Sense of Belonging and the Intercultural and Academic Experiences Among International Students at a University in Northern Ireland
Keywords:International students, belonging, acculturation, student adjustment, student experience
Higher education institutions have a strong interest in attracting international students; however, there is little research on international students’ experience while studying in the UK and how this relates to their adjustment and belonging. This research was conducted with 16 international students at an institution in Northern Ireland, using qualitative interviews to examine academic and sociocultural challenges they experience while studying and living in a new country. Findings suggest that the academic challenges posed by a different educational system, issues affecting social relations within the campus, and living in a homogenous society have an impact on the international student experience. Adjustment challenges were primarily attributable to language and cultural barriers. These findings highlight that it is vital for institutions to better understand students’ needs and tailor their services to enhance international students’ learning experience. The study discusses possible areas for intervention that can be taken into consideration by HEIs.
Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497– 529.
Berry, J. W., Kim, U., Minde, T., & Mok, D. (1987). Comparative studies of acculturative stress. International migration review, 21(3), 491-511.
Berry, J. W., Kim, U., Power, S., Young, M., & Bujaki, M. (1989). Acculturation Attitudes in Plural Societies. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 185-206.
Berry, J. W., Poortinga, Y. H., Breugelmans, S. M., Chasiotis, A., & Sam, D. L. (2011). Cross-Cultural Psychology: Research and Applications. Cambridge University Press.
Brown, E., & Scally, J., Napoli, S. (2016) Evaluating intercultural competency strategies within college communities. In UKCISA. Grant Scheme 2015-2016: Research into the international student experience in the UK (pp.17-28).
Chapdelaine, R.F. & Alexitch L.R. (2004). Social skills difficulty: Model of culture shock difficulty for international graduate students. Journal of College Student Development. 45(2), 167-184.
Constantine, M. G., Okazaki, S., & Utsey, S. O. (2004). Self‐concealment, social self‐efficacy, acculturative stress, and depression in African, Asian, and Latin American international college students. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 74(3), 230-241.
Creemers, B., Reezigt, G. (1996). School level conditions affecting the effectiveness of instruction. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 7(3), 197 - 228.
Dee, J. R. & Henkin, A. B. (1999). Challenges to adjustment to college life in the United States: Experiences of Korean students. International Education, 29(1), 54-70.
García, H.,A., Garza, T. & Yeaton-Hromada, K. (2019). "Do We Belong? A Conceptual Model for International Students' Sense of Belonging in Community Colleges", Journal of International Students, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 460-487.
Glass, C. R., & Westmont-Campbell, C. (2014). Comparative effects of belongingness on the academic success and cross-cultural interactions of domestic and international students. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 38(1), 106-119. doi: 10.1016/j.ijintrel.2013.04.004
Glass, C., Kociolek, E., Rachawan, W., Lynch, J., & Cong, S. (2015). Uneven experiences: Impact of student-faculty interactions on international students’ sense of belonging. Journal of International Students, 5(4), 353-367.
HESA (2016). Students in Higher Education 2014-15.
Hoffman, M., Richmond, J., Morrow, J., & Salomone, K. (2003). Investigating “sense of belonging” in first-year college students. Journal of College Student Retention, 4(3), 227–256.
Van Horne, S., Lin, S., Anson, M., & Jacobson, W. (2018). Engagement, satisfaction, and belonging of international undergraduates at US research universities. Journal of International Students, 8(1), 351-374.
Huitt, W. (1995). A systems model of the teaching/learning process. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: College of Education, Valdosta State University.
Israel, G. D., Beaulieu, L. J., Hartless, G. (2001). The Influence of Family and Community Social Capital on Educational Achievement. Rural Sociology, 66(1), 43-68
Jones, J. S., & Fleischer, S., McNair, A., Masika, R. (2016). Exploring first year international undergraduates’ experiences in four disciplines: influences of university and international partner college pedagogy and support practices. In UKCISA. Grant Scheme 2015-2016: Research into the international student experience in the UK (pp.2-15).
Kim, Y. Y. (2001). Becoming intercultural: An integrative theory of communication and cross-cultural adaptation. Sage Publications.
King, N. & Horrocks, C. (2010). Interviews in Qualitative Research. Sage Publishing.
Lauren, W. (2014). International students’ sense of belonging. University of the Pacific, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2014.
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.
Liao, H., Wang, Y. The application of heterogeneous cluster grouping to reflective writing for medical humanities literature study to enhance students’ empathy, critical thinking, and reflective writing. BMC Med Educ 16, 234 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12909-016-0758-2
Liberman, K. (1994). Asian student perspectives on American university instruction. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 18(2), 173-192.
Liu, M. (2009). Addressing the mental health problems of Chinese international college students in the United States. Advances in Social Work, 10(1), 69-86.
Mahmood, H., & Beach, D. (2018). Analysis of acculturative stress and sociocultural adaptation among international students at a non-metropolitan university. Journal of International Students, 8(1), 284-307.
