Culture shock: the adjustment process for international students

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Virginia Tech


The nature of the adjustment process for international students, upon initial enrollment in American colleges and universities, has not been adequately described by researchers. The most accepted model used to describe the adjustment process is the U-Curve model (Lysgaard, 1955; Oberg, 1960) even though research has not shown much empirical support of this model.

Juffer's (1983) Culture Shock Adaptation Inventory II (CSAI II) was used to examine the adjustment process of first-semester Virginia Tech graduate students from the People's Republic of China and India. A pre-test, post-test design was used to examine differences among Chinese and Indian graduate students. Four subscale dimensions and total dimension measuring between culture shock and cultural adjustment were analyzed.

There were no significant differences between Chinese and Indian graduate students in the pre-test scores and the change scores. There were significant differences in the Control of Emotions and Physical Well-Being dimensions in the post-test scores. The results of the remaining dimensions for the post-test scores were not significant.

These results revealed that, at the onset, graduate students from China and India are at similar adjustment levels. However, after approximately three months, Chinese students may exhibit more problems with their emotions and their physical well-being. Overall, however, it seems that the examination of individual rather than group differences may be the best way to more effectively understand the adjustment process of international students.