Academic journal article Journal of International Students

The Effects of Cross-Cultural Competence and Social Support on International Students' Psychological Adjustment: Autonomy and Environmental Mastery

Academic journal article Journal of International Students

The Effects of Cross-Cultural Competence and Social Support on International Students' Psychological Adjustment: Autonomy and Environmental Mastery

Article excerpt

The opportunity to study abroad provides an enriching academic and intercultural experience for international students. Study abroad is defined as an academic learning experience that takes place outside one's home country (Duke, Reinemund, & Bouyer, 2014). Many international students choose to study abroad in the United States and worldwide. According to the Institute of International Education (IIE, 2017), approximately 1,078,822 international students from different countries attend colleges and universities within the United States. For many students, study abroad is an opportunity for personal growth and development (Kent-Wilkinson, Leurer, Luimes, Ferguson, & Murray, 2015; McKeown, 2009; Twombly, Salisbury, Tumanut, & Klute, 2012).

However, if students are not able to adjust to the demands of their new experience or cope effectively (Desa, Yusooff, & Abd Kadir, 2012), their psychological well-being may be negatively impacted (Jackson, Ray, & Bybell, 2013) resulting in depression, anxiety, physical complaints, stress and emotional exhaustion (Alzahem, Van der Molen, Alaujan, Schmidt, & Zamakhshary, 2011; McGarvey, Brugh, Conroy, Clarke, & Byrne, 2015; Sümer, Poyrazli, & Grahame, 2008). Understanding key factors that influence the adjustment of international students is important for developing and maintaining a sense of well-being in the host country.

Given the importance of cross-cultural competence and social support in international students' adjustment (i.e., autonomy and environmental mastery), the primary goals of this research study were to answer the following questions:

1. What is the relationship between cross-cultural competence, social support, and autonomy?

2. What is the relationship between cross-cultural competence, social support, and environmental mastery?

LITERATURE REVIEW

Psychological Adjustment and Well-being

Psychological well-being includes the ability to cope with environmental changes (Garcia, Al Nima, & Kjell, 2014) and challenges encountered at various developmental stages (Ryff, 1989). Individuals that are well adjusted often report a greater sense of well-being in comparison to individuals with low levels of adjustment (Ordonez, Lima-Silva, & Cachioni, 2011).

Ryffand Keyes (1995) provide a multidimensional approach to conceptualizing psychological well-being. The RyffScales of Psychological Well-Being measure various facets of adjustment including autonomy, environmental mastery, personal growth, positive relations with others, purpose in life, and self-acceptance (Bhullar, Hine, & Phillips, 2014; Ryff& Keyes, 1995). The two facets of adjustment that appear particularly relevant to the well-being of international students living in a host country are autonomy and environment mastery.

Autonomy

Autonomy is considered an essential psychological need central to healthy functioning (Ryan & Deci, 2006) and overall well-being (Kasser & Ryan, 1999). Scholars across disciplines have studied multiple types of autonomy. Kühler and Jelinek (2010) define personal autonomy as one's values, motivations, and moral standing that govern the individual's behavior free from the influence of others. Personal autonomy is a combination of self-directedness and self-government. On their measure of psychological well-being, Ryffand Keyes (1995) conceptualize autonomy as having confidence in one's opinions, even if they are contrary to the general consensus. The researcher used Ryffand Keyes' (1995) autonomy subscale in this study to measure international students' autonomy, an important aspect of psychological adjustment in the host country.

Previous research identified various internal factors that influence autonomy including general mood, emotion and attitudes; personality traits; stage of development; and age (Garcia & Siddiqui, 2009; Kasser & Ryan, 1999; Ryan & Deci, 2006; Ryff, 1989). …

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