Robert Menge, Catherine Suubi Kayonga


The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic created disruptions in all people's daily lives. This deadly pandemic tremendously affected the social, economic, and physical systems. International students were a vulnerable population whose adjustment and adaptation processes in Sweden were interrupted. Therefore, we carried out to ascertain the international students' coping strategies during COVID-19. The study thus explores the coping strategies that international students utilise to deal with changes experienced during COVID-19 in Sweden. Theoretically, the study was based on resilience, the social ecology of resilience, and the strength-based perspective of social work. These theories assume that international students have innate skills and capabilities and resources from their external environments that they utilise to bounce back from stressors related to COVID-19. A cross-sectional exploratory research design was utilised for the study, and purposive, convenient and snowball-sampling techniques were used to choose study participants. Data was collected using qualitative in-depth interviews and was analysed using thematic analysis. The finding revealed that international students relied on environmental protective factors such as family, peers, religion, sports, and authentic information. They also used innate individual traits such as innovation, talents, concentration skills in academics, and the ability to multi-task to overcome their distress. In conclusion, even though COVID-19 worsened the pre-existing challenges to the well-being of international students in Sweden, they overcame some of their problems and blossomed even in difficult times.


Article visualizations:

Hit counter


coronavirus disease, COVID-19, international students, coping strategies

Full Text:



Berhanu, G. (2011). Inclusive Education in Sweden: Responses, Challenges and Prospects. International Journal of Special Education, 26(2), 128-148.pp.77 101.

Braun, V. and Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative research in psychology, 3(2) DOI: 10.1191/1478088706qp063oa

Bryman, A. (2016). Social research methods. Oxford University Press.

Creswell, J. W. and Creswell, J. D. (2017). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. Sage Publications.

Croker, R. A. (2009). An introduction to qualitative research. In Qualitative research in applied linguistics (pp. 3-24). Palgrave Macmillan, London.

Davis, W. B., Gfeller, K. E., & Thaut, M. H. (2008). An introduction to music therapy: Theory and practice. American Music Therapy Association. 8455 Colesville Road Suite 1000, Silver Spring, MD 20910.

Dworkin, S. L. (2012). Sample size policy for qualitative studies using in-depth interviews. Archives of sexual behavior, 41(6), 1319-1320.

Ellenbogen, J. M. (2005). Cognitive benefits of sleep and their loss due to sleep deprivation. Neurology, 64(7), E25-E27

Essangri, H., Sabir, M., Benkabbou, A., Majbar, M. A., Amrani, L., Ghannam, A., Lekehal, B., Mohsine, R. and Souadka, A. (2020). Predictive Factors for Impaired Mental Health among Medical Students during the Early Stage of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Morocco. The American journal of tropical medicine and hygiene, 104(1), pp.95-102. doi: 10.4269/ajtmh.20-1302

Eweida, R. S., Rashwan, Z. I., Desoky, G. M., & Khonji, L. M. (2020). Mental strain and changes in psychological health hub among intern-nursing students at pediatric and medical-surgical units amid ambience of COVID-19 pandemic: A comprehensive survey. Nurse Education in Practice, 49, 102915.

Fernández-Reino, M., & McNeil, R. (2020). Migrants’ labour market profile and the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford.

Ganga, N. S., & Kutty, V. R. (2013). Influence of religion, religiosity and spirituality on positive mental health of young people. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 16(4), 435-443.

Gómez-Salgado, J., Andrés-Villas, M., Domínguez-Salas, S., Díaz-Milanés, D., & Ruiz-Frutos, C. (2020a). Related health factors of psychological distress during the COVID-19 pandemic in Spain. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(11), 3947.

Gómez-Salgado, J., Domínguez-Salas, S., Romero-Martín, M., Ortega-Moreno, M., García-Iglesias, J. J., & Ruiz-Frutos, C. (2020). Sense of coherence and psychological distress among healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic in Spain. Sustainability, 12(17), 6855.