McAlister, S., Haydon, D., & Scraton, P. (2013). Violence in the Lives of Children and Youth in “Post-Conflict” Northern Ireland. Children, Youth and Environments, 23(1), 1-22.
Meredith (2018). Retrieved from https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-45580746
Mori, S. C. (2000). Addressing the mental health concerns of international students. Journal of counseling & development, 78(2), 137-144.
Murphy, E. (2015). The Economic Impact of International Students on Northern Ireland. Research and Information Service Briefing Paper, NIAR 546-2015. Stormont: Northern Ireland Assembly. Retrieved from http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/globalassets/documents/employment-and-learning/research-papers/11.-raise---economic-impact-of-international-students-in-ni-final.pdf
NCH (2007): Literature Review: Resilience in Children and Young People. Berkhamsted: NCH. Retrieved from https://www.actionforchildren.org.uk/media/3420/resilience_in_children_in_young_people.pdf
Nota, L., Soresi, S., & Zimmerman, B. J. (2004). Self-regulation and academic achievement and resilience: A longitudinal study. International Journal of Educational Research, 41(3) 198-215.
Ogbu, J. (1999). Beyond Language: Ebonics, Proper English, and Identity in a Black-American Speech Community. American Educational Research Journal, 36(2), 147-184.
Ogbu, J. U. (2008). Minority Status, Oppositional Culture, & Schooling. New York, NY: Routledge.
Ogbu, J. U. & Simons, H. D. (1998). Voluntary and Involuntary Minorities: A Cultural-Ecological Theory of School Performance with Some Implications for Education. Anthropology & Education Quarterly 29(2), 155-188.
Peace Monitoring Report Number Five. Belfast: Community Relations Council.
Pedersen, E. R., Neighbors, C., Atkins, D. C., Lee, C. M., & Larimer, M. E. (2017). Brief online interventions targeting risk and protective factors for increased and problematic alcohol use among American college students studying abroad. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 31, 220-230.
Pimblett, J., & Van Raalte, G., Dinh T., Ladle, L. (2016). Identification of the key barriers to securing employment in the UK for international students at Bournemouth University. In UKCISA. In UKCISA. Grant Scheme 2015-2016: Research into the international student experience in the UK (pp.30-45).
Proctor, C. P. (1984). Teacher expectations: A model for school improvement. The Elementary School Journal, 469-481.
Putnam R. D. (2000). Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Sandhu, D. S. (1994). An examination of the psychological needs of the international students: Implications for counselling and psychotherapy. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, 17(4), 229-239.
Schmitt, M.T., Spears, R. and Branscombe, N.R. (2002). Constructing a minority group identity out of shared rejection: the case of international students. European Journal of Social Psychology. 33(1): 1-12.
Searle, W., & Ward, C. (1990). The prediction of psychological and sociocultural adjustment during cross-cultural transitions. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 14, 449–464.
Shaheen, N. (2016). International students’ critical thinking–related problem areas: UK university teachers’ perspectives. Journal of Research in International Education, 15(1), 18–31. https://doi.org/10.1177/1475240916635895
Sheldon, K. M., Cheng, C., & Hilpert, J. (2011). Understanding well-being and optimal functioning: Applying the Multilevel Personality in Context (MPIC) model. Psychological Inquiry, 22(1), 1–16. doi:10.1080/1047840X.2011.532477
Slaten, C. D., Elison, Z. M., Lee, J.-Y., Yough, M., & Scalise, D. (2016). Belonging on Campus: A Qualitative Inquiry of Asian International Students. The Counseling Psychologist, 44(3), 383–410. https://doi.org/10.1177/0011000016633506
Smith, R. A., & Khawaja, N. G. (2011). A review of the acculturation experiences of international students. International Journal of intercultural relations, 35(6), 699-713.
Strayhorn, T.L. (2008) A hierarchical analysis predicting sense of belonging among Latino College Students. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education. 7(4): 301-320.
Strayhorn, T.L. (2012). College Students’ Sense of Belonging: A Key to Educational Success for all Students. Routledge. Taylor & Francis.
Trice, A. G. (2003). Faculty perceptions of graduate international students: The benefits and challenges. Journal of Studies in International Education, 7(4), 379–403.
Van Oudenhoven, J. P., & Ward, C. (2013). Fading majority cultures: The implications of transnationalism and demographic changes for immigrant acculturation. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 23(2), 81-97.
Wei, M., Heppner, P. P., Mallen, M. J., Ku, T. Y., Liao, K. Y. H., & Wu, T. F. (2007). Acculturative stress, perfectionism, years in the United States, and depression among Chinese international students. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 54(4), 385.
Ying, Y.-W., & Han, M. (2006). The contribution of personality, acculturative stressors, and social affiliation to adjustment: A longitudinal study of Taiwanese students in the United States. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 30, 623-635.
Zhou, Y., and Jundal-Snape, D., Topping, K., Todman, J. (2008). Theoretical models of culture shock and adaptation in international students in higher education. Studies in Higher Education, 33(1), 63-75.
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2021 Journal of International Students
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
All published articles are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 Unported License.