Interpreting the experiences and challenges of international students at U.S. universities

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Title:
Interpreting the experiences and challenges of international students at U.S. universities
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Project in lieu of thesis
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English
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Celik-George, Neslihan
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College of Fine Arts; University of Florida
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Gainesville, Fla
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Abstract:
This research identifies some of the challenges that international students encounter during their pursuit of educational studies at U.S. universities, particularly those students who consider English as their second language. This research draws primarily on personal testimonies from three international students (including the author herself). These students are currently enrolled in a North American University’s arts program. The experience of the author has also been represented through a solo art show if clay sculptures and installations.
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Art Education terminal project

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University of Florida Institutional Repository
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University of Florida
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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 1 INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES OF INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS AT U.S. UNIVERSITIES By NESLIHAN CELIK GEORGE A CAPSTONE PROJECT PRESENTED TO THE COLLEGE OF FINE ARTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF FINE ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2013

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 2 2013 Neslihan Celik George

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 3 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to sincerely thank all the people who helped me accomplish the writing of this capstone research First of all, I would like to thank my advisors and committee members, Dr. Elizabeth Delacruz and Dr. Craig Roland who were very supportive, for guidan ce and insight into the area of education, and for their time and effort in helping me create this capstone project I would like to also to thank my husband Robert George for his patience, and focus that helped keep me positive throughout this journey W ithout his support none of my education would have been possible Also, thanks to my mom and dad for believing in me.

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 4 ABSTRACT OF CAPSTONE PROJECT PRESENTED TO THE COLLEGE OF FINE ARTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORI DA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES OF INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS AT U.S. UNIVERSITIES By Neslihan Celik George July 2013 Chair: Elizabeth Delacruz Committee Member: Craig Roland Major: Art Education Abstract This research identifies some of the challenges that international students encounter during their pursuit of educa tional studies at U S universities particularly those students who consider English as their second language. This resear ch draws primarily on personal testimonies from three international student s ( including the author herself) These s tudent s are currently enrolled in a The experience of the author has also been re presented through a solo art show if clay sculptures and installations

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 5 Table of Contents Title Page ........................................................................................ ....................................1 UF Copyright Page ..............................................................................................................2 Acknowledgments ................................................................................ ...............................3 Abstract ................................................................................................ ...............................4 Table of Contents ......... ........................................................................................ ........... ... .5 Introduction to the Study...................................................................... ...............................8 Statement of the Problem ................................................................................... ... 10 Purpose of the Study ................................................................ ..................... ........10 Research Questions .................................................... ............................... .......... ..11 Rationale and Significance of the Study................................... ....................... ......11 Assumptions of the Study ........................................................ ..................... ........11 Definition of Terms .................................................................. .............................12

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 6 Study Limitations .................................................................................................. 13 Literature Review ................... ............................................................. ................ .............14 A Framework for Art Studies ........................................................................ .......14 International Students as Global Citizens ......... .................................................... 16 Methodology ................................................................................................................. .... 18 Subject Selection, Site, and Description ......................... ...................................... 19 Research Methodology ........................................................... ..............................19 Data Collection Procedures ......................................................................... ......... 19 Data Analysis ....................................................................................................... 20 Limitations ......................................................................................................... ..21 Summary/Reflections ....................................................................................................... 21 Personal Stories ..... ......................................................................................................... 22

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 7 Success Strategies for International Students ............ ............................... ... ...................32 References ..................... ........................................................... ............................... ........ 34 Author Biography ........................................................................... ............................... .. 37 List of Figures ...................................... ............................... .............................. .. .............36 Figure 1 ................................................................ ................................................38 Figure 2 ... ........................................................................................... ..................39 Figure 3 ................................... .............................................................................40 Figure 4 ........... ............................................. .................... ....................................4 1 Figure 5 .................................................................. ..............................................4 2 Figure 6 ................... ............................................... ...............................................43

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 8 Introduction Millions of young people will not hesitate to move to another count r y that will prepare them to take their place in a global environment. The traditional form of border crossing in higher education has been for students to migrate from one country to another to advance their studies. Various social and economic factors pro vide mobility and competition for foreign students between countries. In the United States, international students are an important source of diversity at college and university campuses. They are not only enhancing career opportunities and gaining experie nces for future employments, but they also help the United States gain a global understanding of cultural diversity. Hundreds of thousands of students from around the world come to the United States each year for higher education. largest international student population, with over 700,000 students choosing to broaden their education in the United States. According to InternationalS tudent.com 4% of all students enrolled in higher level education at U S universities are international and the numbers are growing These students are also attracted to technologically and culturally advanced nations such as the United States where they can look wth of the knowledge based economy has led not only to competition among employers worldwide for the best brains but also among the institutions that train the best brains. Rapidly increasing demand for higher education, in turn, exceeds the capacity of ma (Kritz 2006 p. 4) The American education system features many types of institutions, academic and degree programs, social environments, entry requirements and subjects that international students can specialize in Studying in the United States also allows for better professional development upon graduation. There are many reasons and benefits for students to study abroad. According the impeloverseas.com benefits include: g

