Date of Award

December 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Education and Organizational Leadership Development

Committee Member

Russell Marion

Committee Member

Robert Knoeppel

Committee Member

Angela Naimou

Committee Member

Mathew Boyer


This research explored the phenomenon of social media in international students’ lives. It depicted how international students use social media during their stay in a host university. It asks, “How do international students develop their personal networks in the host country? What social media applications are used by international students during their stay in the U.S.? The study incorporated qualitative methods to interpret the experiences of 12 participants from 9 different countries studying in an American rural school of southern area of the U.S. Participants were interviewed individually for 30-45 minutes. The study findings were divided into 4 themes based on the major themes that emerged from the research questions. These themes were, Arrival Experiences, Online Support, Expanding Personal Networks, and finally, Social Media Usage and Popular Platforms.

Findings suggest that international students do not depend on social media to address academic issues but rather prefer in person interaction with lab mates and faculty members for those problems. International students do, however, depend extensively on social media to help them adjust socially and culturally in their new environment. They use social media to maintain and develop ties to the host community by bridging friendships and establishing bonds. The results suggest that WhatsApp is a favorite app followed by Facebook. Interestingly, international students did not rely on apps that are popular in the U.S. Their reasons for this are related to their social capital needs and are discussed in Chapter 5.



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