Date of Award

Spring 5-4-2018

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Sandra Caron

Second Committee Member

Patrick Cheek

Third Committee Member

Hind Derar

Additional Committee Members

Kathleen Gillon

Annette Nelligan


International student enrollment at institutions of higher education in the United States continues to rise. Despite political and social tensions, students from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) nations continue to enroll in record numbers, yet there is minimal literature focused on the experiences of this sub-group of international students.

This qualitative study sought to understand the lived-experiences and perceived needs of Muslim International students from Middle East and North Africa nations enrolled in an institution of higher education in the northeast United States. This study employed a phenomenological approach to discovery aimed to develop new understandings of their lived experiences and perceived needs through an in-depth and semi-structured interview.

Thirteen participants (10 men, 3 women) from a large research institution in the northeast United States were asked to describe their academic and social experiences with attending an institution of higher education, as well as share their recommendations for enhancing their experience. Several themes emerged from analysis of their interviews.

The themes emerged within three categories: academic experiences, social experiences and perceive needs. Within their academic environment, most participants described feeling inadequate with English language skills development and feeling under-prepared for their advanced coursework. Additionally, several participants described incidents of bias and discrimination in the classroom. Social experiences highlighted invaluable campus support services and the importance of eating as social activity. While all participants portrayed the community as friendly and welcoming, there were several incidents of discrimination and bias revealed. All participants highlighted a need for transportation and increasing the availability for and access to Halal food options, as well as having the desire to confront negativities portrayed in the media.

By exploring the lived experiences of this sub-group of international students, greater insights may be gained to open the door to this underrepresented population during a period of political and social uncertainty. This research may be valuable for professional development planning and educational leadership programs with the objective of creating positive living and learning environments that support the complex needs of Muslim international students from MENA and enhance opportunities that promote a culturally sensitive, respectful, and inclusive community.