This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Saudi Student Integration in Southeastern U.S. Higher Education Institutions: A Study on the Impact of Academic, Social, and Cultural Adjustments Related to Academic Success




Melius, Carrie

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology


Saudi student enrollment in U.S. higher education institutions has been increasing due to factors like the rising enrollment of international students in the U.S. Another major reason includes the King Abdullah Scholarship Program, which implemented efforts to promote peace and improve international relations as well as boost the economy of Saudi Arabia (Alqahtani, 2014; Hilal, Scott, & Maadad, 2015; Hilal, Scott, & Maadad, 2015). There is a lack of mixed methods data on Saudi students’ social and cultural integration issues and how this impacts academic success. The purpose of this study was to examine these adjustment issues and how they relate to students’ abilities to succeed academically in U.S. universities. This study incorporated Mezirow’s Transformative Learning Theory and Tinto’s Student Departure Theory into the theoretical framework. Data was collected using quantitative and qualitative mixed methods, including the Needs Assessment of International Students (NAIS) (Reynolds & Suh, 2005), the College Student Report by the National Survey of Student Engagement (Kuh, 2001a), and follow-up interviews. The student population focused on Saudi undergraduate students studying in Southeastern universities in the U.S. This study employed a mixed methods approach to analyzing the collected data. Data analysis was conducted using several methods. The online survey results were analyzed by inputting data into IBM SPSS Statistics 20. The researcher used SPSS to analyze data and show descriptive data and relationships between academic, social, and cultural adjustment issues with academic success using Pearson r correlations, t-tests, and one-way ANOVA analysis. The follow-up interview responses were analyzed through a phenomenological lens (Moustaka, 1994). Based on the interview responses, common themes were identified and expanded on for this study. Some of the findings from this study related to academic challenges revealed that participants found the amount of academic reading difficult and limited language skills and fear of making mistakes when speaking English as somewhat difficult. According to the qualitative results, most students shared that they did not feel adequately prepared in English and critical thinking skills prior to arrival in the United States. Participants indicated that they struggled to make American friends but had little difficulty making friends from their own culture. Depression and homesickness were acknowledged by participants in this study. Students also had difficulty with American students’ lack of understanding of their culture which led to cultural misconceptions and instances of discrimination. Most participants noted that their institutions should do more to support international students studying in the U.S. by providing specialized services for academic success. The results were concluded with a section on how self-reflection has assisted students with being successful and overcoming challenges through self-discovery and understanding. This study is significant because it investigated Saudi student perspectives in the entire Southeastern region of the U.S. The student population included both male and female perspectives on adjustment issues and incorporated a comprehensive analysis by use of the quantitative and qualitative results. The need for this study is appropriate to educate higher education institutions on the adjustment challenges faced by this growing student population within the Southeastern region of the U.S. to improve their overall experiences.