Students from India at a Major Research University in the United States: A Phenomenological Study of Transition, Adjustment, and Transformation



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The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the phenomena of transition, adjustment, and transformation among adult graduate students from India, who made the transition to Nurture University in the southwestern part of the United States. According to Open Doors 2008, since 2001, a majority of the international students in U.S. higher education has been from India. Because of the significant cultural gap between India and the United States, Indian students encounter adjustment difficulties in the host country. To overcome such difficulties, students apply several coping strategies, which in turn lead to a transformational change among them. The transitional adjustment literature on the experiences of the students from India has been very limited. This lack of attention to Indian students, despite the fact that their percentage has been increasing in the U.S. higher education, is an issue of concern and, therefore, calls for research. To achieve this goal, a phenomenological data analysis process presented by Moustakas's modified version of Stevick-Colaizzi-Keen's method was utilized. Data analysis generated the following themes: individual experiences, situational experiences, coping strategies/suggestions, and personal transformation. Under individual experiences, the participants described their experiences in the United States, and differences between their expectations and experiences in relation to Nurture University and general living. Under the situational experiences, study participants described the differences between being a student in the United States versus in India, and the differences between the academic systems of United States and that of India. Further, the application of imaginative variation in step 7 of the data analysis led to the identification of two sub-themes under the theme individual experiences: individual factors that helped in adjustment and individual factors that hindered adjustment in the United States. Sub-themes identified under situational experiences were situational factors that helped in adjustment and situational factors that hindered adjustment in the United States. This study has implications for the home country, host country, adult education, higher education, policy, theory and future research. To ensure the trustworthiness of the data, qualitative procedures such as Epoche, thick descriptions of the phenomenon of transition and member checks, were employed.