Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Sociology and Rural Studies

First Advisor

Meredith Redlin


acculturation, adaptation, adjustment, coping, F2 visa, spouses


This research investigated acculturation of female spouses of international students to life in Brookings, specifically, how they cope and adjust. It was guided by the following questions: what are the socio-economic and cultural attributes of female spouses, and how do they impact their ability to cope and adjust to life in Brookings; what strategies and activities do spouses of international students rely on or develop in order to adjust and cope with life in the United States (Brookings); and what are the processes and experiences of coping and adjustment among spouses of different professional and cultural backgrounds? The investigation was guided by the theory of acculturation developed by John Berry. Sixteen semi-structured interviews were conducted with spouses that lived on and off-campus. Participants’ age, motivation, joint decision making, and level of education were positive pre-acculturation factors, while religion, expectations and work experience had a negative influence. Factors like food, living conditions, and local context/environment played a positive and negative role on coping and adjustment during acculturation, while length of stay, producing children, family size, and knowledge of Brookings had a positive role. On the other hand, isolation and loneliness, lack of interaction with host nationals, dependency on husbands and lack of confidence speaking English influenced acculturation negatively. To cope with life in Brookings, participants devised strategies like growing and caring for their families; and supporting husbands; some tried to change their visa status so as to pursue further studies, however they were unsuccessful. Two participants contemplated engaging in entrepreneurial activities, while one planned to document her F-2 experiences. Some of the activities relied on by participants to cope such as domestic chores and enhancing skills were directly connected to the above strategies; others, for example, interactional, recreational, and religious activities aimed at alleviating challenges of coping and adjusting like loneliness and lack of social and emotional support. Participants experienced other challenges like inadequate finances and unemployment; identity conflicts and unrealistic expectations from third parties; difficulties in child rearing due to clashes of host and home cultures; and inadequate transportation, lack of information, and inadequate access to health care. Despite these challenges, they highlighted positive experiences like acquiring knowledge and skills, growing families, cultivating family intimacy, pursuing personal development and independence. Most experiences were similar for participants from different cultural backgrounds. However, positive experiences were unintended consequences of restrictions imposed by regulations of the F-2 visa. The F-2 visa and its regulations shape all aspects of the SIS experience: strategies, activities, challenges and choices of modes of acculturation. In terms of Berry’s theory, two modes of adaptation--integration and separation had been adopted by participants, however, separation was pursued mainly by Muslim participants from Africa and some from Asia. Overall, most participants had adjusted or were still adjusting to life in Brookings.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Foreign students' spouses -- South Dakota -- Brookings -- Attitudes

Foreign students' spouses -- Social networks -- South Dakota -- Brookings

Adjustment (Psychology)


South Dakota State University -- Foreign students


Includes bibliographical references (page 136-149)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University



Rights Statement

In Copyright