Green, J. and Thorogood, N., (2009). Qualitative Methods for Health Research Sage, London

Guadagno, L. (2020). Migrants and the COVID-19 pandemic: An initial analysis. International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Hart, C. W., & Koenig, H. G. (2020). Religion and health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Religion and Health, 59(3), 1141-1143.

Healy, K. (2015). Social Work Theories in Context: Creating Frameworks for Practice. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Kamerlin, S. C., & Kasson, P. M. (2020). Managing coronavirus disease 2019 spread with voluntary public health measures: Sweden as a case study for pandemic control. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 71(12), 3174-3181.

Kayonga, C. S. (2021). Transnational Experiences of Ugandan Students in Gothenburg, Sweden; Challenges and Adaptation strategies, University of Gothenburg.

Kibbey, M. M., Fedorenko, E. J., & Farris, S. G. (2021). Anxiety, depression, and health anxiety in undergraduate students living in initial US outbreak “hotspot” during COVID-19 pandemic. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, 50(5), 409-421.

King, J. A., Cabarkapa, S., Leow, F. H., & Ng, C. H. (2020). Addressing international student mental health during COVID-19: an imperative overdue. Australas Psychiatry, 469-469.

Kumar, R. (2018). Research methodology: A step-by-step guide for beginners. Sage.

Larwood, J. L., & Dingle, G. A. (2022). The effects of emotionally congruent sad music listening in young adults high in rumination. Psychology of Music, 50(1), 218-229.

Lundkvist, E., Wagnsson, S., Davis, L., & Ivarsson, A. (2020). Integration of immigrant youth in Sweden: does sport participation really have an impact?. International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, 25(1), 891-906.

Malm, C., Jakobsson, J., & Isaksson, A. (2019). Physical activity and sports—real health benefits: a review with insight into the public health of Sweden. Sports, 7(5), 127.

Masten, A. S. (2001). Ordinary magic: Resilience processes in development. American psychologist, 56(3), 227.

Masten, A. S. (2015). Ordinary magic: Resilience in development. Guilford Publications.

OECD (2017). PISA 2015 Results (Volume III). Students' Well-Being. Paris: OECD Publishing. Accessed: 2021-06-02.

OECD, (2020). Students - International student mobility - OECD Data. Accessed: 2021-03-11.

Oliver, D. G., Serovich, J. M., & Mason, T. L. (2005). Constraints and opportunities with interview transcription: Towards reflection in qualitative research. Social forces, 84(2), 1273-1289.

Palys, T., (2008). Purposive sampling. In L. M. Given (Ed.). The Sage Encyclopaedia of Qualitative Research Methods. Sage: Los Angeles, (Vol.2), pp. 697-8.

Pine, D. S., Costello, J., & Masten, A. (2005). Trauma, proximity, and developmental psychopathology: The effects of war and terrorism on children. Neuropsychopharmacology, 30(10), 1781.

Pomeranz, K. (2020). Afterword: Lives Interrupted, Trends Continued?. The Journal of Asian Studies, 79(3), 621-631. Doi:10.1017/S0021911820002338

Rehman, U., Shahnawaz, M. G., Khan, N. H., Kharshiing, K. D., Khursheed, M., Gupta, K., ... & Uniyal, R. (2021). Depression, anxiety and stress among Indians in times of Covid-19 lockdown. Community mental health journal, 57(1), 42-48.

Rothman, S., Gunturu, S., & Korenis, P. (2020). The mental health impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on immigrants and racial and ethnic minorities. QJM: An International Journal of Medicine, 113(11), 779-782.

Rubin, A. and Babbie, E. R. (2016). Empowerment series: Research methods for social work. Nelson Education.

Sahu, P. (2020). Closure of universities due to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): impact on education and mental health of students and academic staff. Cureus, 12(4). DOI: 10.7759/cureus.7541

Smith, M. D., & Wesselbaum, D. (2020). COVID-19, food insecurity, and migration. The Journal of nutrition, 150(11), 2855-2858.

