Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Feeling Welcome with No "Buts": Chinese Student Engagement in Residence Life

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Feeling Welcome with No "Buts": Chinese Student Engagement in Residence Life

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

For any new college student, the first year is critical in the socialization process into becoming a college student and to the student's success in higher education (Ramsay et al., 2007). For international students, social integration has focused on cultural factors and transitional challenges (Sovic, 2009). International students, typically devoid of families and friends in the host country, need to rely heavily on university-led support systems to form peer relationships as their access to social support networks is greatly reduced upon arrival in a foreign country (Paltridge et al., 2010; Razek & Coyner, 2013; Sovic, 2009). Residence halls serve as living spaces conducive to social and academic interaction among students, and thus offer an essential research setting in college life.

OBJECTIVES

In determining the perspectives of intercultural interactions between international and domestic students, Brebner (2008) found that international students were less interested in campus-wide cultural activities but more in administrators fostering a supportive campus environment. The purpose of this study is to examine how first year international students' perception of racial climate within residence halls affect their level of engagement on the floor through comparing it to that of domestic students. Knowledge of how student perceptions of racial climate and diversity affect student living experience, student affairs professionals may be better able to create an environment that truly supports intercultural exchange and engagement. Results provide answers to following research questions:

1) What are international students' perception of the residence hall living environment, community, and diversity?

2) How do these perceptions differ from the perceptions of domestic students?

3) How does this perception affect their level of engagement on the floor?

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

As first year international students begin their college career in the U.S., they experience a number of transitional challenges including lacking awareness of campus resources, language barriers, culture shock, and a lack of social support. The degree of peer interactions that students experience significantly affects their growth and development in college, as do racial diversity. Perceptions of racial-ethnic prejudice have negative effects especially on minority students' transition and adjustment to college, as well as their sense of belonging to their institutions (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005).

Barriers Experienced By First-Year International Students

For any new college student, the first year is critical in the socialization process into becoming a college student and to the student's success in higher education (Ramsay, Jones & Barker, 2007). Social integration is equally important for all students, but the emphasis has been different for domestic and international students. For domestic students, social integration is commonly associated with academic success. For international students, however, the emphasis has been more on cultural factors and transitional challenges (Sovic, 2009). These challenges include adjustment issues, culture shock, a lack of peer support, a lack of awareness of campus resources, and difficulties securing basic amenities.

Adjustment Issues and Social Integration

Adjustment issues exacerbate the socialization process for first year international students during the initial transition period (Poyrazli & Grahame, 2007). According to Ying (as cited in Poyrazli and Grahame, 2007), a student's perceived discrimination, English language proficiency, personality type, and approach to forming relationships with Americans are additional variables to the success of student adjustment. These variables are further intensified for students from non-English speaking and non-Western backgrounds (Fontaine and Todd, 2011). …

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