Date of Graduation

Spring 2023


Master of Science in Counseling


Counseling, Leadership, and Special Education

Committee Chair

Jeffrey Cornelius-White


COVID-19 has affected the mental health of college students, especially international students. Previous studies show the group’s challenges associated with language barriers, cultural differences, and social support. Greater understanding is needed as the pandemic has aggravated these challenges. Several studies have investigated the impact on international students; however, it is not clear what social-emotional competencies they are using to adjust during COVID-19. This study investigated international students’ social-emotional experiences, coping strategies, and university services used during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study was guided by the social-emotional competency and resiliency models used in mental health. Data was collected using a survey and focus groups. This study’s findings were that emotional challenges were caused by factors such as financial challenges associated with loss of on-campus jobs, retaking of COVID-19 tests, and the unprecedented support cut from family abroad which affected their emotions. Factors like consistent use of masks and fear of testing positive for COVID-19 caused further distress. Changes in mode of instruction resulted in pressure to learn using online platforms before students adjusted. Precautions set to prevent COVID-19 from spreading resulted in social isolation. Participants reported being away from family caused fear of infection. Feelings of uncertainty affected their mental health. Skills used to cope were communication using different platforms to reach family and friends, empathizing with leadership, a positive attitude, and engaging in activities such as cooking, exercise, entertainment and learning new skills for emotional regulation. They engaged in responsible decision making by taking precautions before socializing and avoiding sources of stress. They used relational skills to seek support through services provided on-campus. The most used services were Magers Health Clinic, International Services, Bear Claw, Career Center, and the food pantry. This research may help higher education institutions understand areas to invest in support of international students’ strategies and resilience during and after a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic including high quality and quantity communication, more visibility for peer-assisted services, and recognition of the importance of community resources especially churches.


Keywords: COVID-19, international students, coping strategies, social-emotional, mental health, and adjustment

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© Vyonne N. Momanyi

Available for download on Thursday, May 01, 2025

Open Access

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Counseling Commons