Dr. Amy Horowitz
A Study on Social Networking as A Coping Skill in the Cross-Cultural Adaptation among Chinese International Students in the United States
Graduate School of Social Service
International students on the American college campus are a diverse and increasing population with unique concerns. The size of the international student population in American universities has been steadily growing since the end of World War II (Das, Chow, & Rutherford, 1986; Sandhu, 1995). As a crucial center of information and advanced technology, the United States (LJ.S.) has been constantly attracting many students and scholars worldwide (Sandhu, 1995). International students reach to the number of 1,184,745 according to 2017 SEVIS statistics. Among them, Chinese international students are up to 362,368 occupied 31 percentage population of the total international students in the United States.
Cross-cultural adaptation has been seriously studied for decades (Kim, 2001). To adopt cultural patterns of the host environment, the international students need to overcome many uncertainties. While mastery of the new environment is the key to successful adjustment, the emotional well-being of international students during the adjustment process should also be of concern (Ying & Liese, 1991). As a result, intercultural scholars stress that studies need to examine both sociocultural and psychological aspects of cross-cultural adaptation (Ward & Kennedy, 1994; Ward & Rana-Deuba, 1999; Ying & Liese, 1991). Sociocultural adjustment refers to the extent to which an individual can fit in different aspects of a new culture. It is often measured in relation to the amount of difficulties or concerns experienced in the performance of daily tasks (Ward & Rana-Deuba, 1999). Psychological adjustment is defined in terms of psychological and emotional well-being. It is closely associated with the stress an individual experiences during adaptation and the ways in which he or she copes with the stress.
During the process of cross-cultural adaptation an individual needs to resort to different sources in order to cope with life difficulties and psychological stress. Social support is an important coping resource (Adelman, 1988). Previous studies of cross-cultural adaptation have looked at positive functions of new social networks that sojourners established in the host country (e.g., Berry, 1997; Kim, 1988; Yum, 1982) and their long-distance social networks in the home country (e.g., Fontaine, 1986; Ying & Liese, 1991). One new source of social support that deserves research attention is online ethnic social groups. With the increasing access to the Internet, many online ethnic social groups have been established for sojourners and immigrants to communicate with one another about their common concerns of living in a new culture (Ye, 2006). These online groups are an important part of their social networks. Despite the well-documented literature on the impact of traditional networks on cross-cultural adaptation, little attention has been placed on the support provided by online social networks.
This present study aims to evaluate the role played by new relationships established in the host country, long-distance long-standing relationships in the home country, and online ethnic social groups in cross-cultural transition. Specifically, the study examines the relationships between the sociocultural and psychological aspects of cross-cultural adaptation of Chinese international students in the United States and their perceived support from traditional support networks and online ethnic social groups. Through incorporating different types of social support networks, the current study provides a more comprehensive understanding of the cross-cultural adaptation pattern of international students.
To more thoroughly investigate the role of both traditional support networks and online support networks in cross-cultural adaptation, the following research question is posited: How is perceived social support from traditional social networks and online ethnic social groups related to sociocultural adjustment and psychological adjustment?
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