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 9 by experiencing the various cultures of the world; cultivating a global network of social contacts; improving social and communication skills; learning new technology and exploring new concepts and ideas; becoming a more well rounded individual; developing independence and acquiring problem solving skills; and becoming a global citizen Some researchers make the claim that the United States benefit s from international students in their programs beca use it acquires only the best and brightest talents from different countries to contribute to and enhance the American economy and its position on the global stage. In conclusion, studen ts who choose to study in the U S have a greater chance of success after completing their education. Statement of the Problem As the number of international students who are pursuing college degrees in the United States continues to grow, educators are faced with a new set of challenges in classroom faculty with the adequate tools, resources and understanding to accommodate a plethora of diverse ideas and peoples in the classroom. At the same time, international students must also prepare themselves with the proper tools and guidance that will enable them to learn in an unfamiliar environment. My research project focuses on help ing to identify and illuminate some of the various aspects and the experiences of international students as they navigate the U S university system By il luminating various aspects this research may give a better understanding of the academic needs, interests, and potential for success of inter national students in U S higher education Purpose of the Study The crux of this research project stems from my own personal experience as an international student who was born and raised in Turkey, and who later travelled to the Uni ted States to pursue a Master of Arts in Art Education. Drawing from my own personal experience

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 10 as an international student enrolled in an Art Education graduate degree program, this project reveals what I believe may be some common opportunities and challenges that international students may encounter during their studies at U.S. colleges and universities. This project also explore d the successes of international students. By researching and exampling myself as a student who is currently enrolled in a graduate level art program, this research project explore d student experiences, expectations difficulties encountered in their academic live s in the U.S. and how other students prior educational backgrounds have affected their academic successes in t he U.S. This research culminate d in a solo art exhibition that explore d my own experiences and insights about being an international student in an U.S. university Research Questions For this project, specific research questions guide d my investigation into the experiences and challenges that international students encounter during their educational studies in the United States. I answer ed these questions us ing a combination of portraits developed through autobiographic reflection and portraiture research method and creative methods ( both art making and presenting in a private art show ) My main research questions include d : 1. What are the expectations of international students who are studying art in the United States? 2. What are some difficulties that international students face in terms of learning, language barriers, socializing, and becoming acquainted with classroom disc us sion? 3. How do the y manage their way to be successful in the United States ? Rationale and Significance of the Study U.S universities and colleges receive more international student enrol l ment than any other country By offering an insight into the life and expectations of foreign students enrolled in a U.S. university level art degree program, my research projec t offer ed new insights on the

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 11 experiences and aspirations of international students, in addition to providing educational policy recommendations. Furthermore this research project suggest ed some ways in which even better educational art programs in the u niversities could be shaped in order to provide an apt educational environment consistent with the goals of supporting and enhancing existing cultural exchanges among international students. Concl us ively, my project fill ed an existing gap in art education literature. Assumptions of the Study This research project relied heavily on my assumption that international mobility enhances the exchange of dialogue between different cultures, and consequently, brings peoples and nat ions closer together. In particular, this project grant ed the idea that to gain a global different cultures and traditions is here understood as a way to challenge o (and cultural) limitations. At the same time, I argue d that the presence of globally mobile citizens (international students in this case), both enhance and challenge the institutions and policies of host countries. Definition of Terms International student: According to the World Education Services (2007), foreign students are defined as students who are enrolled at the institutions of higher education in the U.S. who are not citizens of U.S. immigrants or refugees. These may include holders of F (student) visas, H (temporary workers/ trainee ) visas, J (temporary educational exchange visitor) visas and, M (vocational training) visas. ( www.wes.org ) Global citizen : A global c itizen is a person fully able to engage productively and effectively with the global academic, b us iness, civic and cultural environments by possessing and demonstrating: e xcellent writte n and oral communication skills, t he abili ty to work

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 12 effectively in teams, mastery of common b us iness technology tools, t he abi lity to analyze and solve com plex problems, sensitivity and skill necessary to succeed in a culturally diverse global environment and flexibility to accept and initiate change (Flazier, 2007). Globalization: Globalization is a phenomenon involving human social, cultural, economic interaction, movement, and intercultural impact throughout the world. Art educator Delacruz (2009) describes t he uses of the term globalization as : C ommonly meant to refer to those fundamental global transformations of human societies brought about by transnational expansion, integration, and interdependency of human social networks and flows of resources, goods, ideas, and culture; the geopolitical, economic, legal, and cultural reorganization of human social life on a global scale; a movement away from particularistic tribal, ethnic, regional, religio us or nation state systems; and a conscio us acceptance or reconceptualization of humanity itself by people worldwide toward the idea of globalism: an ecological, holistic one wo rld/whole earth point of view (p. 12 ). Study Limitations Due to time and cost limitations, as well as the restricted scope of my project, my research did not foc us on the possible ways in which programs and classes are effectively re designed by the presence of international students at U.S. universities and colleges. My research was not intended as an analysis of the current art curricula of the host u niversity or the art curricul a that had existed before the inf us ion of international students as this method would go outside the scope of what I could do with the research design that I chose. Additionally, given the nature of the work, it would have be en difficult for me to make cl aim s about how art curricula may have changed over the past few decades at my host u niversity or elsewhere to adapt to the presence of international students.

