Acculturation Experiences of Chinese International Students Who Attend American Universities

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Given the increasing number of Chinese international students attending American universities, it is important to consider potential problems arising during their initial transition period, and their experiences acculturating into the American culture and educational system. Thirteen Chinese international students participated in qualitative interviews conducted in participant’s native language, Mandarin Chinese. Data analysis followed the hermeneutic circle. Based on their personal perspectives, participants reported their experiences encountered during their initial transition into the U.S. They described how they made sense of their experiences and how their ways of thinking and behaving changed as a result of being influenced by their experiences interfacing with U.S. culture. Participants also shared their strategies they perceived as helpful in specific situations. Based on an analysis of participants’ interviews, emerging themes included (a) difficulties and challenges they faced as new immigrants, (b) differences they encountered with respect to their homeland and the new environment, including language/communication, culture, academic study and learning, living in the U.S., and psychological adjustments, (c) positive growth they acknowledged from facing challenges and adapting to their new environment, and (d) help they received from a variety of individuals and organizations. Additionally, participants offered suggestions to future Chinese international students, emphasizing the importance of more proactively seeking and receiving assistance. Implications for American universities, including counseling centers, to more actively assist and include Chinese international students are also discussed. An increased understanding of and sensitivity to international students’ challenges will help professionals strengthen outreach services.

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