Academic journal article Journal of International Students

Challenges of International Students in a Japanese University: Ethnographic Perspectives

Academic journal article Journal of International Students

Challenges of International Students in a Japanese University: Ethnographic Perspectives

Article excerpt

In recent years, the population of international students who study abroad has dramatically increased. According to World Education Services (2012), the number of the international students reached more than 3.5 million around the world in 2010, an increase of almost 50 percent from the figure (of 2.1 million) in 2002. More recently, World Education News and Review (2013) released a report that the percentage of international undergraduate enrollment in the four leading countries in 2009 has significantly increased in comparison to the figures of 2002 (e.g., 67% in Canada, 62% in the United Kingdom, 43% in Australia, and 13% in the United States). As the higher education system is increasingly becoming more internationalized and a degree from prestigious foreign countries hold comparative advantages (e.g., higher social status, better professional career, networking opportunities), the number of international students is expected to continuously increase for years to come (Ghazarian, 2014; Lee & Brinton, 1996; Varghese, 2008; Wenhua & Zhe, 2013).

As the number of international students is on the rise, a variety of problems and challenges involved in overseas study also occurs (Andrade, 2006; Gebhard, 2012; Huang, 2004; Huang & Brown, 2009; Li et al., 2014; Lin & Scherz, 2014; Marui & Lee, 1995; Murphy-Shigematsu & Lee, 1999; Murphy-Shigematsu & Shiratsuchi, 2001; Murphy-Shigematsu, 2002; Roy, 2013; Wenhua & Zhe, 2013). Based on the documentary analysis, for instance, Wenhua and Zhe (2013) identify five major adjustment problems international students face in foreign countries: personal psychological issues, academic issues, sociocultural issues, general living issues, and language proficiency.

According to University World News (2012), the most popular destination with the number of international students was the United States (19%), followed by the United Kingdom (11%), Australia (8%), France (7%), Germany (6%) and Japan (4%). Therefore, it may seem plausible that a majority of the research on the challenges facing international students is concentrated on the top three destinations, namely the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia (Andrade, 2006; Gebhard, 2012; Huang, 2004; Huang & Brown, 2009; Li et al., 2014; Lin & Scherz, 2014; Marui & Lee, 1995; Roy, 2013; Wenhua & Zhe, 2013). However, several scholars have also maintained that the research on the challenges of international students in non-English speaking countries is still in its infancy and should receive more attention (Ikeguchi, 2012; Jou & Fukada, 1996; MurphyShigematsu & Lee, 1999; Murphy-Shigematsu & Shiratsuchi, 2001; Murphy-Shigematsu, 2002; Tamaoka et al., 2003).

Recently, the Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO) (2014) released a report on trends for a number of international students. In 1993, there were 48,560 international students in Japan. In 2003, this figure increased to 109,508. By May of 2013, the total number of international students in Japan was 135,519. If international students enrolling in Japanese language institutes are included, this figure rises to 168,145. Although Japan's share of international students seems disproportionately lower than in western countries (e.g., the United States, the United Kingdom), Japan is the top destination in Asia. However, little research has been conducted on adjustment issues among international students in Japan. In particular, almost no attention has been paid to international students in a Japanese context in the Journal ofInternational Students. To fill these gaps, this ethnographic study aims to examine the adjustment problems and coping strategies identified and experienced by international students in a Japanese university during the first semester in 2014. The findings of this study will provide insights and implications for international students as well as language instructors and program coordinators in a Japanese university, to better understand the international students. …

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