, B., & Hill, C. (2012). Coding the data: Domains and core ideas. In C. Hill (Ed.), Consensual qualitative research: A practical resource for investigating social science phenomena (pp. 103–116). American Psychological Association.

Volet, S. E., & Ang, G. (1998). Culturally mixed groups on international campuses: An opportunity for inter-cultural learning. Higher Education Research & Development, 17(1), 5–23.

Ward, C., Bochner, S., & Furnham, A. (2001). The psychology of culture shock. Routledge.

Watkins, D. A., & Biggs, J. B. (Eds.). (1996). Hong Kong secondary school learners: A developmental perspective. Comparative Education Research Center and the Australian Council for Educational Research.

Weikala, T., & Watkins, C. (2008). Improving intercultural learning experiences in higher education: Responding to cultural scripts for learning. Institute of Education.

Wilkinson, D., & Birmingham, P. (2003). Using research instruments: A guide for researchers. Routledge-Falmer.

Zhou, U., Frey, C., & Bang, H. (2011) Understanding of international graduate students’ academic adaptation to a U.S. graduate school. International Education, 41(1), 76–94.

Published
2020-08-15
How to Cite
Bjork, C., Abrams, A., Hutchinson, L. S., & Kyrkjebo, N. I. (2020). “Don’t Change Yourselves". Journal of International Students, 10(3), 553-570. https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v10i3.969
Section
Research Articles