From Challenge to Empowerment: Cross-Cultural Experiences and Perceptions of First-Generation Migrant Family Students

Golaleh Makrooni


Although research on migrant students and their education exists, there is a lack of knowledge in Finland about the experiences and perceptions of successful First-Generation Migrant Family Students (FGMFS) in their educational path and transition from school to higher education. Therefore, this study aims to identify the main factors by which these students can successfully shape their educational pathway. Fifteen FGMFS pursuing higher education in Finland were interviewed, and, with the help of Grounded Theory (GT), three main categories — Individualism and Collectivism, Gender Role, and Critical Thinking — were identified as significant in coping with cross-cultural challenges and continuing their study in higher education successfully. The results of this study can help educational institutions create empowering environments to enhance the learning of FGMFS.


critical thinking, first-generation migrant family students, gender role, grounded theory, higher education, individualism/collectivism.

Full Text:



Abdul Rahim, A. H., & Azman, N. (2010). Educational aspirations among first-generation students and their parental influence towards pursuing tertiary education. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 7(c), 414–418.

Airas, M., Delahunty, D., Laitinen, M. Shemsedini, G., Stenberg, H., Saarilammi, M., Sarparanta, T., Vuori, H., & Väätäinen, H. (2019). Background matters. Students with an immigrant background in higher education. National Center for Educational Assessment.

Aldiabat, K. M., & Le Navenec, C. (2018). Data saturation: The mysterious step in grounded theory method. The Qualitative Report, 23(1), 245-261. /iss1/18

Barajas, H. L., & Pierce, J. L. (2001). The significance of race and gender in school success among Latinas and Latinos in college. Gender and Society, 15(6), 859-878. 10.1177/089124301015006005

Baum, S., & Flores, S. M. (2011). Higher education and children in immigrant families. The Future of Children. 21(1), 193-171.

Berry, J. W., Phinney, J. S., Sam, D. L., & Vedder, P. (2006). Immigrant youth: Acculturation, identity, and adaptation. International Association for Applied Psychology, 55(3), 303–332.

Brinbaum, Y., & Cebolla-Boado, H. (2007). The school careers of ethnic minority youth in France. Success or disillusion? SAGE Publications, 7(3), 445–474. 146879680708023

Buchanan, D., Boddy, D., & McCalman, J. (1988). Getting in, getting on, getting out and getting back. In A. Bryman, A. (Ed.), Doing research in organizations (pp. 53–67). Routledge.

Castillo-Montoya, M. (2017). Deepening understanding of prior knowledge: What diverse first-generation college students in the U.S. can teach us. Teaching in Higher Education, 22(5), 587-603.

Castillo-Montoya, M. (2019). Professors' pedagogical strategies for teaching through diversity. The review of higher education, 42(5), 199-226.

Cervantes, A. G. (2010). Breaking stereotypes by obtaining a higher education: Latinas' family values and tradition on the school institution. McNair Scholars Journal, 14(1), 23-54.

Choy, S. P. (2001). Students whose parents did not go to college: Postsecondary access, persistence, and attainment. Findings from the condition of education. National Center for Education Statistics.

Dale, A., Shaheen. N., Kalra, V., & Fieldhous, S. E. (2002). Routes into education and employment for young Pakistani and Bangladeshi women in the UK. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 25(6), 942–968.

Delima, D. G. (2019). Making a case for a funds of knowledge approach to teaching and learning for first-generation college students. College Teaching, 67(4), 205-209.

Demetriou, C., Meece, J., Eaker-Rich, D., & Powell, C. (2017). The activities, roles, and relationships of successful first-generation college students. Journal of College Student Development, 58(1), 19-36.

Ecklund, K. (2013). First-generation social and ethnic minority students in Christian universities: Student recommendations for successful support of diverse students. Christian Higher Education Journal, 12(3), 159–180.

Ennis, R. H. (1985). The logical basis for measuring CT skills (EJ327936). Educational Leadership, 43(2), 44-48. ERIC.

Facione, P. A. (1990). Critical thinking: A statement of expert consensus for purposes of educational assessment and instruction (The Delphi Report) (ED315423). The California Academic Press. ERIC.

Facione, P. A. (2013). Critical thinking: What it is and why it counts. The California Academic Press.

Facione, P. A., Facione. N. C., & Giancarlo, C. A. (2000). The disposition toward critical thinking: Its character, measurement, and relationship to critical thinking skill. Informal Logic, 20(1), 61-84.

Feliciano, C., & Rumbaut, R. G. (2005). Gendered paths: Educational and occupational expectations and outcomes among adult children of immigrants. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 28(6), 1087-1118.

