Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Gary H. Bischof

Second Advisor

Dr. Suzanne M. Hedstrom

Third Advisor

Dr. Karen Blaisure


Many studies document the experiences of single international students in the U.S. culture. However, little is known about the experiences of married international students, their marital relationships, and the experiences of their accompanying nonstudent spouses in the U.S. culture.

This qualitative phenomenological study focused on the experiences of married international graduate students and their accompanying spouses in the U.S. culture. Additionally, the study explored the impact of cultural influences on the participants' marital relationships, as well as the impact of marriage on their adjustment to the culture.

The study included twenty participants (ten couples) from a range of countries, most from Asia and Africa. Interviews were conducted with each participant individually followed by a conjoint interview with each couple, for a total of thirty interviews.

The findings of the study suggest that married international graduate students and their accompanying spouses' experiences are impacted by cultural factors in the following areas: (1) interpersonal relationships; (2) Americans' attitudes toward marriage; (3) academic environment; (4) parenting practices; (5) community organizational structures; and (6) physical environment. Balancing multiple roles appears to be the most salient challenge for married international graduate students. Developing a strong social support network and evaluating the host culture to identify characteristics that should be thwarted or potentially integrated were some of the coping mechanisms cited.

Homesickness, loneliness, and role shock were some of the most significant challenges experienced by the accompanying spouses (including two males) in the study, particularly for those who had an established professional identity beforehand. Key coping strategies for accompanying spouses include setting personal goals and engaging in a process of meaning-making.

Increased closeness in the marital relationship and a tendency to guard against negative cultural influences were some of the themes that emerged from the participants' responses. Recommendations based on the findings are offered for counselor educators, college counselors, and student affairs professionals.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access