What Does it Mean to ‘Belong’?:

A Narrative Literature Review of ‘Belongingness’ Among International Higher Education Students





belonging, higher education, international student, university


Following the gradual post-COVID-19 return of international student flows, it is important to examine how higher education institutions and international students are reacting to their new environment and how they relate to each other. Central to this relationship is the concept of ‘belonging’; what it means for international students, as newcomers and temporary residents in their host environment, to feel as if they belong. To address this question, and as a springboard from which further research into the topic can be undertaken, we examined the question of ‘belonging’ within contemporary academic literature. We examined a broad range of literature to determine the key findings, as well as gaps in the implications for theory and practice. Our findings indicate that ‘belonging’ is seldom clearly defined in the scholarly research. We also found that a proactive approach to student integration was the most common thread across the studies examined.

Author Biographies

Dania Mohamad, Concordia University

DANIA MOHAMAD, is a doctoral student in the Department of Education at Concordia University. She has completed her Masters in Educational Studies from the same university. Her research focuses on the experiences of international students from the Global South studying in Quebec universities that use English as the medium of instruction. Her interests include studying the effectiveness of both government and university services in helping international students settle in Quebec post-graduation, the intersection between education and immigration of international students from the Global South, and the role of education in the settlement of such students. Email: dania.mohamad@mail.concordia.ca

Keenan Daniel Manning, University of British Columbia

KEENAN DANIEL MANNING, is a doctoral student in the Department of Educational Studies at the University of British Columbia. He holds masters degrees in Business (Strategic Advertising) from the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, and Education (Higher Education) from the University of Hong Kong. His research foci include identity, belonging, and citizenship among minorities in Hong Kong; international student mobility; internationalisation of higher education; and, higher education policy. Email: kdm852@student.ubc.ca


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How to Cite

Mohamad, D., & Manning, K. D. (2023). What Does it Mean to ‘Belong’?:: A Narrative Literature Review of ‘Belongingness’ Among International Higher Education Students. Journal of International Students, 14(1), 21–37. https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v15i1.5783



Research Articles (English)