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 13 Also, since I us ed myself as sample subject for this project, and I conducted my study for only a limited amount of time, the results of this research would have be en considered too narrow or limited, and may not have be en as fully reflective as desirable of the experiences of all international students who are currently studying in the United States. However, that is not to say that this research does not have the potential to inform future research on the same topic. On the contrary, I believe this project lead s the way for other scholars to examine the trajectory of the impact of foreign st udents on U.S. universities. I hope that my findings may both inform other international students and shape future educational programs and policies in universities serving international students Literature Review My research project inquire d into the life stories, experiences, successes, expectations and obstacles encountered by three international students studying art at a U.S. university This literature review provide s an account of the existing studies and academic reflections upon iss ues relevant for such an inquiry. I examined the works of previous scholars who have conducted similar research in other parts of the world regarding the difficulties that international students encounter in an unfamiliar setting during their studies abro ad. I also examined scholarly works related to the idea of globalization The ways the experience s of some international students majoring in art reflects the challenges th at are impacted by globalization. Research on International Students International students may feel compelled to study abroad to receive better educational opportunities and find better job opportunities in the future. Leong surmised that it is imperative for university personnel to understand the needs and expectations of international students in order to provide new and satisfactory educational programs within the school (Leong, 1995 p.35 ). Towards a Non Eurocentric Art History/T heory Curriculum for A us examine d issues of internation alization in university curricula for the

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 14 visual arts. This study was conducted in A us tralia and targeted the challenges encountered by foreign students who were enrolled in art courses The study shed light on the fact that the non European students had no educational background in drawing, and as such, were in need of example also shows how the placement (or displacement) of international students in foreign l ands can be a Catch arises in which an individual cannot or is incapable of avoiding a problem beca us e of contradictory constraints or rules). Maria Natalicia Rocha study, written about in Encounter s between Immigrant further explores the unique circumstances of the international student. Whereas Leong foc us ed on academic needs Rocha Tracy examined issues of immigration, transnationalism, family, educatio n and rac e, and then raised policy related higher education in the United States. In particular, she foc us ed on the nature of academic coping strategies in response to these barriers I also wanted to examine studies describing how universities have made their programming more differentiated and international student oriented The e book compendium entitled 88 Ways to Recruit International Students published by Internationa l Education Advantage by Intead (2012) outlines some general gu idelines for strong international student recruitment. In addition, this book encourages readers to review some of the techniques and service providers mentioned in the e book, so it also serves as an interactive, feedback based working guide. Writing for Intead Academic Advisor Lisa Cynamon Mayers asserts that c ultural differences and changing barriers to technology can keep outreach efforts from Mayers continues, a s we enter new international markets, we learn what works best, which ultimately allows more international students to land in the academic programs tha t best meet their needs, which (Mayers, 2012).

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 15 ( Intead is a full service consulting, strategy and digital international educatio n so lutions marketing company.) By considering connections between my research and the questions and findings posited in these prior studies I shape d my understanding for my own research work. However, comparisons among the research sources were limited by the different methodological approaches adopted. Rocha Tracy mainly adopted a quantitative approach. The author interviewed a sample of 149 students across two univer sities in Boston. T his methodology was necessary in order to gain sound information capable of tracing discernible patterns and to create an overview of the issue under investigation, which was ultimately us ed to inform the policy processes. Seeing International Students a s Global Citizens For some scholars, t he concept of globalization stems as far back as 1492 when explorer Christopher Columbus and his crews reached the Americas, leading to the first European contact with the Americas and precipitating a period of spic e and goods exchange and centuries of European colonization and exploration of foreign lands. Cohen and Kennedy (2000) demonstrate The date of Columbus's voyage to the Americas, 1492, can be taken as a convenient symbolic marker opening the modern era a questing spirit, a powerful leaning towards rationality, the search for valid, verifiable knowledge, and a belief in the possibility of transforming the material world in the pursuit of social 'progres (p 14) Other scholars have traced globalization back to early Euro African Asian trade routes of over 3000 years ago (Delacruz, 2009). A number of observations also have been made in attempting to define what exactly a global citizen is and how international st udents encompass the idea of a global citizen. On the one hand, globalism and the global citizen can be characterized as a shared interest or

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 16 commonality among different groups of peoples. The Global Citizens Network states on its the world are one people, enriched by individual differences, united by the common bond of humanity. The diversity of the Global Community is its greatest strength; (Global Citizens Network, 2010 ) Tans el and Gngr (2003) have indicated based high technology countries, such as the United States, have been eager to accept a growing number of foreign professionals and students in order to fill their shortage of skilled manpowe r and thus perpetuate their i nnovation based economic growth (p. 12 ). Developing countries such as China, India, and Turkey rank among the top ten sending countries in total foreign student enrollments at United States universities (I nstitute of International Education 2001). The global citizen knows how to decipher and filter through information that is accessible Hence, multicultural perspectives help to guide educators as they work toward greater understanding of diversity, cultural backgroun ds, and race. Over 700,000 students from around the world come to the United States each year to study at the university level The Institute of International Education reports that the number of international students enrolled in U.S. colleges and unive rsities rose steadily over the past 50 years (Open doors report, 2012). This massive movement of student migration has also led scholars such as Kritz (2006) to relate this phenomenon with other effects of globalization in the knowledge based economy has led not only to competition among employers worldwide for the best brains but also among the instituti 2006, p. 29). In other words, the United States has beco me a world provider of outstanding educational services due to its political and eco nomic leadership, and as such, US u niversities are attracting more and more students due to their capacity to successfully compete in the world market.

