Sociocultural Factors That Impact the Health Status, Quality of Life, and Academic Achievement of International Graduate Students

A Comprehensive Literature Review


  • Roseline Jindori Yunusa Vakkai De Rose Community Bridge and Holistic Health, USA
  • Karleah Harris University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, USA
  • Jordan Jimmy Crabbe University of Cincinnati-Blue Ash, USA
  • Kenneth Sean Chaplin John Carroll University, USA
  • Mara Reynolds Voices of Monterey Bay and Gray Area Podcast, USA



acculturation, international graduate students, internationalization, sociocultural factors


This literature review explores the sociocultural experiences of international graduate students in universities in the United States. In addition to the typical challenges faced by students going to universities in America, international graduate students undergo extra stress. Research has shown that students face issues such as negotiating the U.S. health care system, the pressures of competency in American English, balancing financial concerns, social connectivity, and anxiety due to isolation from family and friends. These factors place students at risk for developing health problems. Significant findings have indicated that institutions and students’ age play important roles in impacting students’ successful adjusting experiences even though the struggle for acculturation is a personal task. We organized our analysis and discussion around how to help graduate students to obtain sociocultural support and concluded with some suggestions on ways to address inadequacies within the institutional systems to make the schools welcoming for international students.

Author Biographies

Roseline Jindori Yunusa Vakkai, De Rose Community Bridge and Holistic Health, USA

ROSELINE JINDORI YUNUSA VAKKIA, PhD, is the executive director of DE Rose Community Bridge and Holistic Health Organization. Her research interests include the understanding of poverty and the hidden rules and culture of poverty; the homeless population; immigrants and refugee communities; and youth development.

Karleah Harris, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, USA

KARLEAH HARRIS, PhD, is an Assistant Professor at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Her research interests include using inquiry-based science learning to study kindergarten students’ explanations and  examining the types of discourse strategies teachers’ use during classroom science discourse. Her research also examines adolescent development, grandparenting, and culturally responsive teaching.

Jordan Jimmy Crabbe, University of Cincinnati-Blue Ash, USA

JORDAN J. CRABBE is an Associate Professor of Statistics and the Coordinator of Statistics and Business Analytics at University of Cincinnati-Blue Ash, teaching business analytics and statistics courses. Dr. Crabbe’s research interests are in multivariate kernel density estimation (an aspect of nonparametric statistics), probability theory, and general statistical studies and applications.

Kenneth Sean Chaplin, John Carroll University, USA

KENNETH SEAN CHAPLIN, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology & Criminology at John Carroll University, University Heights, Ohio. His teaching and research interests are race and ethnic relations, sex and gender, and culture in leisure, sport, and higher education.

Mara Reynolds, Voices of Monterey Bay and Gray Area Podcast, USA

MARA REYNOLDS (BA English, Reed College '06) is a freelance editor and producer working with Voices of Monterey Bay and Gray Area Podcast. She is currently writing a book about western herbal medicine.


Anaya, G., & Cole, D. (2001), Latina/student achievement: Exploring the influence of student-faculty interaction on college grades. Journal of College Student Development, 42, 3–14.

Altbach, P. G. (2004). Higher education crosses borders: Can the United States remain the top destination for foreign students? Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 36(2), 18–25.

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.

Andrade, S. (2006). International students in English-speaking universities: Adjustment factors. Journal of Research in International Education, 5(2), 131–154.

Arkoudis, S. (2006). Teaching international students: Strategies to enhance learning. Centre for the Study of Higher Education.

Bevis, B. (2002). At a glance: International students in the United States. International Educator, 11(3), 12–17.

Bigner, J. J., & Gerhardt, C. (2014). Parent-child relations: An introduction to parenting (9th ed.). Pearson

Boafo-Arthur, S. (2014). Acculturative experiences of Black-African international students. International Journal for the Advancement of Counseling, 36(2), 115–124.

Böhm, D., & Meares, P. (2002). Global student mobility 2025: Forecasts of the global demand for international higher education. IDP Education Australia.

Byram, M., Gribkova, B., & Starkey, H. (2002). Developing the intercultural dimension in language teaching: A practical introduction for teachers. Council of Europe.

