Exploring the psychological wellbeing and experiences of UK-based MENA international students during conflict in home-countries

Pacheco, Emily-Marie (2020) Exploring the psychological wellbeing and experiences of UK-based MENA international students during conflict in home-countries. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This research explores the psychological wellbeing and experiences of international doctoral students from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region who are studying abroad during a time of conflict in their home-countries. It is necessary to develop an understanding of this growing cohorts’ experiences as there are many potential vulnerabilities where their psychological wellbeing is concerned, which may make their lives more challenging than the average person or international student. As there are many psychological aspects of their experience that we may not yet understand, two broad research questions guide this investigation: (1) How is this cohort affected by home-country conflict while abroad and (2) how do they cope with any effects. A sequential exploratory mixed-methods design was employed to answer these questions with rigor in attaining both depth and breadth, where a primary qualitative investigation is emphasized, followed by a supplementary quantitative investigation. The qualitative phase comprised 24 semi-structured interviews with Syrian (n=14), Palestinian (n=5) and Turkish (n=5) UK-based international doctoral students; an interpretative phenomenological analysis framework guided the research design, and
coding and identification of the following superordinate themes: Triggers and Facilitators of Stress, International Student Dynamics, Psychological wellbeing, National Identity, and Coping. These themes provide a rich foundation for understanding the significant factors which comprise the experiences of this cohort and which influence their psychological wellbeing. The qualitative findings were converted into quantitative survey items and aggregated with a focus on measuring dimensions of psychological wellbeing, resulting in a novel tool: Remote Exposure to Trauma Impact Scale (RETIS). The quantitative phase comprised of designing and pilot testing RETIS and exploring triangulation and generalizability of the qualitative findings to address a third research question asks (3) how do quantitative findings from a different sample of the same population converge with or diverge from the qualitative findings? A low respondent rate (N=18) limits the depth of statistical interpretation, but quantitative findings offer early support for RETIS and are consistent with the qualitative findings. Both phases strongly suggest the participants experience poor psychological wellbeing, high levels of perceived impact from events occurring in home-countries, and are largely predisposed to intersectional psychological distress given their strong psychological and emotional ties to events occurring in their home-countries, while also pursuing advanced degrees in host environments. Findings also provide unexpected insight into the psychological wellbeing dynamics of this group concerning the role and influence of their held identities. Lack of comfort with explicit coping
mechanisms and the use of professional mental health services exacerbate the vulnerability of this group, given their adverse circumstances. However, their high-functioning capabilities suggest there may be an inherent resilience across this group. Overall, this study highlights the complex, intersectional stresses to which this growing cohort is susceptible. This thesis contributes rich empirical insights, offers the RETIS tool through rigorous tool development as part of mixed methods research, and contributes to knowledge through a two-stage conceptualization of a novel theoretical construct, Remote Trauma, which addresses a gap in the literature concerning direct trauma experiences involving adverse events which occur remotely.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: international students, trauma, coping, identity, MENA, IPA, qualitative, quantitative
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Ellio, Dr. Dely and Makara Fuller, Dr. Kara
Date of Award: 2020
Embargo Date: 4 December 2024
Depositing User: Emily-Marie Pacheco
Unique ID: glathesis:2020-81845
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 07 Dec 2020 08:41
Last Modified: 21 Mar 2023 09:33
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.81845
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/81845

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