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 17 Given that students are travelling the world in order to attain better education, in effect, they comprise a group of people we now envi sion as global citizen s Douglass and Edelstein (2009) found that U.S. universities have accepted this global challenge and are now successfully attracting an increasing number of international students to become part of their classrooms Indeed, American universities have started advertising their educational offers globally, as well as commencing, differentiating and improving their courses to become more international. International students attending one of the schools such as the Universities of Tulsa, Illinois, and San Francisco may also benefit from a large foreign community when trying to acclimate to American life. These colleges reported the highest percentage of their students to be of international origin in the 2011 2012 academic years ( U.S. news.rankingsandreviews.com ). In addition to looking at international programs for insight, one might also look at how university programs have change d to better engage th eir own increasing ly diverse domestic students. For example Portnoi and Kwong (2011) studied retention and development of graduate students and faculty from underrepresented groups in American universities T he authors identified five areas that educators might address in order to enha nce first generation graduate rules of the game (b) managing feelings of inadequacy, (c) straddling incongruent social fields, (d) developing strong relationships with faculty, and (e) building positive pe er to peer interactions. Methodology My research project contribute s to the existing literature on the experiences and needs of interna tional students studying in U.S. universities by using Sara Lawrence Lightfoot's portraiture as a method of educational research. The p ortrait approach involves t he us e of standard qualitative tools to listen to a story and then create a picture of it According to English (2000), portraiture is a creative qualitative approach to engaging in research of leaders and

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 18 groups in action and in telling the stories of individuals in life. M y research foc us ed on my personal perspective in order to understand what challenges international st udents have faced while studying in the U.S My portrait s and case studies include d feelings, aspirations, expectations and everyday life encounters of myself and my other subjects Portnoi and ed me in asking questions and gain ing insights about how educational departments of their universities are providing opportunities for international students to integrate and be successful. Finally, I produce d a narrative and visual portrait of myself and my subjects in order to shed light o n what is normally lost from more quantitative surveys or statistical analyses of international students in U.S. universities Subjects My subjects were two other graduate art education students and myself We are each enrolled in a U.S. university art program. I am an artist, an art educator and an international student. Hence, my experience has been evaluated as part of the research process. Data Collection Procedures For data collection I gathered information about our experiences and learning as an international student. I design ed a short list of questions to guide myself during this study The following are f ive of the questions : 1. Why did you decide to study abroad? Are you part of a study abroad program? 2. Why did you decide to study in the United States? 3. Did you think about studying in a country other than the United States? 4. Why did you choose to attend your school? Do you live on camp us ? 5. In what year do you expect t o graduate? What is your major? It was important for this research to investigate personal expectations, needs and difficulties encountered by the subjects. Therefore my own answers were kept open ended T he

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 19 initial question s from Portnoi which I mentioned earlier were us ed here. My analysis of my own experiences involve d autoethnography According to Marchal (2010) autoethnography is a form or method of research that involves self observation and reflexive investigation in the contex t of ethn ogra phic field work and writing (p. 43). As Ellis, A dams & Bochner (2011) maintain that autoethnograp hic approach seeks to describe and systematically analyze personal experience in order to understand cultural aspects Autoethnography also looks at social relationships and institutional patterns of behavior within specific cultural settings, seeking deeper understandings about those relationships and institutional settings. This approach challenges canonical ways of doin g research and representing others and treats re search as a political, socially j ust and socially conscious a ct I conducted a dditional research in order to gain information about art programs in the U.S. This general information about enrolment, gradin g, resources available, time to graduation, etc. was us ed to generate a disc us sion with participants about the expectations and perceived difficulties of the degree programs. Data Analysis The main body of my data was gathered through personal experiences I transcribe d and code d the experiences according to the main objective of the research. As disc us sed by Huberman and Miles (1998), coding is essential toward reducing information, elucidating response patterns, highligh ting threat s to validity (contradictions) and examining data patterns. The transcripts of the interviews were coded according to: 1. Salient points in personal life history (why the participant moved to an American university, socio geographical origins of the particip ant, previo us educational background of the participant);

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 20 2. Expectations (what was the participant expecting from the experience of studying art in the United States, why the participant has chosen this university, is the participant willing to stay and live in the United States after graduation); 3. Difficulties (what are the main difficulties encountered by the participant: learning, socializing, becoming acquainted with topics under disc us sion, language skills); 4. How the participant is coping with the difficul ties; 5. How the participant is coping with life in a different country (pros and cons) 6. If the participant is satisfied with educational opportunities in the United States; After coding the answers I reflect ed upon existing patterns (similarities or differe nces among the answers ). If different perspectives or approaches were detected, I further examine d my data to seek possible critical explanations for differences. Follow up interviews help ed me refine my findings as they emerge d After the collection of data, I utilize d the material gathered in order to produce an art installation of my own original works. This art installation was a vis ual narrative that both portrayed and critically examine d the experiences of international students in relation to the educational opportunities and challenges they have experienced in various programs at the Universities. Limitations This project largely rel ied on conducting qualitative research: I used portraiture methodology in order to provid e pictures of the participant s and explore t he i r experiences as international students in the United States. General limitations were given by the focus on these specific international students and the specific programs in which they are enrolled For instance, my research was limited to a small sample selection of two students and myself t o be interviewed and observed. To choose a sample of myself was on the one hand, a very small representation of a wider sample. On the other hand, the smaller sample allow ed me to es tablish

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 21 a more intimate rapport. I wish ed to become more comfortable with sharing my own experiences ( my routines, my thoughts, my impressions, and fears). In so doing, I wish ed to complete a more informed portrait of my self as a respondent whi ch could help to elicit a better understanding of the topic under disc us sion. Summary/Reflections My research project was based on the fact that there is increased international mobility among students due to the attractiveness of educational opportunities in recipient countries. In particular, this research sets out to address the question of how international students experience their educational opportunities as reflected in case studies of myself and others as international student s curren tly enrolled in art programs at a major University in the southeast The choice of this research topic was motivated by my personal interest in art and education, as well as my own experience as an international student studying art at a university in the United States. In Pursuit of Higher Education in America In the United States, international students are an important source of diversity at colleges and universities. The 2012 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange finds that the number of international students at colleges and universities in the United States increased by 6 percent to a record high during the 2011 12 academic years. In the year 2012, 764,495 international students were studying inside the United States My project focused on the phenomenon of international students who are pursuing their college degrees in the United States. This research guide d the reader to look specifically at what it is like to be in the shoes of three foreign students who a re studying art education in an American University. More to the point, the research presented in this project addresse d important cultural and social issues experienced by international students. Building on my personal experiences, I also suggest ed ho w the presence of international students presents unique opportunities for program developers