Song, B., Zhao, Y., & Zhu, J. (2021). COVID-19-related traumatic effects and psychological reactions among international students. Journal of Epidemiology and Global Health, 11(1), 117. doi: 10.2991/jegh.k.201016.001

Spaaij, R., Broerse, J., Oxford, S., Luguetti, C., McLachlan, F., McDonald, B., ... & Pankowiak, A. (2019). Sport, refugees, and forced migration: A critical review of the literature. Frontiers in sports and active living, 47.

Statistics Sweden (2021). Population statistics Accessed: 2021-01-13.

Sümer, S., Poyrazli, S. and Grahame, K., 2008. Predictors of depression and anxiety among international students. Journal of Counseling & Development, 86(4), pp.429-437.

Trevithick, P. (2005). Social work skills. A practice handbook. McGraw-Hill Companies, Incorporated.

Turner, S. G. (2001). Resilience and social work practice: Three case studies. Families in Society, 82(5), 441–448.

UNESCO, (2021). UNESCO figures show Two thirds of an academic year lost on average worldwide due to COVID-19 closures UNESCO Accessed: 2021-03-08.

Ungar, M. ed., (2011). The social ecology of resilience: A handbook of theory and practice. Springer Science & Business Media.

Vahedian-Azimi, A., Moayed, M. S., Rahimibashar, F., Shojaei, S., Ashtari, S., & Pourhoseingholi, M. A. (2020). Comparison of the severity of psychological distress among four groups of an Iranian population regarding COVID-19 pandemic. BMC psychiatry, 20(1), 1-7.

Vasiljeva, M., Neskorodieva, I., Ponkratov, V., Kuznetsov, N., Ivlev, V., Ivleva, M., ... & Zekiy, A. (2020). A predictive model for assessing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economies of some Eastern European countries. Journal of Open Innovation: Technology, Market, and Complexity, 6(3), 92.

Vidas, D., Larwood, J. L., Nelson, N. L., & Dingle, G. A. (2021). Music listening as a strategy for managing COVID-19 stress in first-year university students. Frontiers in psychology, 12. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.647065

Wernly, B., Wernly, S., Magnano, A., & Paul, E. (2020). Cardiovascular health care and health literacy among immigrants in Europe: a review of challenges and opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Public Health, 1-7.

World Bank, (2020). The COVID-19 Crisis Response: Supporting Tertiary Education for Continuity, Adaptation, and Innovation World Bank, Washington, DC. © World Bank. Accessed: 2021-03-08.

World Health Organization (WHO). (2021) Coronavirus Accessed: 2021-01-15.

Yassin, A. A., Razak, N. A., Saeed, M. A., Al-Maliki, M. A. A., & Al-Habies, F. A. (2021). Psychological impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on local and international students in Malaysian universities. Asian Education and Development Studies.

Zittel, K. M., Lawrence, S., & Wodarski, J. S. (2002). Biopsychosocial model of health and healing: Implications for health social work practice. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 5(1), 19-33.


Copyright (c) 2022 Robert Menge, Catherine Suubi Kayonga

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

The research works published in this journal are free to be accessed. They can be shared (copied and redistributed in any medium or format) and\or adapted (remixed, transformed, and built upon the material for any purpose, commercially and\or not commercially) under the following terms: attribution (appropriate credit must be given indicating original authors, research work name and publication name mentioning if changes were made) and without adding additional restrictions (without restricting others from doing anything the actual license permits). Authors retain the full copyright of their published research works and cannot revoke these freedoms as long as the license terms are followed.

Copyright © 2016 - 2023. European Journal Of Social Sciences Studies (ISSN 2501-8590) is a registered trademark of Open Access Publishing Group. All rights reserved.

This journal is a serial publication uniquely identified by an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) serial number certificate issued by Romanian National Library. All the research works are uniquely identified by a CrossRef DOI digital object identifier supplied by indexing and repository platforms. All the research works published on this journal are meeting the Open Access Publishing requirements and standards formulated by Budapest Open Access Initiative (2002), the Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing (2003) and  Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities (2003) and can be freely accessed, shared, modified, distributed and used in educational, commercial and non-commercial purposes under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Copyrights of the published research works are retained by authors.


Hit counter