|Title||Chinese engineering students’ cross-cultural adaptation in graduate school|
This study explores cross-cultural adaptation experience of Chinese engineering students in the U.S. I interact with 10 Chinese doctoral students in engineering from a public research university through in-depth interviews to describe 1) their perceptions of and responses to key challenges they encountered in graduate school, 2) their perspectives on the challenges that stem from cross-cultural differences, and 3) their conceptualization of cross-cultural adaptation in the context of graduate school. My findings reveal that the major challenges participants encounter during graduate school are academic issues related to cultural differences and difficulties of crossing cultural boundaries and integrating into the university community. These challenges include finding motivation for doctoral study, becoming an independent learner, building a close relationship with faculty, interacting and forming relationships with American people, and gaining social recognition and support. The engineering students in this study believe they are less successful in their social integration than they are in accomplishing academic goals, mainly because of their preoccupation with academics, language barriers and cultural differences. The presence of a large Chinese student community on campus has provided a sense of community and social support for these students, but it also contributes to diminishing their willingness and opportunities to interact with people of different cultural backgrounds. Depending on their needs and purposes, they have different insights into the meaning of cross-cultural adaptation and therefore, and choose different paths to establish themselves in a new environment. Overall, they agree that cross-cultural adaptation involves a process of re-establishing themselves in new academic, social, and cultural communities, and adaptation is necessary for their personal and professional advancement in the U.S. They also acknowledge that encountering and adjusting to cross-cultural challenges allow them to grow as a person and develop a new sense of self and identity, and negotiating cultural differences help them gain a deeper understanding of their own and other cultures. These findings offer insights into understanding the interconnections among international students academic life, socialization, and cross-cultural adaptation.
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