Navigating growing awareness and shifting identities: the experiences of Saudi international women who studied in the United States

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Noura Aloush Abothneen (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Silvia Bettez

Abstract: As the number of international students studying in the United States increases, it is important to analyze how specific subsets of international students understand their experiences in order to ensure student success in specific populations. Both female students and Saudi students have individually been given very little attention in the academic literature. Because of these intersecting identities, this research sought to understand the lived experience of Saudi international women studying in the United States. Two theories guided this project, critical race feminism and transformative learning theory. Eight Saudi women were interviewed who lived in the U.S. for at least two years and who completed a degree at a university in the United States and were, at the time of the interviews, again living in Saudi Arabia. Three in-depth, qualitative interviews based in phenomenology per participant were conducted in order to gain the necessary depth for a phenomenological analysis. The research sought to answer the following questions: 1) What are the lived experiences of Saudi international women in U.S. colleges and universities? a) What social, cultural, and academic challenges have they faced? b) What do they perceive as positive social, cultural, and academic experiences? 2) How do the educational experiences and knowledge gained from being an international student in the United States influence how they view themselves? The data were analyzed using Brookfield’s seven tasks of transformative learning theory (i.e., challenging ideologies, contesting hegemony, unmasking power, overcoming alienation, learning liberation, reclaiming reason, and practicing democracy) to look at the participants’ international study experiences based on gender and race. I found that the participants were able to analyze their international study experiences clearly through the lens of sexism but had much more difficulty doing the same based on race. Several themes beyond Brookfield’s framework were identified, namely ambassadorship, isolation, hijab, patriarchy, empowerment, and identity shifting. Due to these themes in conjunction with Brookfield’s framework, I identify implications for practice as well as suggestions for future research.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2019
Critical Race Feminism, Transformative Learning Theory
Muslim women $x Education (Higher) $z United States
Saudi Arabian students $z United States
Racism in higher education
Sexism in higher education
Transformative learning

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