Monday, March 03, 2014

Chinese students in the US: It's an adjustment.

How well do Chinese students adjust to university life in the US? What do they feel about their experiences? In 2012 or 2013, research was done at Indiana University with regards to Chinese students and their levels of integration into campus life. The research, done my Mollie Dollinger, was summarized in an article entitled "Survey of Chinese Students at Indiana University Reveals Challenges of Integration" on TeaLeafNation.

The article is already a bit dated, being from July 2013, but it is still quite relevant. I'd like to take a few days to make observations from the article and ask some questions.

"According to this survey, Chinese students confirmed that many have few or no American friends and are often unaware of campus life activities such as sporting events or extracurricular clubs.  Instead, the surveyed Chinese students often reported spending their free time involved in Chinese Student associations or Chinese Christian events."

Observation #1

Having few or no American friends and being unaware of campus activities may be interrelated. That is, being unaware of campus activities would likely lead to fewer friends.

I'm not sure how many Chinese students realize that the onus is on them to be aware of activities and clubs and such. Unlike China, where activities are often announced and promoted by head teachers or department heads or both, where activities are often done as a class and organized by the class monitor, being completely responsible for their own social life is something for which many Chinese students are not prepared.

Observation #2

Spending most free time with Chinese student groups would likewise lead to fewer interactions with American students.

It obviously more comfortable for people to spend time with others who have the same general habits, worldviews, and ways of doing relationships. People have to be intentional.

My wife is a homemaker. She doesn't have the rich opportunities to meet people that university students are blessed to have. Yet she's meeting people. She attends a local mothers group. She meets people at the library during kids reading time. She's been invited to and attended a women's retreat. She doesn't expect that people will do things like they do in China. She spends a lot of time asking questions and learning to enjoy how American women do things. If she, a mother of two children, a woman who is not yet able to drive in the US, a woman who spends most of her time at home can meet other woman and form productive enjoyable relationships in three months, surely students on university campuses can as well.


  • What can the international student services (ISS) do to better keep international students informed  and aware of campus events, clubs, etc.?
  • What can ISS or teachers do to better prepare Chinese students about how to take more responsibility for their own social lives and to generally help them understand the social scene on US campuses (and how it differs from the social scene of Chinese campuses)?
  • What if anything can be done to help Chinese students step out and learn to enjoy how things are done in the US, rather than focusing on Chinese student groups?
  • Could more extensive training in cross-cultural skills (e.g. learning to ask questions and be a learner in social situations) be of value to these Chinese students in the US?

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