Academic journal article Journal of International Students

International Students' Social Network: Network Mapping to Gage Friendship Formation and Student Engagement on Campus

Academic journal article Journal of International Students

International Students' Social Network: Network Mapping to Gage Friendship Formation and Student Engagement on Campus

Article excerpt

The number of international students studying abroad and completing degrees in the United States continually rises each year. During the academic year 2013-2014, a record high of 886, 052 international students were enrolled in institutions across the country (Institute of International Education, 2014). International educators and institutes of higher education have a stake in increasing the international student populations on campus because of the positive economic impact as well as internationalization efforts and emphasis on diversity in universities and colleges. Reported student satisfaction rating is an important component in international student retention as well as international student recruitment and enrollment growth. The literature surrounding international student experiences, integration, cross-cultural learning, communication, and satisfaction is robust, particularly in the academic realms of the cross-cultural communication and higher education fields.

In assessing the current literature, trends of study emerge including the tendencies of international students to form more connections with students from the same country or culture or other international students and the value of building friendships and relationships with students that originate in the country of study, or domestic students. Additionally, extant literature reveals that co-curricular and/or on-campus participation and engagement is an important contributor to international student experiences. Further, an emerging approach to the study of international students on American campuses utilizes the concepts of social network theory and social network analysis.

This study explores existing research within the following frames: international students' co-national, multi-national and host-national relationship formations, the impact of co-curricular and on-campus socialization of international students' study abroad experiences, and the use of social network theory concepts in study and the use of social network analysis as a tool to research international student populations in higher education. Subsequently, it seeks to answer a new research question: Are there trends in how or through what means international students are making connections with co-national, multi-national, or host-national students? Semi-structured, qualitative interviews, data collection, social network analysis and a data-representative sociogram were used to investigate the research question. Investigating how initial friendships and connections are being made is a significant contribution because in order to address the commonly asked question of, "how can we help international students become more engaged on campus and make more friends?" it is important to first understand if trends exist in how students are already connecting with others. This is particularly relevant if there are trends in how international students are connecting with American, or host-national students. This information has potential implications for higher education administration or those who are tasked with international student programming, engagement on campus, or internationalization efforts.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Much of the academic literature that discusses international student relationships, connections, and friendships adopts Bochner, McLeod and Lin's (1977) vocabulary that categorizes these relationships into three distinct network classifications of co-national, multi-national, and hostnational connections (as cited in Hendrickson, Rosen & Aune, 2011). The terminology of monocultural ties, multicultural ties, and bicultural ties is also used to differentiate the types of friendships formed by international students (Rienties, Heliot & Jindal-Snape, 2013; Gomez, Urzua & Glass, 2014; Glass & Westmont, 2013). In this study and analysis, the vernacular of co-national networks is adopted to explain contacts with other students originating from the same national background. …

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