Academic journal article College Student Journal

College Students' Life Experiences in Korea and in the U.S

Academic journal article College Student Journal

College Students' Life Experiences in Korea and in the U.S

Article excerpt

Even though college students may be faced with developmental life tasks that might lead them to cognitive and emotional growth, little is known about how college students' life experiences are related to their cultural values. Understanding college students' life across culture requires both exploratory and confirmatory approaches to examine (1) how the college students' life experiences differ, and (2) what are the sociocultural factors that might be related to the culturally configured life experiences. Participants in the study included 324 college students from Korea and 287 students from the U.S. The present study investigated how Korean and the U.S. college students' life experiences are patterned differently using exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses, multiple regression analyses, and group-level comparisons. The implications and the directions for future research are discussed.


Although previous research has discovered useful findings concerning college students (i.e., academic and social adjustments), several issues exist with regards to how empirical research is approached (Sagy, 2000). Academic retention theories (e.g., student integration model) have identified factors affecting academic persistence, which not only precludes a fuller understanding of college student life but also ignores views reflecting cultural norms and societal expectations. Traditional and applied psychosocial theorists (Chickering, 1979; Tinto, 1975) discuss developmental tasks for college students, but do not explore the complex aspects of the developmental tasks expected societally and culturally

In the U.S. college life is often studied in terms of such concepts as academic achievement, academic success, and retention (Astin, 1993, 1997,1999; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991). Researchers suggested that the mission of college education in the U.S. should be helping students learn and achieve, thus students should engage in achieving various academic skills, such as effective writing, speaking, and critical thinking skills (Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991). Other scholars claimed that college life should lead students to intellectual, cognitive, and interpersonal development (Henton, Lamke, Murphy, & Haynes, 1980).

In Korea, one of the missions of a college education focuses a lot on character education (character development)(i.e., developing a harmonious character with wisdom, virtue, and physical health) that can contribute to self-cultivation and societal prosperity. College students in Korea are frequently studied in terms of their beliefs and attitudes about social and cultural expectations, and how they can contribute to meet the expectations (Hong & Seol, 2002; Hong & Seol, 2003). Consequently, college students' lives are often linked to the issues of how they can contribute to their family and the society that they belong to directly or indirectly.

The answer to the question of what a collegiate life is depends on whether or not researchers consider various aspects of a collegiate life in relation to what is valued in a culture (i.e., a sociocultural approach). The lack of research addressing how the college experiences between Korean and the U.S. college students differ thus warrants further exploration.

Potential Correlates

Past conceptualizations of college student life have generally addressed in at least one of the following areas: (1) dealing with academic issues (Davidson, Beck, & Silver, 1999); (2) balancing student life between academic demands and interpersonal relationships (e.g., family, friends) (Beyers & Goossens, 2002); (3) making decisions as a consumer and a career planner (Canabal, 2002; Flowers, 2002; Guerra & Braungart-Rieker, 1999); (4) maintaining and balancing physical, psychological, and spiritual wellness (Bates, Cooper, & Wachs, 2001); and (5) taking civic and social responsibility (Astin, 1997,1999). …

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