Phenomenological Study of Lived Experiences of International Students in Turkey




internationalization, international students, phenomenological study, study abroad, higher education


Internationalization trends in higher education have become a significantly accentuated issue and student mobility is considered as one of the core components of internationalization in higher education. This study focuses on investigating the lived experiences of international students at a state university in Turkey using qualitative research method and phenomenological design. The research data were collected through semi-structured interviews in order to reveal the participants’ experiences and their overall insight into studying abroad. 10 international students from various countries in accordance with the maximum variation sampling technique participated in the current study. The findings provide a rich description of the lived experiences of international students regarding their perceptions of studying abroad. Results of the data analysis yielded two major themes entitled “Perceptions of being an international student: What does it mean? What have they experienced?” and “The assistance and challenges they have been through during their study”.

Author Biographies

Ali Çağatay Kılınç, Karabuk University, Turkey

ALI ÇAĞATAY KILINÇ, PhD, is an associate professor in the Department of Educational Sciences at Karabuk University, Turkey. He received his PhD from the Department of Educational Sciences, Division of Educational Administration, Gazi University, Ankara, Turkey in 2013. His research focus is on educational leadership, school improvement, teacher learning and practices, and internationalization of higher education.

Kürşat Arslan, Karabuk University, Turkey

KÜRŞAT ARSLAN, MA, is a lecturer in the School of Foreign Languages at Karabuk University. Currently he is a PhD student in the department of Educational Administration at Gazi University. He has a particular research interest in educational administration, organizational leadership, higher education studies and internationalization of higher education.

Mustafa Polat, Karabuk University, Turkey

MUSTAFA POLAT, PhD, is an assistant professor in the School of Foreign Language at Karabuk University. He received his PhD from the Department of Educational Sciences, Division of Curriculum and Instruction, Anadolu University, Eskişehir, Turkey in 2019. His research interests lie in curriculum, instruction, foreign language teaching, language anxieties, effective learning, and internationalization of higher education.


Altbach, P. G., & Knight, J. (2007). The internationalization of higher education: Motivations and realities. Journal of Studies in International Education, 11(3–4), 290–305.

Arum, S., & Van de Water, J. (1992). The need for a definition of international education in US universities. In C. B. Klasek (Ed.), Bridges to the future: Strategies for internationalizing higher education (pp. 191–203). Association of International Education Administrators.

Aslan, B., & Jacobs, D. B. (2014). Erasmus student mobility: Some good practices according to views of Ankara University exchange students. Journal of Education and Future, 5, 57–72.

Camiciottoli, B. B. (2010). Meeting the challenges of European student mobility: Preparing Italian Erasmus students for business lectures in English. English for Specific Purposes, 29(4), 268–280.

Carr, S. C., McKay, D., & Rugimbana R. (1999). Managing Australia’s aid- and self-funded international students. International Journal of Education Management, 13(4), 167–172.

Çepni, O., Aydın, F., & Kılınç, A. Ç. (2018). The problems that students participating in erasmus programme encountered and their solutions: A phenomenological study. Journal of Higher Education and Science, 8(3), 436–450.

Childress, L. K. (2009). Internationalization plans for higher education institutions. Journal of Studies in International Education, 13(1), 289–309.

Coles, R., & Swami, V. (2012). The sociocultural adjustment trajectory of international university students and the role of university structures: A qualitative investigation. Journal of Research in International Education, 11, 87–100.

Council of Higher Education. (2014). Bilateral agreements.

Council of Higher Education. (2019). Mevlana Exchange program.

Creswell, J. W. (2013). Qualitative ınquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches. SAGE.

Davison, T. L. (2013). The effect of the recession of 2007–2009 in the community bank environment. International Journal of Business and Social Science, 4(14), 34–41.

De Wit, H. (2011). Trends, issues and challenges in internationalisation of higher education. Centre for Applied Research on Economics and Management, Hogeschool van Amsterdam.

Di Pietro, G. (2014). University study abroad and graduates’ employability. IZA World of Labor, 109, 1–10.

European Association for International Students and Study Portals (2017). English-taught bachelor’s programmes: Internationalising European higher education. European Association for International Education.

European Commission. (2015). Erasmus—Facts, figures and trends

Ferencz, I. (2011). Credit mobility in EU programmes Erasmus and Leonardo Da Vinci.” In U. Teichler, I. Ferencz, & B. Wächter (Eds.), Mapping mobility in higher education in Europe. Volume I: Overview and trends (pp. 89–113). Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst.

Glaser, B. G., & Strauss, A. L. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. Aldine

Glesne, C. (2012). Nitel araştırmaya giriş [Becoming qualitative researchers: An introduction]. (A. Ersoy & P. Yalçınoğlu, Trans. Ed.) Ankara: Anı Yayıncılık.

