Academic journal article Journal of International Students

Acculturative Stress and Adjustment Experiences of Greek International Students

Academic journal article Journal of International Students

Acculturative Stress and Adjustment Experiences of Greek International Students

Article excerpt

The United States has always been home, both permanent and temporary, to a diverse population originating from various countries. International students greatly contribute to this diverse population. A recent study reported 886,052 international students enrolled in higher education institutions in the United States during the 2013-2014 academic year, an 8.2% increase from the previous academic year (Institute of International Education, 2014). With the support of the government, colleges and universities continue to actively recruit and encourage international students to study here due to their economic contributions, their promotion of global consciousness and the exposure they provide to a variety of cultural experiences for native students (Altbach, 2004a). Contributing to this increasing number are Greek students. However, there is a paucity of research examining Greek students' experiences in their host countries. Specifically, little research exists regarding their acculturation and acculturative stress, two common and important experiences amongst international students. As Greek students continue to study abroad, it becomes increasingly important to examine their acculturation process, and subsequently, their acculturative stress experiences. By doing so, rich information can be gathered on this group's specific experiences and needs as well as information that can potentially contribute the extant body of literature detailing international students' acculturative experience, providing avenues for discussion and intervention on how to decrease acculturative stress.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Acculturation and Acculturative Stress

As the number of international students attending universities steadily rises each year, mental health professionals working in these institutions must become better prepared for what experiences these students bring with them. Acculturation is one such experience. Acculturation refers to the process of cultural and psychological change when two or more different cultural groups have contact with one another (Berry, 2003). Various strategies may be employed in an attempt to adapt to a new culture, including integration, assimilation, separation, and marginalization (Berry, 2006). Additionally, when conflict and stress are encountered during the acculturative process and the individual judges these situations as problematic, but surmountable and controllable, acculturative stress is an appropriate conceptualization (Berry, 2006; Berry, Kim, Minde, & Mok, 1987; Berry, 1980). During this scenario, individuals experience alterations in their lives that conflict with their original cultural understanding of how to live. Those who can assimilate and integrate two differing cultures will experience less acculturative stress (Mori, 2000; Winkelman, 1994). Those who employ marginalization or separation may experience increased levels of acculturative stress and even clinical depression (Constantine, Okazaki, & Utsey, 2004).

Physical, psychological and social manifestations of acculturative stress can occur, leading to a multitude of mental health problems (Constantine, Okazaki, & Utsey, 2004). Any one problem in the various areas involved in acculturation can lead to acculturative stress. These experiences include decreased mental health (such as depression or anxiety), increased psychosomatic symptoms, culture shock, lack and loss of social support, prejudice, discrimination, alienation, language barriers, and role confusion (Berry et al., 1987; Mori, 2000). While a large body of research has been devoted to studying adjustment and acculturation in international populations, only a small segment has been devoted to acculturative stress, and an even smaller sample to acculturative stress in international students (Constantine et al., 2004; Constantine, Anderson, Berkel, Caldwell, & Utsey, 2005b; Constantine, Kindaichi, Okazaki, Gainor, & Baden, 2005c; Poyrazli, Kavanaugh, Baker, & Al-Timimi, 2004; Abe, Talbot, & Geelhoed, 1998; Hayes & Lin, 1994; Olaniran, 1993; Pedersen, 1991). …

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