Conversi, D. (2010). Cultural homogenization, ethnic cleansing and genocide. The International Studies Encyclopedia, 12, 719–742.

Das, A. K., Chow, S. Y., & Rutherford, B. (1986). The counseling needs of foreign students. International Journal for the Advancement of Counseling, 9(2), 167–174.

Deardorff, D. K. (2006). Identification and assessment of intercultural competence as a student outcome of internationalization. Journal of Studies in International Education, 10(3), 241–266.

Dennis, M. (2020). 2019 Open Doors report on International Educational Exchange—Any surprises? Journal of International Students, 10(2). 10.32674/jis.v10i2.2006

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

Fritz, M., Chin, D., & DeMarinis, V. (2008). Stressors, anxiety, acculturation and adjustment among international and North American students. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 32, 244–259.

Gu, Q., Schweisfurth, M., & Day, C. (2010). Learning and growing in a “foreign” context: Intercultural experiences of international students. Compare, 40(1), 7–23.

Habu, T. (2000). The irony of globalization: The experience of Japanese women in British higher education. Higher Education, 39(1), 43–66.

Harrison, P. (2002). Educational exchange for international understanding. International Educator, 11(4), 2–4.

Hechanova-Alampay, R., Beehr, T. A., Christiansen. D., & VanHorn, K. (2002). Adjustment and strain among domestic and international student sojourners: A longitudinal study. School Psychology International, 23, 458–475.

Hyun, J., Quinn, B., Madon, T., & Lustig, S. (2007). Mental health need, awareness, and use of counseling services among international graduate students. Journal of American College Health, 56(2), 109–118.

Iceland, J. (2013). Poverty in America: A handbook. University of California Press.

Institute of International Education. (2011). Open Doors report.

Ip, D., Chui, E., & Johnson, H. (2009). Learning experiences and outcomes of culturally and linguistically diverse students at The University of Queensland: A preliminary study. School of Social Science, the University of Queensland.

Kagawa-Singer, M., & Kassim-Lakha, S. (2003). A strategy to reduce cross-cultural miscommunication and increase the likelihood of improving health outcomes. Academic Medicine, 78(6), 577–587.

Kim, E. J. (2012). Providing a sounding board for second language writers. TESOL Journal, 3(1), 33–47.

King, P. M., & Baxter Magolda, M. B. (2005). A developmental model of intercultural maturity. Journal of College Student Development, 46(6), 571–592.

Lacina, J. G. (2002). Preparing international students for a successful social experience in higher education. New Directions for Higher Education, 117, 21–28.

Lee, J., Kim, N., & Wu, Y. (2019). College readiness and engagement gaps between domestic and international students: Re-envisioning educational diversity and equity for global campus. Higher Education, 77(3), 505–523.

Lee, J. J., & Rice, C. (2007). Welcome to America? International student perception of discrimination. Higher Education, 53(3), 381–400.

Lee, Y. T., McCauley, C. R., & Draguns, J. G. (2013). Personality and person perception across cultures. Psychology Press.

Lehto, X. Y., Cai, L. A., Fu, X., & Chen, Y. (2014). Intercultural interactions outside the classroom: Narratives on a US campus. Journal of College Student Development, 55(8), 837–853.

Leidy, M. S., Guerra, N. G., & Toro, R. I. (2010). Positive parenting, family cohesion, and child social competence among immigrant Latino families. Journal of Family Psychology, 24(3), 252–260. a0019407

Levi, I. (1991). Twenty-five years of contrastive rhetoric: Text analysis and writing pedagogies. TESOL Quarterly, 25(1), 123–143.

Lynch, J. W., Kaplan, G. A., & Salonen, J. T. (1997). Why do poor people behave poorly? Variation in adult health behaviors and psychosocial characteristics by stages of the socioeconomic lifecourse. Social Science & Medicine, 44(6), 809–819.

Mbiti, J. S. (1990). African religions & philosophy. Heinemann.

Peterson, D. M., Briggs, P., Dreasher, L., Horner, D. D., & Nelson, T. (1999). Contributions of international students and programs to campus diversity. New Directions for Student Services, 86, 67–77.