Gray, D. E. (2004). Doing research in the real world. London: Sage.

Hechanova-Alampay, R., Beehr, T. A., Christiansen, N. D., & Van Horn, R. K. (2002). Adjustment and strain among domestic and international student sojourners: A longitudinal study. School Psychology International, 23(4), 458–474.

Hendrickson, B., Rosen, D., & Aune, R. K. (2011). An analysis of friendship networks, social connectedness, homesickness, and satisfaction levels of international students. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 35(3), 281–295.

Jones, E., & Brown, S. (2007). Internationalising higher education. Routledge.

Kehm, B. M. (2005). Developing doctoral degrees and qualifications in Europe. Good practice and issues of concern. Beiträge zur Hochschulforschung, 27(1), 10–33.

Knight, J. (2004). Internationalization remodelled: Definition, approaches, and rationales. Journal of Studies in International Education, 8(1), 5–31.

Knight, J. (2008). Internationalization: A decade of changes and challenges. International Higher Education, 50, 6–7.

Knight, J. (2011). Five myths about internationalisation. International Focus, 67, 1–2.

Knight, J. (2012). Student mobility and internationalization: Trends and tribulations. Research in Comparative and International Education, 7(1), 20–33.

Koch, T. (1995). Interpretive approaches in nursing research: The influence of Husserl and Heidegger. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 21, 827-836.

Lee, K., & Wesche, M. (2000). Korean students’ adaptation to post-secondary studies in Canada: A case study. Canadian Modern Language Review, 56, 637–689.

Lincoln, Y. S., & Guba, E. G. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.

Marshall, C., & Rossman, G.B. (1999). Designing qualitative research (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks: SAGE.

Marshall, J. (2014). Introduction to comparative and international education. SAGE.

Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). An expanded sourcebook: Qualitative data analysis (Second edition). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Morosini, M., Corte, M., & Guilherme, A. (2017). Internationalization of higher education: A perspective from the great south. Creative Education, 8(1), 95–113.

Redmond, M., & Bunyi, M. J. (1993). The relationship of intercultural communication competence with stress and the handling of stress as reported by international students. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 17(2), 235–254.

Riggio, R. E. (2010). Before emotional intelligence: Research on nonverbal, emotional, and social Competences. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 3(2), 178–182.

Rockstuhl, T., Hong, Y. Y., Ng, K. Y., Ang, S., & Chiu, C. Y. (2010). The culturally intelligent brain: From detecting to bridging cultural differences. NeuroLeadership Institute, 3, 22–36.

Sawir, E., Marginson, S., Deumert, A., Nyland, C., & Ramia, G. (2007). Loneliness and international students: An Australian study. Journal of Studies in International Education, 12, 148–180.

Sigalas, E. (2010). The role of personal benefits in public support for the EU: Learning from the Erasmus students. West European Politics, 33(6), 1341–1361.

StudyEU. (2017). Country ranking 2017 for international students.

Teichler, U. (2010). Internationalising higher education: Debates and changes in Europe. In D. Mattheou (Ed.), Changing educational landscapes. educational policies, schooling systems and higher education—A comparative perspective (pp. 263–283). Springer.

Türkiye Scholarships. (2019). Türkiye scholarships. Retrieved March 30, 2019 from

Urquhart, C. (2013). Grounded theory for qualitative research: A practical guide. SAGE.

Ward, C., & Kennedy, A. (1993). Psychological and socio-cultural adjustment during cross-cultural transitions: A comparison of secondary students overseas and at home.” International Journal of Psychology, 28, 129–147.

Ward, C., & Searle, W. (1991). The impact of value discrepancies and cultural identity on psychological and socio-cultural adjustment of sojourners. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 15, 209–224.

Williams, T. R. (2005). Exploring the impact of study abroad on students’ intercultural communication skills: Adaptability and sensitivity. Journal of Studies in International Education, 9(4), 356-371.

Wu, H. Garza, E., & Guzman, N. (2015). International student’s challenge and adjustment to college. Education Research International, 2015, Article 202753.

Yang, P. (2016). Intercultural communication between East and West: Implications for students on study abroad programs to China. In D. M. Velliaris & D. Coleman-George (Eds.), Handbook of research on study abroad programs and outbound mobility (pp. 755-777). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

Yucelsin Tas, Y. T. (2013). Problems of the Erasmus programme and their solutions. Turkish Studies, 8(10), 763–770.

Zimmerman, S. (1995). Perceptions of intercultural communication competence and international student adaptation to an American campus. Communication Education, 44, 321–335.




How to Cite

Kılınç, A. C., Arslan, K., & Polat, M. (2020). Phenomenological Study of Lived Experiences of International Students in Turkey. Journal of International Students, 10(4), 853–871.



Research Articles (English)