Academic journal article International Journal of Education

International Students: Challenges of Adjustment to University Life in the U.S

Academic journal article International Journal of Education

International Students: Challenges of Adjustment to University Life in the U.S

Article excerpt

Abstract

Learning a new culture and learning in a new culture which may have different beliefs and values can be difficult. Even though international students are subject to the same stresses of academic and personal life as their U.S. counterparts, these stresses are compounded by being in an unfamiliar culture and surrounded by challenges of communication and language. Language is the most frequently reported barrier to adjusting to U.S. university life, followed by financial difficulties and problems adapting to the culture. In the U.S., the university strategy should include both international and multicultural themes and reflect the great diversity of ethnic, racial, and national groups. Educators must encompass both the U.S. and international students in promoting understanding about diversity-commonalities as well as differences, strengths as well as weaknesses, and values as well as practices. The cultural diversity of the U.S. society can be used to appreciate and understand diversity in the world (Scott, 1994).

Keywords: international students; international higher education; internationalization; U.S. higher education; recruitment

1. Introduction

Learning a new culture and learning in a new culture which may have different beliefs and values can be difficult. Even though international students are subject to the same stresses of academic and personal life as their U.S. counterparts, these stresses are compounded by being in an unfamiliar culture and surrounded by challenges of communication and language. Language is the most frequently reported barrier to adjusting to U.S. university life, followed by financial difficulties and problems adapting to the culture. Female students, older students, students enrolled in scientific and technology courses, and students with limited exposure to foreign cultures are more likely to experience difficulties adjusting to university life in the U.S. (Dee & Henkin, 1999).

As the world is increasingly becoming to a multi-cultural, understanding the differences between cultures is becoming increasingly important. In this growing multi-cultural environment, members of this environment need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their own culture in order to avoid their own blind spots. The work of Geert Hofstede (1997, 2001) helps us clearly see these differences. Hofstede's work suggested it is necessary to gain insights into other cultures so that organizations can be more effective when interacting with people in other countries. If understood and applied properly, this information should reduce people's level of frustration, anxiety, and concern. It is critical to understand other cultures in order to create a multi-cultural or globalize environment.

Hofstede (1997, 2001) conducted extensive research on cultures and found a total of five categories to be instrumental in defining, understanding, and bridging cultural barriers to achieve organizational success. The first category, Power Distance Index (PDI) focuses on the degree of equality, or inequality, between people in the country's society where a high index indicates that inequalities of power and wealth have developed as opposed to a low index where differences between power and wealth have been de-emphasized. The second, Individualism (IDV), is differentiating between individuality and individual rights versus a more collectivist nature, one where extended families and collectives take responsibility for their group. Masculinity (MAS) is the third category and is the degree of reinforcing a masculine work role, control, and power, high being where males dominate the society and power structure and low where males and females are treated equally.

Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) as the fourth category is a level of tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity within the society. High avoidance indicates a low tolerance where rules, laws, and other controls are used to reduce the uncertainty. …

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