Saudi Arabian International Students’ Sense of Belonging at an HBCU

  • Walid Mohamed Tennessee State University
  • Kisha Bryan Tennessee State University


A multi-participant descriptive case study approach was used to highlight how Saudi Arabian international doctoral students attending an HBCU perceive their sense of belonging and how contextual factors impact their sense of belonging. Data was collected from students enrolled at Umoja University (pseudonym), a mid-sized HBCU in the south. At Umoja University, approximately five percent of the total student population is comprised of international students, the majority originating from Saudi Arabia. This research study was framed using the theoretical concept of ‘sense of belonging’. The purpose of the study was to understand the experiences of Saudi Arabian international students and the ways that their experiences influence their sense of belonging at an HBCU. This research explores how institutional structures, campus climate, and participants’ internal issues help or hinder these students’ sense of belonging. The findings suggest that external factors like national politics, faculty, staff, and peers contribute to a sense of belonging or lack thereof. In addition, internal factors such as language proficiency, cultural, political, and religious issues also play a role. The findings of this study have implications for university personnel as well as students considering HBCUs as an educational option.

Keywords: sense of belonging, Saudi Arabian, international students, HBCU