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 22 and instructors in US universities. I conclude d m y study with recommendations for program developers and instructors. My Own Story My journey started in America as a B 2, which is a tourist visa holder I later became a F 1 wh international student. A fter getting married I beca me a permanent resident alien and finally an American citizen. I am currently seeking a M aster d egree seeking student and a global citizen. I was born and raised in Turkey I travelled to the U S when I was 24 years old to pursue my M Like millions of other dreamers I dreamed of study ing and having a good career in America M y plan was to come to the US, study English and start my M aster degree as soon as possible. However I was not able to get a student visa. Afte r being rejected, I tried a second time by applying for a tourist visa When I arrived in Washington DC I was 24 years old with no knowledge of English no job experience and no permission to register for language schools I did not have to work during or after my college years. Still i n that condition I found a job as a sales representative in a mall. There are many people like me in the S tates who came here for different reasons and are living in different conditions but we all share the same goal : to find a good job and higher living standards in the U S. When people ask me what my expectation was when I decided to come to the States I honestly All my knowledge of American culture came from movies and shows. I also kne w that America is the base of M contemporary art. On the other hand I k new one thing : that my home country was not offering any opportunity for me t o pursue my art or the lifestyle I s ought In my experience, young people who earn high er education degrees are placed in th e best jobs in Turkey. It is very competitive over ther e to get a decent job, e specially for an artist and educator. I thought that even if I make it in the U S over the years the degree that I

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 23 earn ed could help me to have an international career Since the pros outweighed the cons, I did not think fu rther. After liv ing four months in Washington DC, I was finally able to start language school. Working in the mall help ed me to learn English, and I was able to start in at level 3 (out of 12). But after this point life started becom ing more difficult, because a foreign person holding a student visa in order to keep the F1 status need s to attend school full time. Working over 60 hours a week an d going to school full time is challenging. Other than having no time to rest, language s chool was enjoyable. Meeting with people from all around the world was great, as I forged limited but g enuine relations hips During 8 month s of language school, I learn ed much about cultural differences and people. Unfortunately, I was unable to finish language school, because I ra n out of energy and money. One day I w oke I was blind for half an hour or so. Working conditions were ruini ng my health. That was my wake up call. My dream of pursuing my master degree was becom ing financially impossible It was time to m ake a chan g e. I heard that schools in Florida were much cheaper and had fewer procedures for foreign students. I moved in to Des tin Beach with the help of a friend, and from that point a series of opportunit ies opened for me. I met my future husband in Destin. After getting married, things becom e much easier. It took 2 years to be financially ready to consider my dream, b ut I was still far from starting grad uate the ir Facebook page. It took me about 6 month s to prepare the paperwork for application. During this time my UF advis o r was helpful on every step. When I lost my focus and became overwhelm ed by the application process, my adviso r called me and help ed me to get through. I thought this was the hard part unt il I started taking my classes. When I applied for online education, I basically had no idea what to expect. It took a whole semester to figure out how to manage t he classes, timelines, homework p rojects and my

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 24 work life. My f irst classes requir ed more work than I could possibly imagine. In my position I h ad to spend much more time than the average American student. It was hard for me to read scholarly articles and books. I had to read over the te xts a couple of times while adding new words to my vocabulary. But overall the most difficult part was writing long papers. Academic writing was a challenge for me; I struggle d with assignments over a long period of time. There were many day s I would si t in front of my computer for over 16 hours just to write a 4 page long paper because my professor was re turning my papers for editing saying he could not understand my work When I was taking my second class, my professor suggested I reconsider my place in this university. I thought on this suggestion, but I realize d that the classes I took in this program would not only help me to have a good career in the future, but the program would also help me to speak, rea d and write better English. After the first semester I had a better idea of what to expect from classes. A lso I knew how to manage my time. Working with short dea d lines was very challenging, and I was unable to find an editor to work with me. My husba nd was working on his M aster at the same time, so it was not fair to make him read my long and grammatically incorrect papers. S ometimes I had to beg people to read my paper s and help me edit. I would have benefited from a language school that focus es on good writing but had heard of none Now when I look at my old assignments I can see the difference. This experience was like learning to swim in the ocean. Instead of learning to swim in the shallow water I dove straight into the deep water. But on ce I overcame my fear, I began to swim. Besides having trouble with homework I was having difficulties on discussion boards and group projects. Sometimes I misunderst oo d the discussion topic. I was confused by my peers comments. It was a relief that I was not the only one who understand the discussions. On the other hand I worried I was a nightmare for my classmates in the group

