Ready, Willing, and Able?

Exploring the Relationships and Experiences of International Students at a Federal University in the United Arab Emirates


  • Natalie Cruz Old Dominion University
  • Jobila Sy American University of Antigua, Antigua and Barbuda
  • Cassandra Shukla Zayed University, UAE
  • Alisha Tysor InSource Services Group, USA


The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a young and diverse country that has experienced increased international student enrollment in recent years. This empirical, descriptive study examined the experiences of international students at a federal higher education institution in the UAE through the lens of the intergroup contact theory. Research questions focused on interactions with national students, adjustment to college, and institutional support. Surveys of 126 students found that national and international students desired more connections and overall had positive perceptions of each other. Some of the main international student barriers to adjustment and engagement related to language or cultural differences, and they felt generally supported on campus by faculty and staff but desired more intentional structured outside-of-the-classroom programs. This chapter offers a unique contribution by exploring the experiences, assumptions, and constructions of international students who study in a federal institution in a highly diverse country context.


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Author Biographies

Jobila Sy, American University of Antigua, Antigua and Barbuda

JOBILA SY, EdD, is an Associate Professor in the Education Enhancement Department, American University of Antigua. Her major research interests lie in the area of international higher education, multicultural education, cultural competence, student development theory, and academic advising.

Cassandra Shukla, Zayed University, UAE

CASSANDRA SHUKLA, MEd, is an instructor and faculty advisor in University College, Zayed University. Her major research interests lie in the area of transitional counseling, first-year experience, and international higher education. 

Alisha Tysor, InSource Services Group, USA

ALISHA TYSOR, MEd, is a Student Success Coach with InSource Services Group, a managed services and consulting firm specializing in Higher Education institutions. Her research interests include building student self-efficacy and grit through positive psychology, and promoting digital and information literacy.