International Students and Changing Policy: Experience, Life, and Plans after Graduation

No Thumbnail Available
Marbang, Phattra
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Middle Tennessee State University
This research is a qualitative study that utilizes 17 international students’ experiences in the U.S. Specifically, I examine the aspects of immigration regulations and policies regarding international students and the students’ reactions to those policies—from becoming to maintaining status to planning after graduation—by using qualitative interviews. I also weave in my own experience, as an international student, along with findings from my interview participants to understand this particular social situation. This method is conceptualized as sociological introspection. In this research, I argue that immigration regulations and policies are a tool of U.S. political administrations that effectively regulate immigrants’ lives, as well as international students’ lives (who are a subgroup of immigrants more broadly). My research suggests the current United States administration has created a moral panic over immigration, or the threat of immigration. As a result, the political rhetoric causes international students to experience negative emotions, such as anxiety, fear, and concern. I use Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Racial Formation Theory (RFT) as my overarching theoretical frameworks. Both provide the tools to orient my research and findings, and they provided me with an understanding of how the current U.S. administration frames and regulates immigrants and international students as the “other.” I have four main findings: (1) the emotions and experiences of what it takes to become an international student; (2) what international students undergo in the process of maintaining legal status; (3) their emotional response to the current U.S. administration’s policies, both proposed and enacted as it relates to immigration and international students; and (4) how all of this affects students’ plans after graduation. Finally, this research contributes to comprehending this phenomenon in a unique and challenging time in the geographic and social setting of the American South, specifically the state of Tennessee. I suggest that future research use my findings in other geographical settings and under future political administrations.