Cross-cultural adaptation and academic performance : overseas Chinese students on an international foundation course at a British university
The aim of the present research study was to examine the cross-cultural adaptation experiences of overseas Chinese students studying on an International Foundation Course (hereafter IFC) at Luton University, in an attempt to: 1) gain a better understanding of the sociocultural adjustment difficulties and psychological adjustment problems experienced by the Chinese students and their perceived importance in adapting to sociocultural events in the new environment; 2) to examine factors that are related to the students' sociocultural adjustment, psychological adjustment and academic performance; 3) to explore the strategies used by the students for handling obstacles; 4) to integrate research perspectives from different fields (e.g. cultural adaptation, international education), and to re-assess current theoretical models in the light of this. To gain new insights into the dynamic and multi-dimensional nature of cross-cultural adaptation, this two-phase, sequential mixed method study was designed firstly to obtain quantitative results from a sample of the IFe Chinese students and then to follow up a few of the students and their teachers to explore those results in greater depth. In the first phase, a total of 126 of the students participated in the cross-cultural adaptation survey. In the second phase, twenty of the respondents of the earlier survey and seven of the IFC teachers were invited for a semi-structured in-depth interview. Results of the survey indicated that the IFC respondents regarded themselves as having "slight to moderate difficulty" in coping with the new culture, more specifically, interactions with people of other nationalities were perceived as more difficult than the academic demands, which in turn were seen as more difficult than daily life demands. With regard to psychological adjustment, most of the IFC students did not have clinical depression symptoms. Psychological adjustment was found to affect academic performance (measured by GPA). An examination of the students' GPA showed that more than half of the students had a GPA in the 'bare pass' category and half of the respondents had negative perceptions of the university, many of whom regarded the university to be worse than they expected. Results of the in-depth interviews from the students and teachers corroborated and added some further insights to the findings of the survey. After discussing the empirical findings in relation to the relevant theories and research studies, a number of recommendations are offered respectively for international students, for staff working with international students and for university authorities.