Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D. in Psychology

First Advisor

David A. Spruill

Second Advisor

Susan Mossing

Third Advisor

Marc Showalter

Abstract

The purpose of this research was to explore the experiences of international students participating in the Cultural Connections Program at The University of Mississippi. A generic qualitative design was utilized using purposeful criterion sampling. The data was collected from two focus group interviews with 11 participants in focus group 1 and 10 participants in focus group 2. Using a generic qualitative approach, eight initial themes were identified after focus group 1 and eight clarifying questions were developed based on these themes. During focus group 2, these clarifying questions were utilized to further explore the eight initial themes in more depth and detail. As a result of this exploration, six major themes emerged. Consistent with a generic qualitative approach, the report of findings with supporting quotes described participants' experiences within the six major themes. Discussion of these themes provides understanding about international students experiences related to adjustment and acculturation. Additionally it sheds the light on their experiences of participation in a holistic multifaceted program, such as the Cultural Connections Program. The results show that the experience of Connecting/Connections is the most fundamental for international students and that a sense of Belonging, Safety, Security, Confidence, Acceptance, Openness, and Opportunities to Learn, Grow, and Change seemed to emerge as a result of obtaining social support and connections. Therefore, this research suggests that in order to assist international students in adjustment and acculturation, it is advisable to offer social support groups. Such social interactions can contribute to the expansion of social circles and create opportunities to learn and succeed while studying abroad. The findings of this research also suggest that offering a holistic multifaceted approach can be an effective way to promote and teach help-seeking behavior and provide a variety of opportunities to attract international students to campus resources. Additionally, the findings indicate the possibility of a sequential progression in the process of adjustment and acculturation in international students, based on the participants' experiences. Such a developmental hierarchy would be valuable to assist planners and other service providers with a sequence of support services that could positively impact the adjustment and acculturation process. Further investigation in this area is recommended, as well as further development of an interactional model based on the six themes identified in this study. An interactional model may assist counseling professionals in improving services to international students, increasing retention rates and promoting academic success.

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