Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Studies


Foundations of Education

First Advisor

Michelle L Bryan


As the number of students studying in the United States (U.S.) has risen, scholars have increasingly paid attention to multiple aspects of the international student experience. Despite a proliferation of studies generally addressing the topic of international students, few studies have explicitly addressed the ways in which international students' sense of identity may be complicated during their time living and studying in the U.S. Scholarly inquiries into how international students experience racialization and the American racial paradigm have been missing from the overall discourse around "the international student experience."

This dissertation study contributes to that discourse by examining international graduate students' experiences with race and racial identity in the United States. This study used a comparative case study methodology to examine the racialized experiences of five international graduate students at a university in the U.S. Southeast. The participants' home countries were Brazil, China, England, Nigeria, and Norway. Students' diverse experiences with race, racial identity, and racialization both at home and in the U.S. varied greatly depending upon the national context in which they grew up, their own social class, ethnic, and racial backgrounds, and the ways in which they have been racialized during their time in the U.S. The participants' narratives also highlight the complex interactions between race and place, both inside and outside of the United States. Furthermore, their narratives revealed that they perceived the significance of race in the United States to be heightened when compared to their home countries, and their perspectives also converged around their observations the continued significance of race in U.S. life. The findings of the study challenge the notion that people fit neatly into hierarchies of racial identity development, particularly when the development of those models have been concentrated around fixed notions of blackness and whiteness. The participants' narratives suggest that faculty and staff pay particular attention to international students' social locations and prior experiences regarding race, social class, immigrant status, language use, and the norms of graduate learning.

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