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Refugees often experience a lot of stress and trauma before relocating to their host country (Leo, 2021). Additionally, they often continue to experience different challenges while adapting to their new environment (Leo, 2021). Refugees who relocate may experience survivor’s guilt, gratitude to their host country, or may not feel like a member in their new community. On top of new challenges and stressors, refugee students who are the first in their families to attend college feel pressure to excel academically in a way to ‘give back’ to their family and their host country (Turjanmaa & Jasinskaja-Lahti, 2020). Although there has been prior research on refugee individuals, there is limited work focused on first generation refugee college students. The current study aims to test three questions: 1) How does survivors’ guilt impact the feeling of belongingness in first generation college student refugees? 2) Do first generation college student refugees feel obligated to do well in school due to the feeling of indebtedness to their host country and family or the feeling of gratitude? 3) How does gratitude and indebtedness impact the feeling of belongingness in first generation college student refugees? We aim to recruit first generation college refugee students in the United States from multiple colleges to test these research questions. Aims will be tested with questionnaires provided to the students that assesses survivors’ guilt, gratitude, belongingness, obligation, and discrimination. The current abstract will focus on existing literature and the planned study.

Publication Date


Subject Major(s)



refugee, survivor guilt, gratitude, indebtedness, belongingness, obligation, university students, college, immigrant, migrant

Current Academic Year


Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Myriam Kadeba

Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Chelsea Williams

Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Ellen Carpenter


© The Author(s)

The Association Between Survivors’ Guilt and Gratitude in the Belongingness of First-Generation College Student Refugees