Exploring the first-year experiences of international students in a multicultural institution in the United Arab Emirates





International Students, First Year Experience, Transitioning, Multicultural Higher Education, United Arab Emirates


This study aimed to explore the factors reported by first-year international students which helped or hindered their experiences of transition to a multicultural higher education institution in the United Arab Emirates. Descriptive phenomenology was used to portray participants constructed and co-constructed views, formed through their individual and social experiences of transitioning to international higher education. Six focus group interviews were used to collect data from international students to access a wide variety of nationalities. The qualitative data were analyzed using an inductive approach. Three themes emerged as being significant to their transitional experiences: students' experiences of freshmen orientation, their academic experiences, and the institutional environment. Researching international students' experiences of transitioning to higher education in the United Arab Emirates, and even generally in the Middle East, constitutes an original context. The context of this study also offers originality because the international students are in the majority rather than the minority.

Author Biographies

Sura Qiqieh, Al Ain University

Sura Qiqieh, EdD, is an Assistant Professor of Education at the College of Education, Humanities, and Social Sciences at Al Ain University in the United Arab Emirates. Her research interests include the internationalization of higher education and enhancing student educational experiences in higher education, with particular reference to the UAE. Email: sura.qiqieh@aau.ac.ae

Julie-Anne Regan, University of Liverpool

Julie-Anne Regan, PhD, is an Honorary Research Supervisor at the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom. She has supervised research in a broad range of doctoral theses in education, particularly professional education.  Email: j.regan@liverpool.ac.uk


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How to Cite

Qiqieh, S., & Regan, J.-A. (2023). Exploring the first-year experiences of international students in a multicultural institution in the United Arab Emirates. Journal of International Students, 13(3), 323–341. https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v14i1.4967