UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

“Where are you from?” : international students’ experiences of belonging through a participatory photovoice lens Dreier, Virginia


A sense of belonging involves feeling valued and welcomed and is vital for student wellbeing. International students in higher education experience many serious challenges that threaten a sense of belonging on campus; however, it is not well known how international students themselves experience or assess belonging on university campuses from an emic and strengths-based perspective. This study utilized photovoice, as a participatory action research method, to collaboratively explore students' experiences, asking: (a) when or where do you feel belonging on campus, (b) what facilitates or harms a sense of belonging? And (c) what changes may be needed to support belonging? Students photographed their daily experiences in response to the research questions and contextualized the photos through personal narratives and group dialogue. Reflexive thematic analysis was applied for data analysis and emergent themes confirmed by the student co-researchers. Student co-researchers generated recommendations for their peer community and for the institution. Findings indicated the importance of social, spatial, and intrapersonal aspects of belonging, suggesting a multi-layered and complex process of belonging. Environmental and social interventions for international students are implicated to provide access and opportunities vital for developing connection and a sense of belonging on campus.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International