Creating a Sense of Belonging as a Transnational Family: A Qualitative Study of Student Visa-Holding Families in the United States

Date
2020-01-01
Authors
Gammana Liyanage, Maneesha
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Dr. Clinton Gudmunson
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Human Development and Family Studies
Abstract

Having a sense of belonging is a fundamental human need. In the age of mass globalization, students attending universities far away from their home countries, together with immediate family members, function as transnational entities as they engage in day-to-day activities. These student visa-holding families are a unique subset of all transnational families. They live under distinct timelines, have access to a unique set of opportunities, and face peculiar challenges. How these factors affect a family’s sense of belonging has been understudied—especially for families originating from South Asia. The United States holds a comparatively large share of the world’s families of this type. The challenge of establishing a sense of belonging, especially in the context of shifting political winds, can be a source of family stress. In this paper, I investigated how student visa-holding families function to create a sense of belonging using qualitative methods, with a phenomenological approach. Six themes emerged: 1) family support, 2) meaningful opportunities, 3) supportive community, 4) familiarity, 5) positive attitude, and 6) supportive policies. Supportive policies act as a unique theme because it has the ability to enhance the other five ways families created a sense of belonging.

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