Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

The Effectiveness and Cultural Compatibility of a Guided Self-Help Cognitive-Behaviour Programme for Asian Students in New Zealand

Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

The Effectiveness and Cultural Compatibility of a Guided Self-Help Cognitive-Behaviour Programme for Asian Students in New Zealand

Article excerpt

New Zealand's international education industry is worth $2.85 billion (Education New Zealand, 2014), and is New Zealand's fifth largest export sector (Ministry of Education, 2014). Legislative changes to the visa requirements for international students in 2013 made it easier and more attractive for young people to study in New Zealand (Joyce & Woodhouse, 2013). Since the changes, there has been nearly a 12% increase in international students becoming involved in the New Zealand higher education sector (Education New Zealand, 2014). International students from East and South East Asia make up a significant proportion of those studying in New Zealand tertiary institutions (Ministry of Education, nd). Of the 48,000 international students enrolled in 2013, students of Chinese descent were the largest group (Ministry of Education, nd).

Asian international students face unique challenges that are similar to those of other Asian migrants, but in addition carry the pressures from their family to succeed academically. With considerable sacrifice to finance studying overseas, the pressure to succeed may manifest in the student experiencing poor physical and psychological health, loneliness, fear of failure, lack of academic success, and interpersonal conflicts (Baker & Siryk, 1986; Bean, 1982; Church, 1982). Coming to a foreign country, navigating the demands of an alien educational system, and sometimes experiencing racial prejudice related to their status as ethnic minorities have the potential to negatively impact on their academic achievements and experience of studying overseas.

Adjustment to studying overseas has been termed "sojourner adjustment" by Brein and David (1971), or "culture shock" first introduced by Oberg (1960). This definition encompasses not only the shock and anxiety related to adjusting to a new culture very different from one's own but includes the psychological wellbeing, academic, and sociocultural outcomes of adapting to the host culture. The level of culture shock is expected to be greater when the student encounters a culture very dissimilar to the culture and language of their own country (Church, 1982).

Russell, Rosenthal, and Thomson (2010) found that 41% of international students studying in Australia experienced substantial levels of stress due to homesickness, culture shock, and/or racial discrimination. Often Asian international students have fewer resources to cope with these stressors (Kaczmarek, Matlock, Merta, Ames, & Ross, 1994). The following section highlights specific struggles that Asian international students may face and these include the expectation for academic success, social adjustment, and help-seeking patterns.

Academic expectations

In Chinese culture generally, the expectation of academic success is ever-present with failure bringing shame and "loss of face" (Chen & Davenport, 2005). The importance of achieving academically is internalised at an early age (Foo, 2007), as academic success is seen as the key to family social mobility (Xie & Goyette, 2003). The pressure is even greater for young people studying overseas because of the sacrifices families make to assist their child to achieve this. Saw, Berenbaum, and Okazaki (2013) found that Asian students reported greater academic achievement and family-related worries than non-Asian students, although no differences were found in the frequency of worries in other areas. The perceptions of living up to parental standards and current academic achievement partially mediated this relationship in the academic worry domain. So for international Asian students the need to succeed may create higher levels of stress and anxiety than for non-Asian students.

Social adjustment

International students leave behind their established support systems and must learn new ways of relating to the education and social systems of their host country. For many Asian students close inter-connected ties to the family unit and an interdependent relationships with their parents are fostered from an early age (Wang & Leichtman, 2000). …

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