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 25 could understand that At the end this was a learning experience for everybody. Participant D. Story D. grew up in Sao Paulo, Brazil. She has been living in the USA for 13 years. She has a degree in Visual Arts with a c oncentration in Sculpture from Eastern Connecticut State University. She is a musician as well: she sings and plays violao (nylon stringed Brazilian guitar) and ukulele. She works part time as an art instructor and music teacher and performs solo on week I am trained in various artistic media. I have a talent for fostering art appreciation, and promoting creativity and open orative educator, with exceptional communication and interpersonal skills to cultivate and sustain strong relationships She is a mother of two: a 9 year old boy and a 3 year old girl. She worked as a job coach at a philanthropic no n profit organization. There she was able to use art and music to develop work skills, provide education, training, and other supports to adults and children with physical and mental disabilities. She is looking forward to expanding her repertoire. She decided to study abroad for financial reasons. Her family immigrated to the United States when she was 19. She lacked the means to stay in Brazil on her own at the time. She had already begun college in Brazil. The news that her family had been approve d for a green card arrived in January 1999 and by June 1 999 they had relocated. D. chose to attend her university of choice baby and wanted to stay home as much as possib le. In hindsight she had no idea what to expect of the United States on her arrival. She thought everyone was rich, everything was clean and well organized, and people were not very personable. She had a negative view of the government in the US; she belie ved they were

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 26 responsible for much of the misery around the world. Her negative view of the US likely came about when she studied world history in high school and began to question why things were the w ay they were. As a child she had come to the US severa l times to visit family members, and always felt Americans to be stiff and less welcoming or not as warm as Brazilians. She also had vivid childhood memories of arriving at JFK and walking in the streets and stores. Everything seemed so clean, neat, and o rganized in comparison to Brazil, where rich and poor are starkly juxtaposed. D. discovered that the United States has a very efficient infrastructure, hospitals, schools, roads, federal services, and justice system, and is all clean and well organized (f rom her perspective). Poverty seemed to have a different connotation here. On the other hand, the people were not always unfriendly. She reported having many dear friends and acquaintances. She particularly loves Sou thern hospitality. She also gained a new understanding of what once seemed like cold and unwelcoming people. She lived in the northeast and now believes that it is a culture that flows with the seasons, which are all so distinct and wonderful in their own way. Her view of politics has also changed with her experiences. When she arrived in the United States, the first thing she noticed was the smell of coffee and seem to be many mulattos here. S he had no idea what to expect of college life in America. She choosing classes and electives. First she went to a small community college and took non credi t English classes, as well as sign language and math for credit. Entering her graduate program she had a much better understanding and had mastered the language. Undergraduate studi es differed greatly from D. minutes there is a different class. One stays in one class all day and the professors come and

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 27 go. She found college very different and had no idea beforeha nd what to expect. But for her aster s she knew how things worked already. Her entire adult life has been in the US, so she had no preconceived notions of work and community here. She taught music for beginners in Brazil in a small conservatory. She knew that there was more money to be made in the U S than in Brazil. Her parents were able to find work very quickly and they lived much more comfortably here. Conversely, she reported it took a while to make friends and find a community. She still feels like an outsider most of the time. She reported busy to enjoy any of it. But her favorite class so far was current issues in art education. She report ed it was the most challenging, bu t the most informative. Most importantly, that class reassured her that she had chosen the right professional career for her. She believes that attending school in the US would give her a strong competitive edge if she were to go back to Brazil. Participan t A A. is originally from Costa Rica but she has lived in New Jersey since 2001. She has been married 13 years; she has a daughter who is 10 and a son wh o is 8. A. describes herself with am somebody who enjoys variety always wants to learn, and is on the move. Life is beautiful She started an after school art program for her community in 2008, "Play, Paint and Create" that focuses on school and for a nu rsing home. She is finishing her second year in program and she says she loves all the things and the new perspectives she has learned. A. as a result of j ob relocation when she decided to study as a means to update herself as a professional and find better opportunities for her future. She did not consider studying in any

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 28 other country. She chose her university of choice because it offered her the right p rogram for an MA in Art Education. Before A. came to the United States she had several ideas about America, most of them inaccurate. Her parents were very skeptical about the US, so she was never really interested in liv ing here. Her husband brought her for their honeymoon at the age of 25. In her mind, the United States was a place for having fun, going on vacations, and shopping. She spoke English before come to the United States but she still felt anxious about the language barrier. At the same tim e she was excited to have new challenges. She had no idea what to expect. She reports being very happy after 12 years living here. The first thing she noticed upon arriving in the U S was that everything was large scale: big spaces, big malls, wide streets, big parks, lots of people, and different kinds of people. United States is a n interesting, rich melting pot. She also noticed that everything was colorful. She thinks this was be cause she is a visual person and because of the contrast with the visual culture whence she came: a small Latin American country with people in need. Since the university she cho se offered their Master of Arts in Art Education program online, A. is not in a position of give her opinion about college life. But she did attend summer studio in 2012 and reported it was a great experience to be back in college at the age of 37. Her experience with community and work in the US was broader. The first years w ere not easy. A. reported er time she adjusted and reported being fine and happy now. She feels part of h er community. She works with her township, operates an after school art program, knows many of her neighbors, and is an active She has enjoyed all the classes she has taken so far. She enjoys Art and thinks the MA progr am in art e ducation has been a great opportunity to her. She reports that one of her favorite

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 29 courses is History of Art Education, because it provided an opportunity to learn about the US history, and she also likes the C u rriculum and the G lobalization cou rse A. places importance on knowing about her place of residence and its culture. She feels it gives her a better sense of belonging. She feels studying in the US leads to greater success. First, it gave her a more realistic idea of what happens in the U S in general. She also learned about the history of the country, and improved her English. She finds it increases her self confidence and her confidence in her teaching skills. Reflections on these Stories There are many reasons and benefits for students to study aboard. These include: g aining world; cultivating a global network of social contacts; improving social and communication skills; learning new technology and exploring new concepts and ideas; becoming a more well rounded individual; developing independence and acquiring problem solving skills; and becoming a global citizen (www.impeloverseas.com). Some rese archers make the claim that the United States benefits from international students in their programs because it acquires only the best and brightest talents from different countries to contribute to and enhance the American economy and its position on the global stage. Most American u niversities offer first r ate education programs and give professional accreditation with highly qualified educators. Regardless of what degrees they choose to pursue, students incorporate the latest technology into their educ ation. During my study I had to learn and efficiently use many specialized technologies These experiences helped me to maximize my true potential and gain experience that is useable worldwide. The education quality cultivated in U S colleges and univer sities is known as best in the world. A certificate or degree earned from a U S college / university is considered as a distinguishing characteristic on a career path.

