Academic journal article Psychology in Russia

Psychological and Socio-Cultural Adaptation of International Journalism Students in Russia: The Role of Communication Skills in the Adaptation Process

Academic journal article Psychology in Russia

Psychological and Socio-Cultural Adaptation of International Journalism Students in Russia: The Role of Communication Skills in the Adaptation Process

Article excerpt

Pages: 45-59

DOI: 10.11621/pir.2017.0405

Keywords: psychological and socio-cultural adaptation, international students, journalism, communication skills, communication competence

Downloads: 34

Introduction

Today, Russia is seventh in the world in the total number of international students with 230 thousand international students or 3.8% of the total number of international students in the world (Arefyev & Sheregi, 2014). The most popular study programs among full-time international students in Russia are engineering (20.2% of the total number of international students), medicine (18.1%) and management (17.3%). The number of international students studying humanities in Russia - including journalism and mass communication studies - is lower but still relatively large at 11.5% (ibid). Among all international students in Russia, the biggest group of students currently come from Kazakhstan (28.8% of all international students), Belorussia (9.4%), Ukraine (8.5%), and Turkmenistan (8.4%). Countries like Azerbaijan, China, Tajikistan, Moldavia and India are also active in sending their students to Russia for higher education (Malykhin, 2015). Keeping this statistical data in mind, it seems clear that international students comprise an important group of the Russian student body and have their own specific needs. Coming to a new country to study or to conduct research makes international students face a number of challenges, including separation from their families and home environment, lack of Russian proficiency (most courses in Russia excluding short-term programs and dual degree programs with foreign universities are taught in Russian), and isolation from their cultural backgrounds. Scholars argue that these and other factors may cause psychological distress, which international students oftentimes experience in a new country. Berry (1997) and others noted that factors that may influence the amount of psychological distress and the way students cope with that stress can be grouped into three main categories: macrosocial (discrimination, degree of tolerance for diversity, academic pressure), factors related to an individual’s background (worldview, cultural values) and individual factors (age, gender, foreign language proficiency) (Berry, 1997; Sümer, 2009). The importance of individual factors (age, gender, education, motivation, personal background, etc.) is also stressed by Stefanenko (2000), who argued that individual and group factors (the latter include, among others, cultural similarities and differences, specifics of home and host countries’ cultures, etc.) can significantly influence the duration of the adaptation process.

The fact that many international students experience psychological distress when finding themselves in a new environment makes students’ adaptation processes to new living and learning conditions an important issue for analysis in many respects - psychological, pedagogical, cultural and academic. Research showed that the state of psychological distress and culture shock - a sense of disorientation and confusion students may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life - is significantly and negatively related to both the psychological and socio-cultural adaptation of newcomers (Presbitero, 2016). This fact brings up a question of how international students’ adaptation can be made easier and more efficient. This paper aims at discussing one of the possible ways to lower psychological distress and to help international students adapt to the new conditions more easily, which is the development of their communication skills. In our opinion, the ability to communicate effectively with one’s peers, teachers, colleagues, and a broader circle of people can make adaptation processes easier and stimulate students’ integration into the new society through regular contact with the locals.

To put the discussion about communication skills as a possible way to ease international students’ adaptation into a broader theoretical context, we attempted to classify the existing approaches to international students’ adaptation, examining different types (general living, academic, socio-cultural, personal-psychological and others) with a particular emphasis on the psychological and socio-cultural adaptation of students. …

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