Exploring the Transitional Experiences of International Students at Community Colleges



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This qualitative study aimed to explore the transitional experiences of international students at community colleges, along with the factors that impact their sense of belonging and persistence. The population of this study attended a large community college in Southeastern Texas. The purposeful sample consisted of 10 international students studying English as a second language (ESL) within the same college system studying in their second year. Individuals were interviewed and an inductive and deductive coding process was used to analyze and transcribe the collected qualitative data. The qualitative data revealed seven emerging themes: the barriers, such as financial hardship, language barrier, and lack of guidance or support, negatively impacted students’ experience, and on the contrary a supportive system such as faculty, friends and family and well-equipped institution with varied resources positively impacted their transitional experience. The curricular and extra-curricular engagements, faculty-peer relationships, and feeling healthy, safe, and comfortable enhanced their satisfaction and helped them develop a sense of belonging. Finally, it was concluded that the students' attitudes, such as their perseverance and resilience, can prevent dropouts, and the college’s reputation, such as the ranking or quality of the program the college offers, had an impact on the international students' persistence and affected their decision to complete their degrees. The research concludes with implications and recommendations for future research based on the findings.



Higher Education, Community Colleges, Students' Experience, Students' challenges, Students' barriers, Students' Support Services, International Students, F1 Visa, Studying in the U.S., ESL, Bilingualism, Multiculturalism, Student's sense of belonging, Student's persistence