Winner, Crow Writing Contest 2022
By Hamad AlOmar, University of Arizona


Throughout recent years,  we have seen a growth percentage of Arab international  students studying in the United States. Generally speaking, coming to the United States, students  experience different waves of emotions. These emotions can either influence growth or suffering. Mental health plays a vital role in a person’s life. One would assume that choosing to study in the  United States could offer those students better higher education and better opportunities for  future occupations. According to Abu Rabia (2016), in 2014, Arab international students made  up 10% of the total international students found in the United States. Abu Rabia (2016) mentions  that the term “Arab” is used for people who come from different parts of the Middle Eastern  region. Focusing on Arab international students, we will determine how studying in the United  States affects their way of life, mindset, and their mental capabilities.

Arab international students, , pursue higher education in  the United States due to its qualities and benefits that could help them secure a better future.  There are multiple reasons why Arab students are more likely to study abroad, mainly because  their home country does not offer improved technological equipment, a modernized way of  teaching, and the number of opportunities provided Higher education in the  United States allows these students to explore and do unlimited things, which can enhance their  learning and their knowledge (Abu Rabia, 2016). Abu Rabia (2016) and Li (2018) complement  each other by agreeing that the United States offers a more globalized, improved, and engaging  way of learning. Li (2018) mentioned that a first-rate higher education program attracts students  from around the globe and helps motivate them to strive in their future. This research aims to  discover and understand how studying abroad affects the ideologies and frame of mind of Arab international students. Lastly, this literature review will go in-depth and discuss the bigger  picture behind the concept of studying abroad, its influence, and its implications.


Finding sources related to the topic may have been complex; however, with the sources  found, we will build upon them and create in-depth research regarding Arab students and how  studying abroad can influence new behaviors that allow a person to grow. Abu Rabia (2016)  discussed specific implications that Arab students face when studying abroad. Lagunova (2019)  and Meijer (2015) share similar beliefs regarding how studying abroad can positively impact  one’s way of life and mentality. Lagunova (2019) and Meijer (2015) discussed the importance of  how leaving one’s own comfort zone can result in a better experience, and they both agree on the  fact that studying abroad is not only about academia; however, it is about the daily experiences  and issues a person could go through. Au (2017), similar to Lagunova (2019) and Meijer (2015),  agreed and emphasized that the whole idea of studying abroad is about human experiences rather  than academic experiences. Au (2017) argues that critical thinking is an important concept when  studying abroad because it influences confident choices, affecting the way students communicate  with locals. Gacel-Avila (2005) and Li (2018) suggested that the internationalization of higher  education led to competitiveness between universities and their programs to fit our modernized  standards. Gacel-Avila (2005) and Li (2018) as well acknowledged and agreed that the  internationalization of students resulted in meeting current demands leading to a more globalized  world. Additionally, McDermott-Levy (2008) focuses on Omani women and how studying  abroad positively impacts their life and discusses the implications of Arab women studying  abroad. McDermott-Levy (2008) strongly aided and agreed with Arab women shifting from the norm and doing what is best for them and their future. In sum, with the sources mentioned, we  will have a solid explanation as to how Arab students, with these implications, can have a more  improved mentality.

Throughout available studies, we have seen that there are not enough sources that talk  about how studying abroad can help improve Arab students’ mindset. There has been ample  research focusing on Arab international students; however, they mainly focus on culture shocks,  homesickness, and language barriers that they have experienced. Other research also seems to  not go into detail, mentioning how these implications can allow Arab students to grow. In spite  of that, this research will mainly focus on how all these implications can positively impact Arab  students. Abu Rabia (2016) and McDermott-Levy (2008) do a great job explaining those  implications and going in-depth on how those implications affect Arab students’ mentality.  Researchers, such as Lagunova (2019) and Meijer (2015), preach and urge people to study  abroad and try something new since it can help develop a new persona. Lastly, with the use of  the sources mentioned, we will get an idea of how the implications of studying abroad can  positively affect Arab students’ frame of mind.

Studying Abroad: From culture shocks to a change in behavior

 The idea of internationalization of higher education among students who plan on studying abroad is commonly talked about. Students, generally speaking, want to find something that  could help them achieve their goals and help them build a bright future. When it comes to Arab  students, studies have shown that the idea of studying abroad is trendy and many of them get the  chance of doing so (Abu Rabia, 2016). Some Middle Eastern countries, such as Saudi Arabia  and Kuwait, offer a full-ride scholarship program to the university the student chooses to attend (Abu Rabia, 2016). These Arab students are about to witness major implications that will  significantly impact their overall mental health (Abu Rabia, 2016). According to Lagunova  (2019), the whole experience, at first, may be tough; nevertheless, determination and being  stoic will allow one to get used to the new environment they are in. Lastly, these students will  explore new methods of living, learn new information, and try things they have not done before  (Meijer, 2015).

 Students from around the world have different cultures and traditions that could impact  their lifestyle; however, when moving abroad, they could experience culture shocks, leading to  homesickness (Abu Rabia, 2016). According to Abu Rabia (2016), culture shock results from the  anxiety caused by being in a new and unfamiliar environment. Arab students have identified  some issues that caused these culture shocks, such as religion, communication, morals/ethics,  and rules (Abu Rabia, 2016). Abu Rabia (2016) mentions that homesickness is one of the major  implications that is rooted from culture shocks. Abu Rabia (2016) and McDermott-Levy (2008)  claimed that Arab students mainly get homesick due to them missing their family members and  loved ones, which explains the behavior of loneliness and depression. Arab students are  generally not accustomed to this individualistic lifestyle because they are constantly surrounded  by family members and friends (Abu Rabia, 2016; McDermott-Levy, 2008). With being lonely,  some Arab students have found coping mechanisms that could help keep them motivated in their  studies, such as using their faith in God and calling family members (Abu Rabia, 2016;  McDermott-Levy, 2008). In essence, culture shocks and homesickness can take a toll on mental  health; however, there are ways that these students can cope.

 Homesickness and culture shocks are two of the many implications that international  students go through. Though they can cause a negative impact on mental health, these  implications can also allow one to grow and get familiar with their surroundings (Au, 2017).  According to Li (2018), universities across the United States are doing their best to improve their  programs and make sure that these programs allow one to interact and engage with their  surroundings. Abu Rabia (2016) stated that Arab students are more likely to adapt to these  circumstances when their universities offer social and academic support. The implications are  considered to be part of the human experience because it allows students to be more self-aware  and considerate (Au, 2017). McDermott-Levy (2008) indicated that these implications should not  stop students from missing out on specific opportunities and events. In fact, Meijer (2015)  suggested that international students should always seek out and take opportunities because it  can allow them to learn and be open-minded. Lagunova (2019) mentioned that focusing on  improving and doing what is best will lead a person to have a growth mindset. Lastly, the  purpose of studying abroad is all about leaving one’s comfort zone and taking risks and how  these actions can redefine one’s own personality (Lagunova, 2019; Meijer, 2015).


Studying abroad, though beneficial, has many negative impacts on mental health. The  implications, such as culture shocks and homesickness, can make students feel less motivated  and unproductive. However, studies seem to stray away from the fact that studying abroad can  produce a more positive and open mind. Focusing on Arab international students, we will  showcase how studying abroad can positively impact their mental well-being and how this could  lead to a better future. Universities across the United States are finding ways to improve their  programs and include new teaching methods, which attract students from different parts of the  globe. In short, the aim of this study is to understand how the implications of studying abroad  can positively impact the way of life and mentality of Arab international students.


Abu Rabia, Hazza M. “Undergraduate Arab International Students’ Adjustment to U.S. Universities.” International Journal of Higher Education, vol. 6, no. 1, 2016, pp. 131–139.,

Au, A.  Go international: How studying abroad can change your life . (2017).  YouTube . Retrieved March 16, 2022, from

Gacel-Ávila, J (2005). The Internationalisation of Higher Education: A Paradigm for Global Citizenry. Journal of Studies in International Education, 9(2), 121–136.

Lagunova, Z.  Studying abroad — more than education . (2019).  YouTube . Retrieved March 15, 2022, from

Li. (2018). Globalization and Internationalization of Higher Education in the United States. In Conceptualizing Soft Power of Higher Education (pp. 173–181). Springer Singapore.

McDermott-Levy, R. (2009).  The lived experience of female arab-muslim nurses studying in the  united states  (Order No. 3391122). Available from  ProQuest Dissertations & Theses  Global. (305015528). Retrieved from  es/lived-experience-female-arab-muslim-nurses/docview/305015528/se-2?accountid=8360

 “Why Study Abroad | Marina Meijer | TEDxDelftSalon.” Performance by Marina Meijer Meijer,  YouTube , TEDX, 20 Apr. 2015,