Academic journal article College Student Journal

Life Experiences of Dissatisfied Science and Engineering Graduate Students in Taiwan

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Life Experiences of Dissatisfied Science and Engineering Graduate Students in Taiwan

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to describe the life experiences of science/engineering students who had been dissatisfied with their lives during graduate school in Taiwan. This study adopted a qualitative method of phenomenology utilizing in-depth interviews for data collection. Thirteen male and five female students with an average age of 24.85 participated in this study. Twelve participants were enrolled in master's programs and six participants came from doctoral programs. The two themes that emerged from the results revealed that students had a lack of motivation and preparation prior to enrollment, and were maladjusted to learning and life after enrollment.

Keywords: graduate student, life experience

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The number of graduate schools in Taiwan has increased in the last two decades from five hundred to more than three thousand, and the number of students from forty thousand to over two hundred thousand (Ministry of Education, 2010). Seeking a graduate degree has become one of the major goals of Taiwanese university students which reflects traditional values of academic achievement (Cheng, 2006). A majority of Taiwanese students pursue a graduate degree, which makes them more competitive in the job market (Cheng, 2006).

As the number of graduate students grows, so too does a dropout rate, now more than 10% (Ministry of Education, 2010), which indicates that a certain number of graduate students are not coping with graduate school well. One of the main reasons for this might be a lack of clarity of interest, career plan, and occupation before enrolling in graduate school. These graduate students maybe under the pressure of parents, elders, peers, and/or sociocultural values to enroll in graduate school. As a result, they are likely to suffer from obstacles, difficulties and frustrations over the course of graduate school.

Students majoring in the science/engineering fields have been the majority of graduate students (45%) in Taiwan (Ministry of Education, 2010). Science/engineering graduate students encounter a high degree of stress (Liu, 2007) and half of the students self-evaluate as having poor health during the semester (Lin, 2005). They spend much time in labs on their research projects, suffering from extended fatigue, and experience fierce competition which may trigger physical and psychological discomfort or stress symptoms. Light symptoms include poor academic performance and/or experimental results; and severe symptoms include insomnia, anxiety, depression, frustration, or psychological disorders, violent actions, self-inflicted injuries, or suicide. In order to further comprehend students' obstacles and issues in graduate school, this study focuses on science/engineering students who have been dissatisfied with their graduate school experience, describing their life experiences to reveal the difficulties during their graduate school tenure.

Literature Review of Graduate Students

According lo research in Taiwan, academic stress was the top stressor among graduate students, and most employed problem-solving strategies to cope with stress (Aiou, 2005; Huang, 2006). About 40% of Taiwanese graduate students rated themselves as being in poor health and self-evaluated anxiety as their most severe psychological problem (Huang, 2006). Lee (2005) investigated 2144 new graduate students and found out that prevalence of tiredness in male students was 45.8% and in female students was 48.9%. Yeh (2005) reported on obstacles in graduate school, including insufficient stimuli and resources, heavy-loading of academic work, financial stress, peer relations, stress of part-time jobs, limited course options, poor time-management, poor relations with professors, isolation, frustration, and a lack of an intimate partner for sharing. Half of the graduate students were in poor health near the end of each semester, and viewed friends/peers as the most important sources of support (Hsu, 2003). …

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