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., https://doi.org/10.5430/ijhe.v6n1p131.
Au, A. Go international: How studying abroad can change your life . (2017). YouTube . Retrieved March 16, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BcaB4PiecU.
Gacel-Ávila, J (2005). The Internationalisation of Higher Education: A Paradigm for Global Citizenry. Journal of Studies in International Education, 9(2), 121–136. https://doi.org/10.1177/1028315304263795
Lagunova, Z. Studying abroad — more than education . (2019). YouTube . Retrieved March 15, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMOPAstubN0&list=WL&index=3.
Li. (2018). Globalization and Internationalization of Higher Education in the United States. In Conceptualizing Soft Power of Higher Education (pp. 173–181). Springer Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-13-0641-9_9
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 https://ezproxy.library.arizona.edu/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/dissertations-thes 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, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1Zha2CrJZ0