Should I Stay or Should I Go? Comparisons in College Adjustment of Chinese Domestic and International Students


College marks a watershed experience for emerging adults, and is often a time of excitement, fear, challenges, and change as young adults transition toward independence. For Chinese international students (CIS), separation from their primary caregivers and exposure to acculturative stressors may bring particular challenges to their college adjustment. Compared to their domestic counterparts who choose to stay home in China to pursue their undergraduate degree, CIS may be exposed to additional college barriers and experiences. To understand unique experiences in CIS and whether their experiences are different or similar to domestic Chinese students, we recruited CIS in North America (N=13) and domestic students in China (DCS) but whom were studying away from their hometown (N=12). Both groups completed online questionnaires and a semi-structured interview via zoom. Focusing on the qualitative theme analyses of our interviews, compared to DCS, CIS face cultural adjustment, discrimination, and policy changes that might affect their college experience. The CIS sample also mentioned particular uncertainties they had to face during the COVID-19 pandemic and factors that supported their resilience. Our findings also revealed shared protective and risk factors of college adjustment for both student groups. As well, young adults across both samples expressed greater desire for autonomy and a shift in their relationship with parents in which they could speak like equals. Understanding the experiences of CIS may help students, parents, and education institutes have greater insights regarding Chinese students’ college adjustment, promoting efforts to support resiliency and the well-being of this population.

Author Information
Zhaoying Chen, University of California, Irvine, United States
Jocelyn Lai, University of California, Irvine, United States
Hongdi Wang, University of California, Irvine, United States
Shuqi Hong, University of California, Irvine, United States
Emily Feng, University of California, Irvine, United States
Jessica Borelli, University of California, Irvine, United States

Paper Information
Conference: ACE2021
Stream: Counselling

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon