“I Am Not Complaining”

Listening to International Students’ Requests and Complaints as Expressions of Diverse Learning Needs





international students, higher education, Canada, students’ needs


This study explores the learning needs of international students at a Canadian private university. Through a qualitative content analysis of 580 students’ emails, we identified and examined 819 requests and complaints The analysis highlighted trends about due dates, assignment resubmissions, regrading, and plagiarism issues, leading to the identification of five primary needs: improved internet access and digital literacy support, acknowledgment of cultural differences, assignment design without assumptions, accessible learning management systems, and inclusive learning environments. These findings underline the necessity of empathetic listening to develop strategies that facilitate international students' transition to Canadian higher education, enhancing their learning experiences. The research suggests innovative approaches for incorporating international students' perspectives into course and program design, advocating for active engagement with these students to create educational environments that are inclusive and responsive to their unique needs.

Author Biographies

Irene Torres-Arends, Yorkville University and University of Calgary

Irene Torres Arends – Fulbright Scholar.

Bio: I have been a professor in the General Studies Department at Yorkville University since 2017. I obtained bachelor's degrees in psychology and law from the Central University of Venezuela. Subsequently, I pursued postgraduate studies in Europe and the USA. I earned a master's degree (M.Sc.) in Sociology of Law from the International Institute for the Sociology of Law in Oñate, Spain, with the distinction of Eximia Cum Laude Approbatur. I completed a master's degree in law (LL.M.) with Honors at the State University of New York at Buffalo (2005). Throughout my career as a University Professor at the Central University of Venezuela in the field of social sciences, my multidisciplinary background has enabled me to approach research and teaching from various perspectives. I had the privilege of being recognized as a Fulbright Scholar in 2004 and have served as a visiting professor at the Universidad de Costa Rica in 2011 and the Centre of Criminology Socio-Legal Studies at the University of Toronto in 2014. In July 2022, I embarked on a journey to pursue a Doctoral Degree in Learning Sciences at the University of Calgary.

Michele Jacobsen, University of Calgary

Dr. Michele Jacobsen, University of Calgary

MICHELE JACOBSEN, PhD, is a Professor in Learning Sciences at the University of Calgary. She is a Board Member with the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies, and Vice President of Open/Technology in Education, Society, and Scholarship Association. Michele uses participatory research methodologies to design and evaluate innovations in higher education. Email: dmjacobs@ucalgary.ca






How to Cite

Torres-Arends, I., & Jacobsen, M. (2024). “I Am Not Complaining”: Listening to International Students’ Requests and Complaints as Expressions of Diverse Learning Needs. Journal of International Students, 14(3), 385–407. https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v14i3.6298



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