Homesickness is a major stressor for college students in general, and international students in particular, that has an adverse effect on their psychological health and academic performance. The present study examined the incidence and determinants of homesickness in a sample of international students from India attending a US university and compared the results to a control group consisting of American students in their freshman year. The results indicated that homesickness was significantly more prevalent in the Indian sample. For Indian students, anxiety and depression were positively correlated with homesickness, whereas financial aid, course load, and the intention to look for a job in the US after graduation had the opposite effect. The length of stay in the US, discrimination, and the extent of socialization with American students were also found to be significant predictors of homesickness. For American students, the number of siblings and financial aid emerged as the major factors with a negative effect on homesickness.
International students face many obstacles when they transition from their country of origin to a new environment. Although their experiences of adjustment are similar to any move to a new environment, international students experience certain unique obstacles, such as uncertainty about role expectations in the new country, language barriers (Cheng, Leong, Geist, 1993; Mori, 2000; Fritz, Chin, DeMarinis, 2008), and social difficulties (Searle & Ward, 1990; Chapdelaine & Alexitch, 2004), that can impede a smooth adjustment to diverse situations. Immediately after the transition to the university, most international students experience a period of disorientation marked by both excitement about new opportunities (Westwood and Barker, 1990), frustration and depression (Church, 1982) due to loss of familiar settings and possible social supports. Unfortunately, international students are faced with critical decisions regarding program selection and other life progressions during this disorientation phase (Westwood and Barker, 1990).
Currently, of the million plus international students studying worldwide, half of them are studying in the United States. Asian students comprise the largest population of international students in the United States with the majority coming from India, China, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan (Institute of Education, 2003). During the 2007-2008 academic year, over 94,000 Indian international students were enrolled in colleges and universities in the United States (US Department of State, 2009). Although the number of international students from India is quite high, each individual student is still faced with the obstacles of adapting not only to a new school, but also to another culture with different customs, behaviors, and language than their own (Westwood and Barker, 1990; Chapdelaine & Alexitch, 2004).
International students still experience the same tribulations as local college students when transitioning to college, but they also face difficulties that come about due to adjusting to a new environment (Stoebe et al. 2002), and culture in unfamiliar surroundings (Westwood and Barker, 1990). Psychological maladjustment may surface due to such factors as unfamiliar societal customs (Chapdelaine & Alexitch, 2004), language barriers (Mori, 2000), and lack of previous close contact with social support system and kinship bonds (Abe & Zane, 1990). Research on adjustment and time spent in the new environment for international students has yielded mixed results. Ying (2005) found that acculturative stressors appear to be most intense shortly after arrival to a new environment and follow a slow linear decline before reaching an equilibrium point after the first year. Further research has shown that social interaction with individuals in the host country significantly impacts international students' ability to adjust to the new environment, allowing for increased adaptability to the university setting (Searle & Ward, 1990; Chapdelaine & Alexitch, 2004). …