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 30 T here is no question why millions of young people come to the United States to study. They come to the US to pursue opportunities for a better life. But i nternational students and immigrants face academic, social, and economic difficulties during their stay in the US Cultural differences present professional and personal challenges as d iscussed below Language The Language issue is the first barrier international students face Most U S universities require international students to pass the U.S. English capability tests specific to the coursew ork demands at the university. one is capable of speaking and writing as a native English speaker. Because of the language limitations, it is difficult to manage simple things in the classroom an d social life. Language problems also directl y incr ease the amount of work. During my f irst semester I spent days writ ing two pages I had to get my writing edit ed many times by a professional editor in order to reach academic requirements. This is another expense besides education costs living expenses, and visa/citizenship requirements I found writing acad emic papers more challenging tha n learning how to speak English. I think spoken language is informal and others can correct mistakes but in academic settings especially in online programs most of the coursework is in writing. On the other hand those ti mes I spent on assignments helped to i mprove my knowledge of English To understand some of the terms and subjects I encountered in my assignments I had to consult different I nternet sourc es. By the time I was done with my assignment I had already read the main articles several times plus dozens of other sources On a positive note the struggle with language can le a d to international students participating in student societies at the uni versities and other American social life. S peaking broadly most student s I talked with share the same kind of feelings : that Americans are very kind, friendly, sociable, accepting to foreigners and friendly H owever it is hard to make friends

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 31 in the US. Our first thought tends to be about the language barrier but in my opinion it is mostly cultural differences. The value of friendship is different in every culture If the person cannot figure out how to blend in to the culture, the barrier be tween the student and the local community grows Opportunities to Utilize our Talents It is important to acknowledge that from a cultural and social standpoint, many international students studying at US universities and colleges may not find it conduci ve in the long run to remain in the United States for employment opportunities. A large number of skilled immigr ants and international students universities, particularly those specializing in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs, and who might have considered staying to work in the United States, could decide to return to their home countries because they are turned off by American culture. On the other h and many international students choose to remain permanent ly in the States. Before I sta r ted this research, my idea was to in the States. But later on concepts like being an international student, immigrant and border crosser started to mix and became difficult to separate one from another During the research I got a chance to talk with and observe other international stu dents. When I hear d their stories I realize d that many of us share similar experiences. P articipants of this research and many others came to the S tates to seek a good career and better lif e style opportunities. For some of us it took years to start our h igher education. At one point we bec a me bilinguals who speak both our native and second language with an accent. Our families are thousands of miles away and try to root a new family in this new home. I and my other two subjects are studying advanced art education at a major research university in the US Although we are each from different part s of the world, we all share a similar approach to life. All of us are multi talented artists, all very active in our communities

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 32 and all successful in our job s I believe the aim of a global education is to better prepare people to live in an increasingly globalized world and to be productive citizens shaping a better future. In the United States, this concept has been embodied through the acceptance and active participation of international students at universities and colleges, and their gradual integration into the American workforce and culture. Information is the c urrency of today's world; those who are able to control and develop sources of information w ill have the upper hand in a global society. At the same time, as long as economic development worldwide remains uneven, migratory pressures and economic and political instabilities will continue to exist. But global understanding and education can help to raise awareness and understanding among American school students of international issues, d evelopment journeys and poverty. Success Strategies for International Students (From my own Perspective) Being a student in another country usually begins as a solitary American peers, international students do not have familiar resources in the U.S. that they have in their home countries to aid them in combating varying stressors such as social i solation and academic pressures (Reid & Di xon, 2012 p. 32 ) For the suc cess while studying in the US it is critical for educators and universities to recognize international barriers and needs. In the interest of collaboration I would like to share so me of the strategies for success and happ iness that I developed during my journey in the US. During this research I have discovered many guidelines that explain how to transition well in America. I wish I had found these helpful tips at the beginning of my time as an international student. Each person and set of circumstances is different. Our cultural backgrou nds are part of our personality. Cultural beliefs a ffect how we see and understand others. However may hold value for others in the same situation.

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 33 Most international students have no know ledge of what t hey might expect when c o m ing to the US besides the basic facts. The United States of America is the third largest country in the world with a popula tion of more than 300 million pe ople. America is a melting pot. Americans come in all colors, speak many languages, and have all types of religions. American people like being social, independent and individualistic at the same time. Having realistic e xpectations of the host culture could open many doors to international students The sooner a student begins to form a true picture of their host country, the better. I chose to befriend Americans from the beginning of my school ing as I kne w this would hel p me to learn the language and culture more quickly It is a long process to understand another culture fully I lost friends due to misunderst andings at times I believe this happens to everybody. Learning a new culture is no different from learning the language: we make mistakes, we need to practice and we should not be judgmental. Learning a culture is best done by becoming part of a community. Simple things like making American friends help foreigner s to enrich their educational journey. For exa mple a perfect means to join a community is volunteering It gives people recogni tion and job opportunities in the future. Especially for student s, I suggest finding a copy editor as soon as possible to assist with time consuming language issues, and to make time to attend campus social activities. Lastly my suggestion for students who want to study or work in the U S is to be open minded. Every culture believes that their way is right and any conflicting opinions are wrong Understanding ot her pe ople makes us more well rounded individuals broadeni ng our horizons as we experienc e th e various cultures of the world as well as improving social and communication skills.

