Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 28 Issue 3 (May/June 2018), Pages 109-187

“How can you make friends if you don't know who you are?” A qualitative examination of international students' experience informed by the Social Identity Model of Identity Change (pages 169-187)


This paper explores the contribution of social identity change to international students' health and well‐being. International students typically face a range of challenges from the time they leave their home country, including the need to adapt both to a new culture and norms and to a new educational landscape. Previous research informed by the Social Identity Model of Identity Change (SIMIC) suggests that during such life transitions, an individual's group memberships and associated social identities can provide a buffer against the threats to well‐being that such transitions present. To examine the relevance of SIMIC for the transitions that international students' experience, semistructured interviews were conducted with 15 international students attending an Australian university. Thematic analysis provided support for the relevance of SIMIC's social identity gain and social identity maintenance pathways in the transition and revealed a number of associated factors that acted as either facilitators (e.g., a host family that supported community integration) or barriers (e.g., experiencing culture shock) to social identity change. These findings present the first qualitative support for SIMIC within an international student population and help to flesh out the specific ways in which social identity processes contribute to both positive and negative health and well‐being outcomes.

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