Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

International Graduate Students' Cross-Cultural Academic Engagement: Stories of Indonesian Doctoral Students on an American Campus

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

International Graduate Students' Cross-Cultural Academic Engagement: Stories of Indonesian Doctoral Students on an American Campus

Article excerpt

Introduction

American higher education has continued to become increasingly diverse and the number of overseas students, who come to the U.S. voluntarily with a specific period of time in order to pursue their educational careers, tends to increase from year to year. For example, the number of international students in American higher education in the 2009-2010 academic year was 690,923 students (Institute of International Education [IIE], 2011) and in the 2010-2011 academic year was 723,277 students (IIE, 2011). While the number of international students is increasing, the enrollment of Indonesian students in the U.S. dropped from 13,282 in the 1997-1998 academic year (Marklein, 2011) to 6,942 in the 2010-2011 academic year (IIE, 2011). One possible explanation for the declining trend in enrollment of Indonesian students may be related to entrance obstacles such as immigration regulations or visas after the horrific tragedy of September 11, 2001. As Akramand Johnson (2002) stated, "Almost immediately after the tragedy, Arabs and Muslims, as well as those appearing to be Arab or Muslim, were subject to crude forms of racial profiling" (p. 295). While the immigration regulations or visas issues sound like a plausible explanation, previous research has suggested that due to lack of extensive exposure to the U.S. academic and social culture, as well as significant differences in language, culture values, communication styles, and academic and social life between most Asian countries and the U.S., Asian international students appear to experience more academic and nonacademic challenges than do students from other regions (Fritz, Chin, & DeMarinis, 2008; Li & Gasser, 2005; Nilsson, Butler, Shouse, & Joshi, 2008; Poyrazli, Kavanaugh, Baker, & Al-Timimi, 2004; Sato & Hodge, 2009; Trice, 2004). While a substantial number of previous studies have addressed academic and nonacademic challenges experienced by many international students, most of them have focused on the international students in general and tend to place Indonesian students in one group with other Asian students (Fritz, Chin, & DeMarinis, 2008; Liu, 2001; Sumer, Poyrazli, & Grahame, 2008; Trice, 2004; Zhai, 2002). For example, Fritz, Chin, and DeMarinis (2008) found that Asian students had difficulties to deal with the new language and to make new friends. Meanwhile, Liu (2001) reported that interrelated identified as linguistic, sociocultural, cognitive, pedagogical, and affective factors influenced Asian international graduate students' classroom engagement.

Although these studies might provide readers with useful information on what Asian students experienced during their transition processes in American higher education, much less work, to date, has examined how Indonesian students negotiate their cultural values in their cultural encounters in American graduate schools and what uniquely and individually academic engagement experiences of Indonesian graduate students might look like at the classroom level. Tinto and Pusser (2006) and Kuh, Kinzie, Buckley, Bridges, and Hayek (2007) wrote that involvement or engagement is one of the most important factors influencing student success in college. Additionally, as indicated in a number of previous studies, there are substantial distinctions in types and meanings of student engagement which impact on students' experiences in schools (McMahon & Portelli, 2004; McMahon & Zyngier, 2009; Vibert & Shields, 2003).

The lack of literature and information on Indonesian graduate students' academic engagement experiences in American higher education might keep the declining trend continuing since policymakers and those working with international students are not provided with current data to shape institutional actions and to provide multicultural education programs. Additionally, it might obscure our understanding of the unique and individual nature of Indonesian graduate students' academic engagement. …

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