Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Secondary Education

Major Professor

John Liontas, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Yiping Lou, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Janet Richards, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Catherine Mazak, Ph.D.


international graduate students, Puerto Rico, language expectations, superdiversity, translanguaging, Assistantship


Globalization and sociopolitical factors impact migration patterns all over the world. In Puerto Rico, these factors created superdiverse environments where languages users have pushed the boundaries of language in order to make sense of their worlds. Even though this language dynamic is natural for locals, it is those who visit from different countries, specifically international graduate students, that have a difficult time adjusting to Puerto Rico’s rich use of English and Spanish. Understanding how international graduate students perceive the language used at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez (UPRM) upon arrival is essential to provide a better experience for future students. As of this writing, this study is the first to investigate the language perceptions of incoming international graduate students at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez.

This descriptive exploratory case study explores language perceptions of first semester international graduate students with an assistantship. I interviewed 3 first-semester students at a large, public, research university, located on the west coast of Puerto Rico. I carried out two semi-structured individual interviews and one semi-structure focus group interview. I employed data triangulation and member checked to ensure validity and trustworthiness of data.

Study findings reveal that participants did not initially perceive English as being the main language of use during their graduate studies. Participants mentioned struggles throughout their semester due to the heavy presence of English in their coursework and assistantship. Participants suggested that the university should provide more English language support to ensure the success of incoming international students. In this study, I addressed gaps on translanguaging at superdiverse universities, and international teaching assistants’ perceptions of language at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez campus. Based on the findings, I offer English course suggestions to enhance academic and professional opportunities for international students at UPRM.