This phenomenological study explored lived experiences of student-faculty interactions of undergraduate international students in Korea, in a higher education context where direct contacts between professors and students are infrequent. Guided by Astin’s theory of student involvement, the study investigated students’ experiences of direct interaction with faculty members, inside and outside the classroom. Seventeen foreign students participated in semi-structured interviews, during which they shared experiences, recollections, and perceptions of direct interactions with professors. Participants explained how certain factors, such as professor demographics, language proficiency or means of instruction, influenced the quality and frequency of interactions. They also expressed a clear desire to reduce the distance with faculty and connect beyond course-related content. Through the lens of Astin’s I-E-O model, findings reveal how the Korean higher education environment, including professor demographics, means of instruction, language, and power dynamics, have the most impact on student-faculty interaction experiences for international students. Such results address a gap in the literature and may inform administrators and faculty efforts towards genuine internationalization of Korean higher education, of which international student recruitment is a crucial element.


international students, Korean higher education, student-faculty interactions, phenomenology, Korea, student involvement theory

Author Bio(s)

Dr. Natalie Thibault is an assistant professor at Wonkwang University. Please direct correspondence to natalie@wku.ac.kr


This paper was supported by Wonkwang University in 2023.

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









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