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Siddhi Durve.
CHALLENGES OF INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS IN THE UNITED STATES

Research Paper

This research paper aims to provide a comprehensive study of challenges faced by international students. The study investigates the multifaceted aspects of these challenges, including academic, cultural, social, and psychological dimensions. The insights gained from the research are valuable enough to advocate the challenges faced by the international students and take corrective actions to enhance their overall well-being and improve their experiences while studying far away from home.

This report is submitted as a part of the project completed towards the course HCDE 520/HCED 370: Research Methods on 21st of April, 2023. The study was approved by the IRB under the submission ID - HUM00230648. 

We would like to express our gratitude to Prof. Areen Alsaid for her valuable feedback and support through the semester long project. We would also like to thank our classmates for their feedback during the peer review process.

Author's Note

University of Michigan - Dearborn

Ashwitha Jathan, Bhavana Andra, Manasi Kulkarni, Siddhi Durve, Swarna Pandu, Zack Tran

Investigating socio-cultural, financial, academic and housing challenges 
faced by international students in the United States

This study explores the challenges faced by international students in the United States with respect to their socio-cultural, financial, academic and housing situations. It consists of a qualitative and quantitative approach towards collecting data from international students. The participants of the research were only confined to the University of Michigan - Dearborn. The study explains the hypothesis generated and methods used for conducting the research. Through the qualitative responses gathered from a diverse set of participants from 7 different home countries, the study identifies major pain points faced by the students which were used to curate questions for the quantitative survey. It further explains the thematic analysis of qualitative data and elaborate synthesis of the survey. The findings are visualized through graphs and charts and discussed to deduce inferences. The study also explores the potential solutions to address the challenges discovered throughout the study. The insights gained from the research are valuable enough to advocate the challenges faced by the international students and take corrective actions to enhance their overall well-being and improve their experiences while studying far away from home.

Abstract

Investigating socio-cultural, financial, academic and housing challenges faced by international students in the United States

Pursuing an education abroad has become increasingly popular in the last two decades. The majority of international students from all around the world are captivated by the United States, Europe, and Australia (Qadeer et al., 2021b). According to UNESCO, the number of students pursuing their tertiary education out of their home countries has nearly tripled in the last two decades. In 2019, over 6 million students across the world attended international institutions for their tertiary education (UNESCO, 2022).

This study specifically focuses on international students in the United States and their experiences.The USA attracts millions of international students due to the quality of education, employment, and funding opportunities (Kusek, W. A. ,2015). Between 2015 and 2019, there have been a million international students in the United States. (J. B. E. I. a. J. Batalova, 2022b) Students seek education opportunities abroad in order to acquire global skills and access to progressive professional opportunities. They gain enriching experiences from the exposure to different cultures, geographies, lifestyles and personal growth in a country away from home. However, students face unique challenges while adapting to a new environment.

University check-ins, managing expenditure, academic pressure, cultural differences, scouting accommodation can result in negative experiences without proper support and resources. These challenges are prone to making the international students more susceptible to stress and sub par performance in their academics (Baba Okai, 2019). The purpose of the study is to investigate the challenges they face and identify ways to enhance their experiences with the help of digital solutions. 

This research aims to explore the socio-cultural, financial, psychological, and housing challenges faced by international students. By conducting semi-structured interviews and a survey with international students from the University of Michigan - Dearborn, the study seeks to gather and compare perspectives from students of diverse backgrounds. By identifying the challenges encountered by international students and exploring the role of digital solutions in addressing these challenges, this research aims to contribute to the success and well-being of international students. The research questions include:

  1. What are the socio-cultural, financial, psychological and housing challenges faced by international students in the United States?

  2. How are students currently coping with their challenges and how effective are they?

  3. How can digital solutions be integrated to uplift the experiences of international students and support their requirements?

The hypothesis of the research is that “International students currently face most of the challenges due to a lack of information channels regarding leasing processes, housing conditions, expenditure estimates, difficulties in finding similar communities, etc., before arriving in the United States, which sets unrealistic expectations.” International students often experience a reality that is different from what they had anticipated. Due to their unfamiliarity with the US educational system and difficulty interacting and communicating naturally in the absence of familiar cultural cues, students can perform below expectations (Chapdelaine & Alexitch, 2004). They experience culture shock when they learn that they are unprepared to adapt to their new environment due to unrealistic expectations (Baba Okai, 2019). According to Ramsay et.al, it is difficult to have a transitional and adjustment-free educational system since there will always be a mismatch between students' experiences and expectations. However, these challenges must not be intractable for the students and can be overcome if they are provided with support during their transition. One of the instrumental means would be with informational support that can counsel students and help with cognitive guidance. Hence, the team hypothesized that with the means of an effective information channel(s), the experiences of international students can be enhanced.

Section one of this paper outlines the methodology and procedure used in conducting the semi-structured interviews and the survey with international students from the University of Michigan, Dearborn. In section two, results of the qualitative and quantitative study are presented. Section three discusses the implications of the findings, and proposes a digital solution that addresses the identified challenges and supports the needs of international students in the United States. Finally, the paper is concluded by summarizing the key findings and contributions, limitations, and discussing potential opportunities for future research.

1.1 Participants

For the qualitative study, participants were recruited from University of Michigan - Dearborn and the countries of representation were identified from Fig 1 (Appendix). A total of 12 participants were interviewed on Zoom and the interviews were recorded. Participants were from 7 different home countries namely Bangladesh (1), China (2), India (2), Nepal (2), Nigeria (2), Oman (1), and South Korea (2). Potential participants were identified through social networks and requested to participate in the study. The use of personal connections and social networks proved to be an effective recruitment method, as it increased the chances of participation from groups of individuals who were interested in the research topic. The survey was circulated amongst international students at University of Michigan - Dearborn through student organizations and personal connections. The team received 70 responses overall from the survey.

1. Methods

1.2 Materials

A discussion guide (Appendix 1) was first prepared that covered questions around the socio-cultural, financial, housing and academic facets of the journeys of international students. A voluntary sign up form (Appendix 2) was circulated amongst students, who were recruited for the semi-structured interviews. The participants were asked to sign a consent form (Appendix 3) as a code of conduct prior to the interviews. All interviews were conducted on Zoom and recorded for documentation purposes and the survey data was gathered via Google forms. Data analysis was conducted on Google Sheets and Miro.

1.3 Design 

To address the research questions of this study, a mixed methods approach was adopted inclusive of the semi-structured one-on-one qualitative interviews followed by the  quantitative survey. The qualitative study aimed to understand the experiences and perspectives of each participant in depth and to explore the complexities and nuances of the challenges they faced. The method used for data analysis was a thematic analysis through manual coding and affinity diagramming. Data and insights derived from the qualitative study were used to design the quantitative survey. Lastly, metrics were gathered from the survey responses. 

1.4 Procedure

1.4.1 Qualitative method 

For the interviews, a standardized script was followed to inform the participants about the purpose of the study and obtain their consent to participate in the research. It included a statement of the voluntary nature of participation, a reassurance of the participant's comfort level, an estimated time commitment, and an explanation of the recording and confidentiality policies. Obtaining participants' consent ensured that the research was conducted ethically and with their full informed consent. No incentive was provided in this study for participation.

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