Poyrazli, S., & Grahame, M. (2007). Barriers to adjustment: Needs of international students within a semi-urban campus community. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 34(1), 28–45.

Poyrazli, S., & Kavanaugh, P. R. (2006). Marital status, ethnicity, academic achievement, and adjustment strains: The case of graduate international students. College Student Journal, 40(4), 767–780.

Poyrazli, S., Thukral, R. K., & Duru, E. (2010). International students race-ethnicity, personality and acculturative stress. International Journal of Psychology and Counselling, 2(2), 25–32.

Rhee, J. (2004). International students: Constructions of imperialism in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The Review of Higher Education, 28(1), 77–96.

Rice, G., Choi, C., Zhang, Y., Morero, I., & Anderson, D. (2012). Self-critical perfectionism, acculturative stress, and depression among international students. The Counseling Psychologist, 40(4), 575–600.

Rice, G., Choi, C., Zhang, Y., Villegas, J., Ye, J., Anderson, D., Nesic, A., & Bigler, M. (2009). International student perspectives on graduate advising relationships. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 56, 376–391.

Robertson, M., Line, M., Jones, S., & Thomas, S. (2000). International students, learning environments and perceptions: A case study using the Delphi technique. Higher Education Research & Development, 19(1), 89–102.

Sandhu, S. (1994). An examination of the psychological needs of the international students: Implications for counselling and psychotherapy. International Journal for the Advancement of Counseling, 17(4), 229–239.

Sandtrock, J. W. (Ed.). (2016). Adolescence. McGraw Hill.

Saxena, S., Chandiramani, K., & Bhargava, R. (1998). WHOQOL-Hindi: A questionnaire for assessing quality of life in health care settings in India. National Medical Journal of India, 11(4), 160–165.

Servaes, J. (2000). Reflections on the differences in Asian and European values and communication modes. Asian Journal of Communication, 10, 53–70.

Sherry, M., Thomas, P., & Chui, W. H. (2010). International students: A vulnerable student population. Higher Education, 60(1), 33–46.

Slaughter, S., & Rhoades, G. (2004). Academic capitalism and the new economy. Johns Hopkins University Press.

Sorrells, K. (2015). Intercultural communication: Globalization and social justice. Sage.

Suárez-Orozco, C. (2000). Cultures under siege: Social violence and trauma. In A. C. G. M. Robben & M. M. Suárez-Orozco (Eds.), Identities under siege: Immigration stress and social mirroring among the children of immigrants (pp. 194–206). Cambridge University Press.

Tidwell, R., & Hanassab, S. (2007). New challenges for professional counsellors: The higher education international student population. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 20(4), 313–324.

Van Oudenhoven, P., & Van der Zee, K. (2002). Predicting multicultural effectiveness of international students: The Multicultural Personality Questionnaire. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 26, 679–694.

Wang, Y.-W., Lin, J.-C. G., Pang, L.-S., & Shen, F. C. (2007). International students from Asia. In F. T. L. Leong, A. Ebreo, L. Kinoshita, A. G. Inman, L. H. Yang, & M. Fu (Eds.), Handbook of Asian American psychology (pp. 245–261). Sage.

The World Health Organization Quality of Life Group. (1995). The World Health Organization Quality of Life assessment (WHOQOL): Position paper from the World Health Organization. Social Science & Medicine, 41(10), 1403–1409.

Wong, M. S. (2006). Supporting diversity and internationalization through transformative learning experiences. Forum on Public Policy.

Zhou, M. (1997). Growing up American: The challenge confronting immigrant children and children of immigrants. Annual Review of Sociology, 23, 63–95.

Zhu, W., & Flaitz, J. (2005). Using focus group methodology to understand international students' academic language needs: A comparison of perspectives. Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language, 8(4), 1–11.




How to Cite

Yunusa Vakkai, R. J., Harris, K., Crabbe, J. J., Chaplin, K. S., & Reynolds, M. (2020). Sociocultural Factors That Impact the Health Status, Quality of Life, and Academic Achievement of International Graduate Students: A Comprehensive Literature Review. Journal of International Students, 10(3), 758–775.



Research Articles (English)