Date of Award

Spring 5-17-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

PhD Higher Education Leadership, Management, Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Joseph Stetar, PhD

Committee Member

Eunyoung Kim, PhD

Committee Member

Rebecca Cox, PhD


international education, study abroad outcomes, foreign students in the U.S., Georgian students in the U.S.


This qualitative study sought to understand how living and studying in the United States affected the personalities, beliefs, attitudes, and careers of a group of female students from the Republic of Georgia. The researcher traveled to Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, to interview twenty alumni of U.S. study programs (on undergraduate and graduate study levels) individually. Jack Mezirow’s Transformational Learning Theory and David Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory provide the theoretical framework for the study.

The findings revealed that living and studying in the U.S. matured the participants personally as they got to experience the challenges that accompany living independently in an unfamiliar environment, which in turn boosted their sense of self and efficacy. Also, the study participants commonly expressed that the U.S. experience taught them to appreciate difference and diversity firsthand, and enabled them to recognize — and then dismiss — stereotypes they had held about people they had never met. They also described the experience of personal interactions with people of different nationalities as eye-opening and invaluable. Living away from their home country naturally brought about changes in the participants’ frames of reference by forcing them to critically reflect on their prior knowledge and consciously transform their attitudes and actions. Furthermore, the participants greatly attributed their successful careers to the knowledge and skills gained while studying in the U.S.