Exploring the Experiences of International Student-Athletes

Date of Award


Degree Name



Graduate School of Professional Psychology

First Advisor

Jamie Shapiro

First Committee Member

John McNeill

Second Committee Member

Steve Portenga


International student-athletes transition ; Behavior/CBT; Adjustment ; University recruiting ; International students ; Mental health ; Sport psychology


According to the latest National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Student Athlete Ethnicity Report, there are 17,653 non-US citizen student-athletes competing in various sports in universities across the country, yet there is very little research to understand their experiences (NCAA, 2010). Previous research has focused on recruitment practices (Bale, 1991; Pierce, Popp, & Meadows, 2011), satisfaction (Trendafilova, Kim, & Hardin, 2010), and adjustment and transitional factors (Pierce, Popp, & Meadows, 2011; Popp, Love, Kim, & Hums, 2010; Ridinger & Pastore, 2000), with a void in examining their overall experiences. Therefore, purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the experiences of international student-athletes in the United States within their athletic department and universities, as well as in the country. Participants were solicited by email, and ultimately six (n = 6) international student-athletes from a Division-I university chose to participate in the study and represented two different countries of origin, Canada and Norway. Participants completed a semi-structured interview, consisting of one broad open-ended question followed by a series of specific follow-up questions. Content analysis revealed that most participants did not consider their experiences different than domestic student-athletes. Challenges shared by most athletes included language barriers, balancing their time, and homesickness. Results also revealed the importance of interpersonal connections, especially with coaches and athletes from the international student-athlete's home country, in ensuring a positive overall experience. Implications of this study are that individuals and professionals working in campus offices associated with international student-athletes should be mindful of their unique roles within the university in order to foster positive experiences and retention.


Copyright is held by the author. Permanently suppressed.


51 pages

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