This study was an in-depth exploration of the adverse emotional factors that impede discussion participation. Using a qualitative approach, 23 international students at one university were interviewed, and their responses analyzed. Students reported that fear, embarrassment, social isolation, judgment and discrimination were barriers to participation. These findings were discussed in the context of a framework for reducing negative emotional states, employing self-efficacy theory. This framework was applied to the interview results and the author’s observation of international students’ behavior at dormitories and university offices. These findings suggest a possible intervention approach for educators to help international students express themselves in the classroom.