A Phenomenological Study of Saudi Arabian Female Students’ Experiences and Sense of Belonging in One HBCU in the Southeast of the United States

Maram Alghamdi, Tennessee State University


Saudi Arabian female students face many challenges in their adjustments while studying in United States higher education institutions that may impact their sense of belonging. Sense of belonging in higher education has been linked to academic success, persistence, and emotional wellbeing. However, there is a dearth of literature about the sense of belonging of Saudi female students studying at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to explore the phenomenon of being a Saudi Arabian female student at one HBCU in the southeast region of the United States through the lens of Tinto’s sense of belonging theory. To this end, the study explored factors that influence participants’ belongingness at the university. A qualitative phenomenological design was used to address the research questions: How do Saudi Arabian female higher education students experience a sense of belonging in an HBCU in the United States? And, what factors influence Saudi Arabian female higher education students’ sense of belonging in the university? To understand their experiences and sense of belonging, six Saudi female students voluntary participated. Data were collected using an open-ended questionnaire, two semi-structured interviews, and field notes during the interviews. The data were analyzed using the phenomenological phases explained by Moustakas (1994): (a) data reduction, (b) clustering into themes, (c) textural description and structural description, and (d) textural-structural description. The six Saudi female students, who represented five different majors and three academic levels, provided rich data about their experiences and sense of belonging in one HBCU in the United States. The findings of this study identified six primary themes; each theme includes several subthemes: (1) transition, (2) experiencing academic interaction, (3) experiencing social integration, (4) encountering challenges, (5) persistence, and (6) participants’ suggestions on enhancing their belonging. In light of the findings, several recommendations for future research and implications for practice were provided.

Subject Area

Middle Eastern Studies|Womens studies|Educational sociology|Higher education|Educational administration|Cultural Resources Management|Organizational behavior

Recommended Citation

Maram Alghamdi, "A Phenomenological Study of Saudi Arabian Female Students’ Experiences and Sense of Belonging in One HBCU in the Southeast of the United States" (2020). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI27831676.