Academic journal article Journal of Higher Education

A Comparison of International Student and American Student Engagement in Effective Educational Practices

Academic journal article Journal of Higher Education

A Comparison of International Student and American Student Engagement in Effective Educational Practices

Article excerpt

American society is more diverse now than at any previous time (Keller, 2001). It is no surprise, then, that knowledgeable observers both inside and outside the academy say that an important goal of higher education is to prepare culturally competent individuals with the ability to work effectively with people from different backgrounds (Carnevale, 1999; Mori, 2000; Sandhu, 1995; Smith & Schonfeld, 2000). Promising approaches include creating learning environments that promote and value diversity, as well as intentionally exposing students to multiple and sometimes competing perspectives that challenge previously unexamined assumptions. When imbedded in appropriate pedagogy, such challenges can promote high levels of intellectual and personal development (Astin, 1977, 1993; Chickering & Reisser, 1993; Keniston & Gerzon, 1972; Kuh et al., 1991; Sanford, 1962). Thus, diversity on college campuses is not a gratuitous or idealistic goal; it is essential in order for college students to learn how to live and work effectively with others who differ from themselves (Gurin, 1999; Smith & Schonfeld, 2000).

International students constitute an increasingly relevant and important source of diversity on college campuses. Attending a school enrolling substantial numbers of international students may advantage American students in the marketplace, to the extent that the experience increases their cultural sensitivities and skills in working with people from different backgrounds (Calleja, 2000; Carnevale, 1999). The good news is that more American students may now be getting these opportunities. In 2001, the total international student enrollment at colleges and universities in the U.S. was nearly 550,000, a 6.4% increase over 2000 and the biggest single-year jump in 20 years (Institute of International Education, 2002). International students represent almost 5% of all students (Digest of Educational Statistics, 2001). About 237,000 are under-graduates, almost 3% of the total number of undergraduates in the U.S. (Marcus & Hartigan, 2000). Asian students comprise over half (56%) of all international enrollments, followed by students from Europe (14%), Latin America (12%), the Middle East (7%), Africa (6%), and North America and Oceania (5%) (Institute of International Education, 2002). Although U.S. colleges and universities enroll more international students than any other country in the world (Marcus & Hartigan, 2000), most of what is reported in the literature about students' experiences emphasizes the challenges they face in adapting to a foreign living and learning environment. Most international students report some degree of culture shock when they arrive and begin their studies (Furnham, 1988; Olaniran, 1996, 1999; Selvadurai, 1992; Thomas & Althen, 1989). That shock is typically manifested as stress, anxiety, and feelings of powerlessness, rejection, and isolation (Oberg, 1960). Being exposed to new values, attitudes, and behavior patterns is not necessarily debilitating, however; indeed, the experience can be transformative. In fact, some research shows that international students seem to be able to cope relatively well when faced with other stressful life events (Leong, Mallinckrodt, & Krolj, 1990; Parr & Others, 1992).

Friendship networks seem to be a critical factor in how well international students deal with stress (Furnham & Alibhai, 1985). Those who have a strong social support system tend to adjust to college life in their host country more quickly and effectively (Al-Sharideh & Goe, 1998; Boyer & Sedlacek, 1988; Schram & Lauver, 1988). International students indicate a stronger preference for making friends from the same country or students from other nations over students from the host county (Furnham & Alibhai, 1985). At the same time, those international students who do cultivate friendships with American students tend to adapt and adjust more easily (Bochner et al. …

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