“It’s not a level playing field”: Exploring International Students of Color’s Challenges and the Impact of Racialized Experiences on the Utilization of Campus Resources during COVID-19


  • Neshay Mall Northern Arizona University
  • Dr. Cindy Payne Northern Arizona University


campus resources/services, COVID-19, international students of color, psychosocial well-being, racism


This phenomenological study examined the racialized experiences on the utilization of campus resources among international students of color (ISOC) during the COVID-19 pandemic at a predominantly white institution (PWI). Often viewed as having “double-invisibility” - both racially minoritized and foreign status - international students of color face unique challenges. The objective focused on the role neo-racism played in the experiences of using campus resources and understanding their unique needs during a pandemic. Personal narratives from 20 international students of color revealed five significant themes where ISOC (1) feel university resources lack a basic understanding of their needs, (2) seek international staff and/or staff of color, (3) view faculty and/or classrooms as their primary supportive resources and, (4) deem past encounters create psychological barriers to utilizing resources, based on (5) a common perception of disadvantaged positionality due to their intersecting identities. Implications and recommendations for higher education professionals are discussed.


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Author Biographies

Neshay Mall, Northern Arizona University

Neshay Seneva Mall, M.Ed. is a Ph.D. student in the Combined Counseling Psychology program and an instructor in First-Year Experience at Northern Arizona University in the United States. Born and raised in Kuwait and of Indian descent, she has worked with international students for over five years in areas of programming, academic advising, and exchange student advising in higher education in the U.S. Her background includes higher education experience, college success, collaboration with partners on and off campus, research on racist experiences of international students of color and advocacy for cultural experiences and diversity issues. Her research interests lie in international education, substance use and addiction research, motivational interviewing, counseling for international and immigrant college student populations, and behavioral health disparities among racial/ethnic minorities. Email: Neshay.Mall@nau.edu

Dr. Cindy Payne, Northern Arizona University

Cindy Payne, Ph.D. is an Adjunct Professor in Educational Psychology and retired Associate Dean of Students and Coordinator of the Counseling-Student Affairs M.Ed. program at Northern Arizona University in the United States. She serves as director of the nonprofit, Cancer Support Community Arizona in Flagstaff, Arizona. Her research focuses on human resilience after trauma, healthy lifestyle design, and the psychosocial impact of cancer on patients, families, and caregivers. Email Cindy.Payne@nau.edu 


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How to Cite

Mall, N., & Payne, C. (2023). “It’s not a level playing field”: Exploring International Students of Color’s Challenges and the Impact of Racialized Experiences on the Utilization of Campus Resources during COVID-19. Journal of Comparative & International Higher Education, 15(1). Retrieved from https://ojed.org/index.php/jcihe/article/view/4461



Empirical Article