Forrest Cataldi, F., Bennett, C. T., & Chen, X. (2018). First-generation students college access, persistence, and postbachelor’s outcomes (NCES 2018-421). U.S. Department of Education. National Center for Education Statistics.

Fuligni, A. J., & Witkow, M. (2004). The postsecondary educational progress of youth from immigrant families. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 14(2), 159–183. 10.1111/j.1532-7795.2004.01402002.x

Glaser, B. G., & Strauss, A. L. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. Aldine Transition. Glaser_1967.pdf

Gonzales, L. M., & Eades, M. P., & Supple. A. J. (2014). School community engaging with immigrant youth: Incorporating personal/social development and ethnic identity development. School Community Journal, 24(1), 99-117.

Gudykunst, W. B., & Nishida, T. (1999). The influence of culture and strength of cultural identity on individual values in Japan and the United States. Intercultural Communication Studies, 9(1), 1-18.

Hofstede, G. (1983). National cultures in four dimensions: A research-based theory of cultural differences among nations. International Studies of Management & Organization, 13(1/2), 46-74.

Hofstede, G. (2011). Dimensionalizing cultures: The Hofstede model in context. Online Readings in Psychology and Culture, Unit 2, Article 8.

Holton, J. A., & Walsh, I. (2017). Classic grounded theory. SAGE Publications.

Horowitz, G. (2017). First-generation college students: How to recognize them and be their ally and advocate. Journal of College Science Teaching, 46(6), 8-9.

Ishitani, T. T. (2003). A longitudinal approach to assessing attrition behavior among first-generation students: Time-varying effects of pre-college characteristics. Research in Higher Education, 4(4), 433- 449.

Makrooni, G. (2019). Being a First-Generation Migrant Family Student in Finland: Perceptions and experiences of the Educational Journey to Higher Education. Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Studies,6(3),157-170.

OECD. (2010). PISA 2009 results: Executive summary. 46619703.pdf

Rassool, N. (1999). Flexible identities: Exploring race and gender issues among a group of immigrant pupils in an inner-city comprehensive school. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 20(1), 23-36.

Ravecca, A. (2010). Immigrant children school experience: How gender influences social capital formation and fruition? Italian Journal of Sociology of Education, 2(1), 49-73.

Redford, J., & Hoyer. K. M. (2017). First-generation and continuing-generation college students: A comparison of high school and postsecondary experiences. U.S. Department of Education. National Center for Education Statistics.

Ruiz-de-Velasco, J., Fix, M., & Chu Clewell, B. (2001). Overlooked and underserved: Immigrant students in U.S. secondary schools (ED449275). ERIC. The Urban Institute.

Rupsiene, L., & Pranskuniene, R. (2010). The variety of grounded theory: Different versions of the same method or different methods? Social Sciences 4(70), 7–20.

Saenz, V. B., Hurtado, S., Barrera, D., Wolf, D., & Yeung, F. (2007). First in my family: A profile of first-generation college students at four-year institutions since 1971. Cooperative Institutional Research Program, Higher Education Research Institute, University of California.

Schwartz, S. J., Kim, S. Y., Whitbourne, S. K., Zamboanga, B. L., Weisskirch, R. S., Forthun, L. F., Vazsonyi, A. T., Beyers, W., & Luyckx, K. (2013). Converging identities: Dimensions of acculturation and personal identity status among immigrant college students. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 19(2), 155–165. a0030753

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1994). Grounded theory methodology—An overview. In K. D. Norman & S. L. Y. Vannaeds (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp. 22–23). SAGE Publications.

Terenzini, P. T, Springer, L., Yaeger, P. M., Pascarella, E. T., & Nora, A. (1996). First-generation college students: Characteristics, experiences, and cognitive development. Research in Higher Education, 37(1), 1-22.

Yaman, A., Mesman, J., van Ijzendoorn, M. H., Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J., & Linting, M. (2010). Parenting in an individualistic culture with a collectivistic cultural background: The case of Turkish immigrant families with toddlers in the Netherlands. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 19, 617–628.

Zhou, M., & Bankston, C. L. (2001). Family pressure and the educational experience of the daughters of Vietnamese refugees. Journal of International Migration, 39(4),133-151.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Studies  E-ISSN: 2149-1291

Copyright © Center for Ethnic and Cultural Studies (CECS) Publishing Inc.

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the '' domain to your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders.

SCImago Journal & Country Rank  EBSCO HostCrossRef DOI – EScience Press News & Views: Analyzing the DOAJ - Delta ThinkICI Journals Master Listerihplus hashtag on TwitterProQuest (@ProQuest) | Twitter