Sojourner adjustment: the experience of wives of mainland Chinese graduate students

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Virginia Tech

Thousands of Chinese women from the People's Republic of China (PRC, or commonly known as Mainland China) come to the united states hoping to be re-united with their husbands and to support them in finishing their education. They all face similar kinds of experiences on arrival. They mayor may not have had some contact with Western culture, but most of them grew up in a culture different from the West. Willingly or not, they left their families, friends, and careers to take up this odyssey in a completely strange land. The joy of reuniting with their husbands is often clouded by uncertainties and a sense of loss.

In the area of counseling and student personnel services, there is little research on the adjustment experiences of these sojourner Mainland Chinese women who accompany their spouses to the united states. As a result, the higher education community is often taken by surprise when families or couples experience such situations as marital discord and domestic violence where remedial actions are expected of them. They also do not know how to plan effective programs for spouses of Mainland Chinese students.

The purpose of this study was to examine the sojourner adjustment experiences of Mainland Chinese women in the United states from their own perspective, and to explore the factors that affect their adjustment. This study identified adjustment to new settings, documented processes of adjustment, and examined the means used processes of to deal with adjustment.

A longitudinal design was used with both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies. In-depth individual interviews, phone interviews, questionnaires, daily activity record forms, and participant observations were used to collect data over a 9 month period. Eleven women were studied in depth.

The study showed that most Mainland Chinese women do not choose to come here in the first place. After their arrival, they have great language difficulties which limit their daily activities and hinder their choice of career and/or further education. As a result, they experience an identity crisis. Language ability, attitude toward coming to the united states, and life events are the most significant factors that affect their adjustment to life in the united states. There is a lack of coordination in the programs offered by the university and the community in which this study was conducted. Most of these programs do not meet the needs of these Chinese women. Due to cultural differences and the lack of knowledge of Western professional counseling, they do not turn to professional counselors for help. Instead, they mainly rely, upon other Chinese students in the community. If major problems occur, they turn to the administrative staff or faculty of the university, counterparts of their work unit leaders in China. A systems approach aiming at different facets of their problems in various levels seems to be the key in helping these Chinese women.