Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Counselor Education


Educational Leadership, Counseling, and Foundations

Major Professor

Belser Christopher

Second Advisor

Wade Michelle

Third Advisor

Panagiotis Markopoulos


International students face a lot of challenges while studying abroad, with or without the supportive system that their families provide. Sub-Saharan Africa international students consists of 3.7 percent of the population, which indicates a 2.1 percent increase prior to previous year. While in the host country, this population is saddled with the self-responsibilities of maintaining their values, cultural identities, personality, language ability, self-perceptions, and attitudes. African international students adopt a masking behavior in the form of adaptive strategies that could hide the mental health concerns experienced.

The purpose of this constructivist grounded theory study was to explore the untold lived experiences of sub-Saharan African international students as they face various challenges and coping strategies, while adjusting to the cultural differences experienced in America. An intensive semi-structured interview method was adopted to gather data from the eight participants, and data was analyzed using grounded theory. The conceptual framework that was integrated to guide the study was the Health Belief Model.

The study shed light into perceptions about mental health and help-seeking behavior described by the participants. The five themes that emerged were: (a) ethnic group support; (b) psychological struggles; (c) thoughts about services; (d) counselor cultural responsiveness and humility; and (e) counseling process mistrust. The themes suggest that the participants experienced transitional challenges adjusting to the United States; and opting for counseling service was not a preferred help-seeking decision due to gaps in information. The outcome translates into different ways that help can be channeled to this population, whilst providing insights into culturally appropriate methods that the university counseling center can integrate to facilitate early services. Culture affects how mental health is viewed, an approach that tends towards cultural lens needs to be applied when providing services to international students for them to complete the counseling process.


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