Academic Achievement and Quality of Overseas Study among Taiwanese Students in the United States

By Ying, Yu-Wen | College Student Journal, September 2003 | Go to article overview

Academic Achievement and Quality of Overseas Study among Taiwanese Students in the United States


Ying, Yu-Wen, College Student Journal


Using a multidimensional model and a longitudinal design, the study examined academic performance and quality of overseas study in a group of 155 Taiwanese graduate students at approximately one year after arriving in the United States. The international students' academic performance was significantly predicted by better English writing skills and pursuit of an engineering degree, while the quality of their overseas study was predicted by more relationships with Americans, fewer problems with loneliness, and majoring in engineering or social sciences and humanities. Implications for programs that may enhance their academic performance and quality of overall study are discussed.

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As the world continues to shrink, the number of people engaged in cross-cultural living continues to rise. One major group consists of international students who travel abroad seeking advanced knowledge and skills in a chosen field. About half a million international students are currently studying in the United States (Institute of International Education, 1997). Among the five top localities sending students, three are ethnically Chinese: the People's Republic of China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan (World Journal, 1999). Whether these students choose to remain permanently in the United States or to return to their country of origin upon graduation, their experience of studying overseas will significantly impact their lives in general, and their careers in particular. Yet, very little recent research has examined how international students are faring in the United States. The current longitudinal study focuses on Taiwanese Chinese students, and tests a multidimensional model in predicting both objective academic performance, and subjective quality of their overseas study.

The study of international students is important for several reasons. First is their sheer size. In addition to those studying in the United States, there are approximately another half million international students worldwide (Institute of International Education, 1997; Page, 1990). Currently, there are about 31,000 Taiwanese students in the United States, ranking fifth in size compared to students from other nations (World Journal, 1999). At the time this longitudinal study was launched in 1988, they comprised the largest group of international students in the United States (26, 660 or 7.5%, Institute of International Education, 1989). Some early research examined Taiwanese students in the United States (notably Klein, Miller, & Alexander, 1971, 1980). However, a significant amount of time has passed since its publication. In the interim, Taiwan has joined the ranks of industrialized nations (and become more westernized) and the United States is evolving into an increasingly ethnically and culturally diverse country. As such, the experience of Taiwanese students in the United States two to three decades ago may no longer hold. They are also of special interest, as many remain upon completing their studies (Chang, 1988), making a significant contribution to the growing Chinese American population.

Second, this investigation is significant as it is one of very few studies on cross-cultural living and international students that uses a longitudinal design. Such a design allows for the examination of how earlier (both pre-departure and post-arrival) characteristics predict academic performance and quality of overseas study at a later point in time, and moves beyond mere correlation. The identification of these characteristics holds important implications for early interventions aimed at facilitating successful overseas study and living.

Third, by utilizing a multidimensional model to examine academic achievement and quality of overseas study, this investigation more fully captures the student's overall experience, and allows the identification of factors that may predict one but not the other. For instance, the student's engagement with the American community (as measured by association with native Americans) is likely to be particularly salient for an overall positive experience, even if it does not directly predict academic achievement. …

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