Longitudinal

How do international students adjust over time?

Overall, international students initially are more self-conscious of their foreign & ESL status and experience a decline in well-being (Cemalcilar & Falbo, 2008). As they improve their English skills, make more interpersonal connections, and gain more knowledge in their academic field, they become more competent (Barratt & Huba, 1994Hung & Hyun, 2010). However, it’s important to note that not all international student adjust in the same way — there were four different adjustment patterns (i.e., Well-adusted 65%, Culture Shocked 11%, Consistently Distressed 10%, Relieved 14%) over time that were identified through research (Wang, Heppner, Fu, Zhao, Li, & Chuang, 2012).

How are the adjustment factors different over time?

Stressors such as homesickness, cultural difference, social isolation, academics, and unfamiliar Climate appeared most intense early on, and declined significantly from the first and second semester, or the Spring of the first academic year to the Fall of the second academic year (Ying, 2005). Likewise, self-efficacy was more strongly associated with adjustment during the ealier months of studying in the U.S compared to 6 months later (Hechanova-Alampay, Beehr, Christiansen, & Van Horn, 2002).

How long does it take to adjust?

A study with Taiwanese international students over a 2-year period found that academic challenges posed the greatest difficulty. The stressors appeared most intense early on, and declined significantly either from the Fall to Spring semesters in the first academic year (Academics and Unfamiliar Climate) or from the Spring of the first academic year to the Fall of the second academic year (Homesickness, Cultural Difference, and Social Isolation) (Ying, 2005).

Comparing pre- and post-arrival differences

Overall, international students adjusted better over time; however, the pattern of strain was curvilinear, peaking three months after the start of the semester (Hechanova-Alampay, Beehr, Christiansen, & Van Horn, 2002). Self-efficacy, social support and cultural novelty predicted adjustment and strain at different times during the transition period (Ying & Liese, 1991).

Which factors predict adjustment over time?

International students with higher self-esteem, positive problem-solving appraisal, and lower maladaptive perfectionism prior to studying in the U.S. have better adjustment trajectories (Wang, Heppner, Fu, Zhao, Li, & Chuang, 2012). In addition, having a balanced array of social support across various sources (i.e., peers from home country, other international students, and American students) during the first semester of studying in the U.S. was associated with a better cross-cultural transition (Wang, Heppner, Fu, Zhao, Li, & Chuang, 2012; Ying & Liese, 1994). Language skills were predictive of academic performance (Ying, 2003). A learning orientation was positively related to academic and social adjustment; whereas a performance orientation was not related to adjustment (Gong & Fan, 2006).

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