Needs, Expectations, and Experiences of International Students in Pathway Programs in the United States


  • Eman Elturki Washington State University
  • Yang Liu Washington State University
  • Justyna Hjeltness Washington State University
  • Kate Hellmann Washington State University



academic challenges, graduate pathways, sociocultural factors, undergraduate pathways


This research assesses the first cohort of pathway students’ needs and their academic and sociocultural experiences at a U.S. university. A needs analysis survey, individual student interviews, and a follow-up survey were used for data collection. Understanding lectures, completing assignments, and building social relationships with domestics were among the challenges faced by pathway students due to linguistic and cultural barriers. An additional unique challenge for this particular population of international students centered around the fact that undergraduate and graduate students tackle discipline-related courses while still refining their English skills. Additional support services to help students in pathways academically and socio-culturally are crucial.

Author Biographies

Eman Elturki, Washington State University

EMAN ELTURKI, PhD, is the Associate Director of Curriculum and Assessment and faculty at INTO WSU. Her research interests include exploring second language development using corpus linguistics as a methodology, English language teaching and learning, and international student success. Email:

Yang Liu, Washington State University

YANG LIU, MA, is IALC faculty at INTO WSU. Her research focuses on second language acquisition in adults and culture influence on English language learning. Email:

Justyna Hjeltness, Washington State University

JUSTYNA HJELTNESS, MA, is IALC faculty at INTO WSU. Her current research interests include integration of international students into a university setting. Email:

Kate Hellmann, Washington State University

KATE HELLMANN, PhD, is the Academic Director at INTO WSU. Her research focuses on using sociocultural theory as a lens for international student success in higher education. Email:


Altbach, P. G., & de Wit, H. (2017). Trump and the coming revolution in higher education internationalization. International Higher Education, 89, 3–5.
Banjong, D. N. (2015). International students’ enhanced academic performance: Effects of campus resources. Journal of International Students, 5(1), 132–142.
Bertram, D. (2012). Likert scales … are the meaning of life [CPSC 681 Topic Report]. Retrieved from
Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77–101.
Brown, J. D. (1995). The elements of language curriculum: A systematic approach to program development. New York, NY: Heinle & Heinle.
Caplan, N. A., & Stevens, S. G. (2017). “Step out of the cycle”: Needs, challenges, and successes of international undergraduates at a U.S. university. English for Specific Purposes, 46, 15–28.
Chen, J. (2018). Exploring Chinese international students’ sense of belonging in North American postsecondary institutions. Major Research Paper. University of Windsor, Canada. Retrieved from
Gebhard, J. G. (2012). International students’ adjustment problems and behaviors. Journal of International Students, 2(2), 158–164.
Hommadova, A. (2017). Phases of cultural adjustment of East Asian students. Journal of International and Advanced Japanese Studies, 9, 171–192.
Institute of International Education. (2017). Open Doors data. Retrieved from
INTO University Partnerships. (2018). About INTO. Retrieved from
Kuo, Y. (2011). Language challenges faced by international graduate students in the United States. Journal of International Students, 1(2), 38–42.
Kusek, W. A. (2015). Evaluating the struggles with international students and local community participation. Journal of International Students, 5(2), 121–131.
Lawson, C. (2016, Dec 19). New initiative will enhance WSU diversity, global reach. WSU News. Retrieved from
Lin, S. Y., & Scherz, S. D. (2014). Challenges facing Asian international graduate students in the US: Pedagogical considerations in higher education. Journal of International Students, 4(1), 16–33.
NAFSA: Association of International Educators. (2017). NAFSA international student economic value tool. Retrieved from
Perry, C. J. (2016). Comparing international and American students’ challenges: A literature review. Journal of International Students, 6(3), 712–721.
Perry, C. J., Weatherford, J., & Lausch, D. (2016). Academic concerns of international students in the US. Proceedings of the Adult Education Research Conference, 192–197.
Richards, J. C. (2017). Curriculum development in language teaching (2nd ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Urban, E. L., & Palmer, L. B. (2014). International students as a resource for internationalization of higher education. Journal of Studies in International Education, 18(4), 305–324.
WSU’s Office of International Programs, & Office of the Provost. (2016). Internationalization initiative for Washington State University [PDF document]. Retrieved from
Wu, H. P., Garza, E., & Guzman, N. (2015). International student’s challenge and adjustment to college. Education Research International, 2015, 1–9.
Zhou, Y., Frey, C., & Bang, H. (2011). Understanding of international graduate students’ academic adaptation to a U. S. Graduate School. International Education, 41(1), 76–84.
Zohar, A., & Dori, Y. J. (2003). Higher order thinking skills and low-achieving students: Are they mutually exclusive? The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 12(2), 145–181.




How to Cite

Elturki, E., Liu, Y., Hjeltness, J., & Hellmann, K. (2019). Needs, Expectations, and Experiences of International Students in Pathway Programs in the United States. Journal of International Students, 9(1), 192–210.



Research Articles (English)