Humans, unlike other creatures, have an inherent desire to develop and grow. This desire to grow, Personal Growth Initiative, is an intentional way that humans cognitively and behaviorally navigate their environment and resources to effect change. While many researchers argue that this construct works only in individualistic cultures, others contend that the construct is applicable to collectivist cultures as well. We therefore undertook an exploration of the lived experiences of eight international students from predominantly collectivist cultures, through the lens of the Personal Growth Initiative theory. Using a phenomenological qualitative methodology, we interviewed these doctoral students via semi-structured interview questions. Results of the data indicated that participants cycled through the four factors in the construct to handle both successes and challenges in school. Recommendations for international students’ offices and recruitment agencies are provided.


Personal Growth Initiative, Graduate International Students, Non-Native Speakers of English, Phenomenology, Doctoral Students

Author Bio(s)

Hannah E. Acquaye is assistant professor of counseling at Western Seminary, Portland, Oregon, USA. She is currently with the Department of Counselling Psychology, University of Education, Winneba, Ghana. Correspondence concerning this paper should be addressed to Hannah E. Acquaye, Counselling Psychology Department, University of Education, Winneba, P. O. Box 25, Winneba, Ghana. Please direct correspondence to heacquaye@uew.edu.gh.

Cari Welch and Leah Jacobs are graduates of Western Seminary’s Counseling Program.

Arielle Ross is a graduate of Marriage and Family Therapy Program at Lewis and Clark College, Portland, Oregon.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





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