Graduation Semester and Year




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Social Work


Social Work

First Advisor

Anne Nordberg


The purpose of this study was to explore the coming out experiences of international students in the U.S. who identified on the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Queer (LGBTQ) spectrum. Between 2015 and 2016 there was a seven percent reported increase of international students studying in the United States (U.S.) (Institute of International Education [IIE], 2016). Although there are many reports of the increase in international students studying in the U.S. over the years and their experiences of challenges and achievement there is little to no research focused on international LGBTQ students’ experiences in the U.S. Furthermore, there is limited research that addresses the coming out experiences or identities of these students while they are studying in the U.S. An interpretative phenomenological analytic approach was utilized to illuminate these hidden voices. A theoretical framework focused on identity was also utilized to develop a better understanding of the participants’ coming out experiences and identity development. This study included eight participants’ from various regions across the world who identify within the LGBTQ spectrum. The study was conducted at a diverse university located in the U.S. There were four major themes that emerged from the study that captured the coming out experiences of the participants’: Journey to Community; Journey to a Destination of Diversity; Journey to Visibility; and Journey to Interiority. The participants’ narratives reveal their strategic conscious decision to leave their home countries to discover a new community that offered them acceptance, safety, and support. The findings in the study provide a deeper understanding of the journey of the coming out process and identity development of LGBTQ international students studying in the U.S. Implications of the study and future research are discussed.


International students, LGBTQ, Coming out, IPA


Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social Work


Degree granted by The University of Texas at Arlington

Included in

Social Work Commons