"Living abroad makes you see things differently": International students between the burden of adjustment and the hope of achieving goals
This research project gives voice to international students and provides unique insights into the dynamic and complex support systems and challenges they face when studying abroad in the United States. By taking extensive field notes and conducting in-depth interviews, the author of this paper sought to explore how a group of international students navigates their experiences at a four-year, public university in southern Texas. After reviewing relevant literature in the fields of education, cultural assimilation and acculturation, and personal and family motivation, three major research questions arose: How does language affect the lives of international students? What factors associated with personal and family motivation lead international students to succeed in foreign environments? And how do social networks ease the path toward assimilation or acculturation for these students? Using a phenomenological theoretical perspective, the author sheds light onto how international students answer these questions. This research argues that the neatly categorized concepts proposed by previous literature is limiting in that it disregards the lived realities experienced by international students. The perceived experiences of the international students are shaped by the dynamic combination between previous knowledge and expectations, and the reality of certain situations imposed on them while studying abroad.