Publication Date

Spring 5-11-2018

Document Type

Action research project: Open access

Degree Name

MA Higher Education Leadership


Leadership Studies


The intention of this research was to expand the common notion of who international students are. This research uncovered the unique experiences of third culture students at the University of San Diego with the hopes of raising awareness of the existence of this group of students. The term third culture [student] was defined as an individual “who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside their parent’s culture” (Pollock, Van Reken, & Pollock, 2017, p.23). Third culture students have experienced a highly mobile life; a kind of lifestyle that is unique and unfamiliar to many USD students. Utilizing two cycles of Appreciative Inquiry, this research explored the questions: What are the experiences of students who identify as third culture students at the University of San Diego and how can I as an aspiring higher education practitioner facilitate greater understanding of what it means to be an international student? Findings of this research created awareness in the lived experiences of third culture students and complexities of student identities, which debunked the common notion that international students refer to students have entered America on a student visa. The desired outcome and implications of this work were to raise awareness among the general USD community about the complexities of being international and creating an inclusive environment that welcomes all students who consider themselves to be international.