Project RISE: Research on the International Student Experience

Purpose of Study

The goal of this study is to understand the interplay of personal factors (e.g., home culture collectiveness, perceived language skills) and institutional factors (e.g., domestic student social support, academic stress) on international students’ adjustment, including belonging, psychological well-being, and academic achievement.

This study extends prior research with larger sample of international students on F-1 and J-1 visas at institutions across the U.S. to understand which factors are most critical for their successful adjustment. A large multi-institutional longitudinal study allows us to investigate students’ outcomes by country or region of origin so that we can provide more precise information relevant to your international student population. In the time of pandemic, international students face additional challenges that might jeopardize their psychological health and academic success. This study aims to identify these struggles and their impact on students’ adjustment.

Detail Overview

Who: International students on F-1 visas studying at colleges and universities in the U.S. at participating institutions can join in this study

What: Participants are invited to complete surveys (15 mins each) at the times below:

  • Winter/Spring 2021
  • Fall 2021
  • Spring 2022

Benefits for Institutions

Participating institutions will receive the following in June 2021, December 2021, and June 2022:

  • Invitation to webinars to review and discuss findings
  • Report of study findings (click here to download example)
  • Report of average scores for your students compared to national sample and peer institutions

Benefits for Student Participants

Participating students will have access to the following benefits:

  • Invitation to webinars to discuss findings in Summer 2022
  • Enter into drawing to win $50 gift card at each timepoint
  • Access to publications from this research project

Funding and IRB

This research is made possible through funding from the from the International English Language Testing Service (IELTS) Joint-Funded Research Programme.

This research project (#00023524) has been approved by the Wake Forest University Institutional Review Board

How can our institution support this study?

We welcome the opportunity to collaborate! If you are interested in supporting this study, please contact the study team at or 336.758.7053.

We are not currently enrolling new participating institutions. The next open wave for recruitment will begin in January 2023.

GWF graphic

Project RISE Team

Principal Investigator
Nelson Brunsting, PhD

Staff Image Brunsting

Research Associate Professor
International Studies
Wake Forest University

Liza Prentice, PhD

Liza Prentice photo

Affiliated Researcher
Wake Forest University

Porshe Chiles, M.Ed.

Staff Photo Porshe Chiles

Associate Director
RAISE Center
Wake Forest University

Project Coordinator
W. Patrick Bingham, PhD

Photo: Patrick Bingham

Research Coordinator
RAISE Center
Wake Forest University

With support by the RAISE Center


  • Why participate in this research study?

    For colleges and universities we provide three benefits beyond contributing to knowledge that may improve international students’ social-emotional experience at U.S. universities:
    1. Reports comparing average scores of participating students at your institution on study variables with average scores of the national sample. This allows you to broadcast where your institution is succeeding and target resources to areas for improvement.
    2. Invitations to webinars with the research team to discuss findings and recommendations as well has how recommendations might best be implemented across institutions with different resources, priorities, and needs
    3. Free access to all research articles and manuscripts published from this study.

    For students we provide three benefits beyond contributing to knowledge that may improve their social-emotional experience at U.S. universities:
    1. Invitations to webinars with the research team to discuss findings and how they might best inform international students’ choices and wellness.
    2. Free access to all research articles and manuscripts published from this study.
    3. Entry into drawings for $50 electronic gift cards at each study timepoint.

  • Who cannot participate in the research study?

    This study is only available for undergraduate and graduate international students studying on an F-1 or J-1 visa at a college or university that elects to participate in this study. Students with a green card or an American passport, even if they grew up in another country, are not eligible to participate in this study.

  • What is the time commitment for students?

    What is the time commitment?
    We invite students to participate by completing a 10-20 minute survey at three timepoints:

    • March 2021
    • October 2021
    • March 2022

    Therefore, for students who participate at all three timepoints, the total time commitment is between 30 minutes and one hour across one year.

  • Why do you want universities to provide student names and emails?

    We use Qualtrics survey software to administer surveys accurately. This allows us to track which students have participated in surveys so they do not continue to receive reminder emails to complete. This also ensures that only international students at participating universities complete the survey at each of the three timepoints.

  • Wouldn’t it be more effective for International Student Offices to contact students?

    We agree that it is useful for students at your university to know that the International Students Office supports this study. A week prior to our survey, we will ask that you share out (whether in email or your newsletter) an email expressing support for this study. We provide a template that can be altered, except for the sentence about the study being voluntary and confidential.

  • How will the data be used?

    The data will be used to answer research questions pertaining to international students’ adjustment and experiences in U.S. universities. We want to understand which demographic factors, sources of social support (e.g., faculty, domestic students, other international students), and university contextual factors (e.g., size, location, percentage of students commuting) contribute to students’ social-emotional adjustment (e.g., belonging, psychological well-being) over time.

  • Who will have access to the data?

    The only individuals who will have access to identifiable data (e.g., data connected to a student name) are members of the research student team at Wake Forest University. As soon as data collection is complete, the data will be de-identified, meaning that the students’ name and emails will be replaced with a study ID number. Other researchers may then use the de-identified data, but only with permission of the study Principal Investigator, Dr. Nelson Brunsting.

  • Will the data be disaggregated?

    The data will be disaggregated by college or university to generate reports for the Directors of International Students at participating universities. However, this will only be done for institutions at which 10 or more students participate in the study. Individual students’ data are confidential and will not be provided. The reports will not include student demographic information; they will contain the average score on each study variable disaggregated to show the university average score and the national sample average score.

  • Can anyone determine whether an individual student participated in the study? How will you ensure the anonymity of participants?

    Only members of the research study team at Wake Forest University will have access to this information. We will not provide this information to participating colleges or universities.

    Participant information and data will be downloaded directly from Qualtrics and stored on Wake Forest University’s password protected server. Only research team members have access to this server. We have established protocols in place to ensure we never distribute any identifiable information.

  • Will I have access to my results?

    We are unable to provide students’ access to their individual results.

  • Will I be compensated?

    Participants will be entered into drawings for one of five $50 electronic giftcards (e.g., amazon, target, Walmart) at each timepoint they complete the survey.

  • What are the participants’ rights?

    Participation in the study is voluntary, and students may withdraw from the study at any time by emailing the research team personnel at or the Wake Forest University IRB (; study 00023524). Further, no questions are required, so participants may elect to skip any questions they do not want to answer or do not feel comfortable to answer.

  • How does a person enroll in a study?

    Students will receive emails in October from the research team inviting them to participate in the study. If they click the link to the study, the link will direct them to the consent form of the study on Qualtrics. If students elect to consent, they will then be directed to the first survey.

    Students will receive similar emails in March 2021 and October 2021.

  • Where are the studies conducted?

    The studies will be conducted online via Qualtrics research software. We will download the data from Qualtrics to our password-protected server which resides at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.