International students’ emotions

Ellen P.W.A. Jansen1, Jasperina Brouwer2

1 University of Groningen, Grote Kruisstraat 2/1, 9747 AD, Groningen, The Netherlands,
2 University of Groningen, Grote Kruisstraat 2/1, 9747 AD, Groningen, The Netherlands,

How do international students in higher education adjust to the new environment, how do they interact with domestic  and various international students and ultimately, how successful are they in their studies. These questions are even more challenging in international degree programmes at universities in non-English-speaking countries. There, the home students and many lecturers have to rely on a second language as well. In this paper, we focus on students in an international degree programme at a large research university in the Netherlands. We studied the development of students’ emotions in relation to (developments in) study behaviour, self-efficacy and social interaction. Academic emotions are directly related to achievement and motivation (Pekrun, Goetz, Titz, & Perry, 2002).

The research questions we addressed in this study are:

  1. What is the relation between the (development of) positive and negative emotions and students’ study behaviour, self-efficacy and social interaction?
  2. Are the emotional development and relation between emotions and study behaviour, self-efficacy and social interaction different for students from various national backgrounds?

Participants in our longitudinal study were 389 first-year students in an international psychology degree programme. Students came from more than 30 different countries, which we divided in four groups: Dutch (8,3%), German (73,5%), other European (13,2%) and other (4,9%).Students filled out surveys four times in the first year. They were asked, amongst others, to report on their emotions at the moment of the survey, study behaviour, self-efficacy and social interaction. Furthermore, they responded each time to the open-answer question: “How do you experience your study at this moment?”.

Positive emotions were positively related to self-efficacy, social interaction and study behaviour; negative emotions were negatively related to self-efficacy and social interaction. Emotional development during the year differed between nationality groups. Analysis of open questions will provide qualitative information to strengthen the quantitative findings.


Ellen Jansen (PhD) holds the position of associate professor in teacher education at the University of Groningen. Her expertise relates to the fields of teaching and learning, curriculum development, factors related to excellence and study success, and internationalization of higher education.