"Work Hard, Depend on Yourself"
As increasing numbers of international students enroll at US universities, these institutions must consider how best to create inclusive campus environments that serve varied learning needs. While international student enrollment at schools of education remains low, some elite programs are drawing growing numbers, but there is a dearth of research regarding international students' transitions into this culturally-embedded field. These experiences warrant investigation so that faculty, administrators, and fellow students might better understand, accommodate, and empower the international students in their midst. The purpose of this dissertation is to describe how 7 female international students from China, South Korea, and India perceive their transition experiences in Master’s programs at an elite US graduate school of education. Three interviews were conducted with each woman, using questions based on Charmaz's (2006) life change protocol. Research sub-questions concerned: a) the decision to study in the US, b) the women’s personal characteristics and background experiences, c) challenges and changes, d) strategies, and e) forms of support. Grounded theory was paired with narrative methods to analyze and present findings, highlighting themes within and across participants’ transitions. Schlossberg’s transition model (Anderson et al., 2012) was used to interpret results, especially women's coping resources. Three main themes emerged: the complexity of self-determination, hard work and its limits, and marginalization and attempts to minimize it. Despite positive experiences, the women faced challenges. While most gained a sense of independence, some resented their new responsibilities and missed previous support networks. All women reported hard work as a key academic strategy, but their diligence was not always enough to transcend language and cultural barriers. Faced with segregation and/or marginalization in America, most women attempted to enrich their experience, surrounding themselves with caring people, volunteering, or seeking resources to achieve goals. The findings suggest that institutions of higher education should assess the social and academic needs of international Master's students and offer tailored support services that address language and cultural barriers inherent in their programs.