Exploring death experiences of Asian Indian international students in the United States: A descriptive phenomenological study
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For the fourth consecutive year, India remains the leading country of origin for international students in the United States with a total of 80,466 students presently studying in the U.S. (Institute of International Education, 2005). One of the most significant and personal challenges that may be faced by these Asian Indian international students is the death of a loved one when they are far away from home. This phenomenological study explored Asian Indian international students' experiences of losing a loved one in their country of origin while studying in the U.S. While philosophical foundations of Husserlian phenomenology were used to guide this study, Collaizi's phenomenological method was used in terms of analyzing participants' descriptions of their experiences of loss. Three in-depth interviews were conducted with each of the six Asian Indian participants and major thematic categories were identified. Eight thematic categories emerged from participants descriptions: (1) finding self in the position of an Asian Indian international student in U.S., (2) becoming bereaved, (3) debating between staying or going, (4) thinking about my loved one, (5) worrying about my other loved ones back home, (6) dealing with my loss, (7) messages from home, and (8) messages about asking for support for bereavement. In addition, themes, and sub-themes that emerged as part of these categories are also reported and discussed. Participants' descriptions offer insights into the dynamics that interplay when an Asian Indian international student in the U.S. loses a loved one in his/her home country. Results suggest that contextual factors such as financial resources, geographical distance, religion and rituals, academic commitments, and cultural contexts play important roles in the experience of bereavement. This study also situates participants' experiences within several theoretical frameworks on bereavement and offers implications for researchers, therapists, academicians, policy makers, and administrators. Finally, participants' reflections on their involvement in the study as well as the personal reflections of the researcher are presented.