International student-athlete adjustment experience at community colleges in the Midwest

Sabourin, Jennifer
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Each academic year, the number of international students attending colleges and universities in the United States increases. Of the nearly 1 million international students coming to the United States for education, just under 10% enroll at community colleges; international student-athletes are among that total. In addition to the cultural and academic adjustments that all international students face, international student-athletes have the added pressures of athletics to adjust to when attending their community college. In the past, limited research focusing on the international student-athlete adjustment experience at 4-year universities has been conducted.

In this study, I emulated previous research, focusing more on the adjustment experiences of international student-athletes attending community colleges in the Midwest. In the semistructured interviews conducted for this qualitative case study, I focused on the adjustments of international student-athletes in the areas of academic, social, and athletic experiences. A total of 12 international student-athletes, attending six different institutions located in the Midwest, volunteered to participate and met the defined criteria.

Through the analysis of coded data collected during the semi-structured interviews, the findings indicated two major themes that reflected the adjustment experience of international student-athletes at community colleges, with multiple patterns supporting each theme. The emergent themes in this study were (a) factors influencing college-bound international student-athletes and (b) the transition to finding a place on campus. Reinforcing patterns that supported the themes that emerged included the participants’ focus on education, athletic skills, and scholarship as influencing factors, whereas language barriers, homesickness, and the impact of teammates surfaced for a sense of belonging. Recommendations for future international student-athletes, coaching staff, and college administrators are included.