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 34 References Banks, M. (2001). Visual methods in social research London: Sage Publications. Bernard, R. (1988). Research methods in cultural anthropology Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications. Clifford, S. (2005, Dec 12). Retrieved from http://www.inc.com/articles/2005/12/qaheenan.html Cohen, R. & Kennedy, P. (2000). Global sociology New York: New York University Press. Davidman, L. & Davidman, T. (2001). Teaching with a multicultural perspective: A practical guide (3rd ed.). New York: Longman Publishing Group. Dixon, A., & Reid, L. (2012). The counseling supervision need s of international students in U.S institutions of higher education: a culturally sensitive supervision model for counselor educators. Journal for International Counselor Education 4 29 41. Retrieved from http://digitalscholarship.unlv.edu/ Douglass, J., & Edelstein, R. (2009). The rapidly changing market for international students and the need for strategic approach in the U.S. Man us cript submitted for publication, Center for Studies in Higher Education,, University of California, Berkeley Available from Research & Occasional Paper Series. (CSHE.8.09) Retrieved from http://cshe.berkeley.edu/publications/docs/ROPS.JD.RE.GlobalTalent.9.25.09.pdf Ellis, C., Adams, T., & Bochner, A. (2011). Autoethnography: A n overview. Qualitativ e social research 12 (110), ISSN 1438 5627. Retrieved from http://www.qualitativeresearch.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095 English, F. ( 2000). A critical appraisal of Sara Lawrance L ightfoot's portraiture as a method of educational research Educational Researcher 29 (7), 21 26. d oi:10.3102/0013189X029007021

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 35 Flazier, D. (2007). Informally published man us cript, Int ernational Programs, Upper Iowa University, Retrieved from http://www.uiu.edu/strategic planning/downloads/global_citizen_report.pdf Global Citizens Network, (2010 ) Retrived from http://www.globalcitizens.org Gerring, J. (2004). What is a case study and what is it good for? American political science review 98 (2), 341 355. Giroux, H. (1995). National identity and the politics of multiculturalism. College Literatu re 22 (2), 42 57. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/25112186 Huberman, A. M. & Miles, M.B. (1998). Data Management and Analysis Methods In N., Denzin and Y., Lincoln (Eds.), Collecting and interpreting qualitative methods Tho us and Oaks, CA: Sage. Humphries, F. (2011, December 11). New American enterprise institute study shows benefits of foreign workers to U.S. workforce [Blog post] Retrieved from http://blogs.technet.com Institute of international education, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. (2012). Open doors report on international educational exchange Retrieved from National Press Club website: http://www.iie.org/Research and Publications/Open Doors Institute of International Education. (2011). Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange. Retrieved from http://www.iie.org/opendoors Iyer, P. (2000). The global soul: Jet lag, shopping malls, and the search for home New York: Random Ho us e Inc. Kritz, M. M. (2006). Globalisation and internationalization of tertiary education. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division Retrieved from http://www.un.org/esa/po pulation/migration/turin/Symposium_Turin_files/P02_KR

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 36 ITZ_Rev3_Augst21.pdf Leong, G. (1996). Towards a n on E urocentric art history/theory curriculum for A us tralian art s chools. Journal of Institutional Research A us tralasia 5 (2), 35 44. Obst, D., & Forster, J. (2005). Perceptions of European higher education country report: U.S. A. Retrieved from http://ec.europa.eu/education/programmes/mund U.S. /doc/ U.S. .pdf Pink, S. (2006). Doing v isual e thnography London: Sage Publications. Siskind, G. (2007, July 4). Greg S iskind on immigration law and policy. Retrieved from http://blogs.ilw.com/gregsiskind Sklair, L. (2010). From international relations to alternative globalisations. Journal of Critical Globalisation Studies 3 114 126. Zhao, C., Kuh, G., & Carini, R. (n.d.). A comparison of international student and American student engagement in effective educational practices Informally published man us cript, Indiana University, Bloomington. Retrieved from http://www.nsse.iub.edu/pdf/research_papers/international.pdf

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 37 Author Biography Neslihan Celik George is currently enrolled at Florida University where she is completing a Masters in Art Education program. Neslihan is a graduate student from the University of Canakkale (Turkey) where she studied Fine Arts and Education. Neslihan wor ked as art teacher in several public schools in Turkey and the United States. Teaching young children is her passion and is the main reason why she decided to continue her studies. Since moving to the United States, Neslihan has become very active in her local art community. She is currently working in an art gallery and for an art education company (Abrakadoodle). She also enjoys teaching art at a public middle school and at Eglin Air Force Base, where she instructs children with special needs. Also, s he is an instructor for adult painting classes. Neslihan had her first solo exhibition "Figure" in 2011 and is currently experimenting with new art concepts.

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 38 List of Figures Figure 1. TitleBox1, Media clay on wood

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 39 Figure 2. Title Box2, Media clay on wood

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 40 Figure 3. TitleBox3, Media clay on wood

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 41 Figure 4 TitleBox4, Media clay on wood

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 42 Figure 5 TitleBox5, Media clay on wood

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INTERPRETING THE EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES 43 Figure 6. Title portraits, Media acrylic paint on 8X10 canvases