Date of Award

Spring 5-2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Studies and Research

Committee Chair

Lee Pierce

Committee Chair Department

Educational Studies and Research

Committee Member 2

James T. Johnson

Committee Member 2 Department

Educational Studies and Research

Committee Member 3

Lilian H. Hill

Committee Member 3 Department

Educational Studies and Research

Committee Member 4

Anne M. Burgess

Committee Member 4 Department

Child and Family Studies


This study is a mixed-method study. It consists of a quantitative study and a qualitative study. The quantitative study focused on international adult learners’ experiences of adaptation to American academic and social cultures. The qualitative study then investigated their experiences of cultural transition.

Based on the definition of globalized influences (Finger, 2005) and existing studies discussing the effects on globalized educational environments (Merriam & Young), factors related to globalized influences were selected and used to examine the extent to which these factors have affected international students’ adaptation to learning and life in the American university. Additionally, the other two variables, student group size and students’ major were also examined.

This study adopted transformative learning theories (Mezirow, 1991, 2000; Kegan, 1994) and applied phenomenological qualitative research steps to explore and analyze international students’ experiences of cultural transition in learning and living in the U.S.

The international students participating in this study were from 32 different countries and were all actively enrolled (2009-2010 academic year) at a 4-year university in the southeastern United States. A total 115 international students participated in the quantitative study through e-mail or hard copy of survey questions. Most of the sample were Asian graduate students and were science majors. Sixteen out of the 115 international students participated in the qualitative interview.

The International Student Transition Survey (ISTS), which consists of 80 5-point Likert scale items and eight demographic questions, was used to gather data about international students’ social and academic transition to life in the U.S. A Multivariate Multiple Regression statistical analysis revealed significant correlations between five factors of adaptation, and international students’ academic and sociocultural adaptation.

Independent Simple t-Tests revealed no statistically significant relationships between international students’ group size or academic majors, and their adaptation to academic learning and sociocultural life.

The qualitative portion of this research involved administering eight to 10 interview questions to participants who completed the above survey questions and volunteered to be interviewed to explore the perceptions of their own transition experience in the U.S. The transcripts were analyzed by the steps of phenomenological research methods. The findings indicated globalization has significantly influenced the students’ transition experiences in academic learning and sociocultural life.