International Students at Whittier College: Is there a sense of Belonging?

Date of Award


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Rebecca Overmyer-Velazquez


Understanding better how international students adjust in the United Students is important to their social and academic success. Students who arrive in the United States, having left their families behind, have to not only adjust to a new lifestyle but also learn to become independent. Why do international students choose to come to the United States and how do they cope under pressure without their families in the same country? Most of the research done today is survey-based, and focused on single ethnic groups rather than heterogeneous groups of students at U.S colleges, resulting in less understanding of the variety of international student experience. To fill this gap in research, I conducted a total of 10 interviews with students from 9 different countries at Whittier College. The interviews suggest that international students at Whittier College feel a strong sense of belonging because of the small school Whittier is known to be. I also found that early childhood experiences in the United States as well as students frequently changing schools are correlated with feelings of independence. In conclusion, the results show that students were willing to share their personal experiences, either positive or negative, and I was able to gain a deeper understanding of their adjustment in America on a more personal level due to the qualitative interviews that were conducted. In addition, I found that it is not only a cultural adjustment but an institutional one as well.


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