Academic journal article International Education Studies

Central Asian Students' Adjustment Experiences at a "Globalized" Korean University

Academic journal article International Education Studies

Central Asian Students' Adjustment Experiences at a "Globalized" Korean University

Article excerpt


This study investigated the academic and cultural experiences of undergraduate Central Asian students at a university in Ulsan, South Korea. The study was designed to examine the experiences of Central Asian students both in their adjustment to academic work, and to the cultural environment created by the internationalization policy of the university. Using ethnographic methods that included participant observation, an open-ended questionnaire, and interviews, we examined the policies for internationalization of higher education, and we described how the stakeholders are responding to the policies with their own adjustment strategies. The stakeholders featured in this study are students from the Central Asian republics enrolled at a Korean engineering university. We conclude with suggestions on the ways that institutions of higher education can better serve international students' integration into their new community.

Keywords: Central Asian students, adjustment, international education, globalization, South Korea

1. Introduction

An increasing number of students in institutions of higher education now undertake their education outside their own country. While the most popular destinations for international students are the US, UK, and Australia, some Asian countries such as China, Japan, and Singapore have begun to attract international students (Verbik & Lasanowski, 2007). South Korea (Korea, henceforth), which was the host country with the least number among developed nations in 2000, has seen a drastic increase in its international student population over the past decade. As of 2013, there were 85,923 international students enrolled in Korean institutions of higher education, seven times higher than that in 2003 (Korean Immigration Service, 2013). This increase followed the Korean government's initiation of the "Study Korea" project in 2005, the goal of which was to attract 100,000 foreign students between 2005 and 2010 (Shin & Harman, 2009). The largest source countries are China, Japan, the US, and Vietnam. However, the number of international students from so-called "resource-rich" countries in Central Asia, Africa, and the Middle East has also increased recently (Ministry of Education, Science and Technology [MEST], 2010).

Korea's efforts to attract international students is bringing about rapid changes in the sociocultural context of Korean education, since many institutions of higher education are making policies to respond to international students' demands. In this paper, we will explore how the internationalization of institutions of higher education creates a global environment in the local context in Korea, and how international students respond to that environment as implemented by the internationalization policy of a university. Hence, our goal in this article is to conceptualize the international student as a stakeholder in South Korea's policies for the internationalization of higher education. We begin the investigation with the questions: When science/technology students from Central Asia come to study in Korea, to which aspects of the host culture created by a higher education institution must they adjust and what are their adjustment strategies? The study attempted to understand the experiences of Central Asian students, both in adjusting to academic work, and to the cultural and social setting in which that work takes place, particularly the cultural environment created by the university's internationalization policy.

2. Literature Review

2.1 International Students' Adjustment to a New Environment

When one begins in a new institution, s/he faces adjustment issues which are more likely to occur when students live and work in a foreign environment (Poyrazli & Grahame, 2007). Barker et al. (1991) noted that problems experienced by international students are often affected by unfamiliarity with the host nation's cultural norms, and those problems are often manifested as difficulties in adjustment. …

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