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Western Culture a Challenge for Some Foreign Students in US, Study Finds

FILE - Students walk on the Stanford University campus in Santa Clara, California, March 14, 2019.
FILE - Students walk on the Stanford University campus in Santa Clara, California, March 14, 2019.

For international students at universities in the United States, one factor stands out in the social divide between them and their domestic peers: self-esteem.

Psychologist Wendy Quinton, at the State University of New York at Buffalo, researched what many international students dread when arriving on U.S. campuses.

"Cultivating close contact with members of the host culture is a consistent and particularly difficult challenge,” Quinton wrote in her study.

International students seek relationships with their domestic peers, but differences in culture and communication often interfere.

“The lack of meaningful connection with students from the host culture is associated with many well-documented costs, including poorer sociocultural adaptation, greater difficulty navigating the trials of higher education, and less satisfaction with the sojourn experience,” she wrote.

Quinton’s study included East- and Southeast Asian international students, the largest group of foreign students in the United States. Among the more than 1 million international students in the U.S., more than 30% are from China, nearly 20% from India and nearly 5% from South Korea, according to the Institute for International Education in New York.

“This group also has some of the largest cultural divides to bridge when coming to the U.S.,” Quinton said on the school’s website. “The independence emphasized in Western culture is often at odds with the emphasis on cooperation and interdependence in collectivistic cultures like China, South Korea and many Southeast Asian countries. That’s a very different orientation to what these students are accustomed to in their home culture.”

Quinton’s work states that when international students are better socialized, accepted and integrated on campus, they have less depression, homesickness and stress, and are better satisfied with their experience.

And it wasn’t just establishing friendships, Quinton reported, but simple interactions among students that could lead to knowing each other better, such as “time spent doing joint recreational activities, with whom people are studying and with whom they choose to spend their free time.”

Along with self-esteem, Quinton examined international students’ thoughts on “university identity and perceived discrimination.”

“Results suggest that self-esteem may be a particularly important resource for East/Southeast Asian international students striving to forge relationships with host nationals,” Quinton’s study stated. “Further, boosting university identity may foster better relationships for international students with both host national and other international students on campus,” she wrote.

The University at Buffalo, as the learning institution is also known, defines university identity as “the degree to which students feel connected" with their school community. According to Quinton’s study, it is “associated with greater socialization” for domestic and international students.

“A strong sense of belonging to one’s university community (i.e., university identity) may serve as a shared ingroup identity for international students, uniting them with host-national students,” Quinton’s study states.

Perceived discrimination, on the other hand, is “the feeling that you or a group you belong to is the target of prejudice, was unrelated to socialization,” according to the university’s website.

Quinton, however, says she believes that this is something that “universities can address.”

"International students who fall short of the expected connection with U.S. students are clearly disappointed, but there's also a loss for the domestic student population, entering a global community, who are deprived of the benefits associated with interacting with people from varied and different backgrounds,” she said.

"Domestic students, in this case, are undoubtedly losing out, by not getting to know international students.”

Quinton’s research was published in January in the International Journal of Intercultural Relations.

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This College Student’s Acceptance Letter Came With a Marching Band

FILE - The Maryland state flag and University of Maryland flag are run across the end zone after a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Indiana, Sept. 30, 2023, in College Park, Md.
FILE - The Maryland state flag and University of Maryland flag are run across the end zone after a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Indiana, Sept. 30, 2023, in College Park, Md.

Alejandro Marroquin, 17, was surprised one morning by a full marching band outside his home, carrying a letter admitting him to the University of Maryland. Read the story from Emily Davies of The Washington Post. (January 2024)

Biden’s Student-Loan Repayment Program Is Starting Up

FILE - People in favor of canceling student debt protest outside the Supreme Court, June 30, 2023, in Washington.
FILE - People in favor of canceling student debt protest outside the Supreme Court, June 30, 2023, in Washington.

The new program could save many borrowers at least $1,000 per year. Danielle Douglas-Gabriel has the details in The Washington Post. (January 2024)

Biden Administration Forgiving Some Student Debt Early

FILE - U.S. President Joe Biden at the White House in Washington, March 4, 2022.
FILE - U.S. President Joe Biden at the White House in Washington, March 4, 2022.

One of President Joe Biden’s campaign promises was to help Americans with student loans.

Now, the Biden administration plans to forgive debt for those who borrowed less than $12,000 and have been paying their debt for a decade or more. The news comes six months before a self-imposed deadline to launch the initiative.

Danielle Douglas-Gabriel has more in The Washington Post. (January 2024)

Many Scholarships Exist for International Students

FILE - Old Main at North Dakota State University is seen Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023, in Fargo, N.D.
FILE - Old Main at North Dakota State University is seen Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023, in Fargo, N.D.

This guide, from Times Higher Education, lists available scholarships in the U.S. and UK for international students, and answers frequently asked questions about the process. (January 2024)

Is the SAT or ACT Better?

FILE - Students walk through the Harvard Law School area on the campus of Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., on Nov. 19, 2002.
FILE - Students walk through the Harvard Law School area on the campus of Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., on Nov. 19, 2002.

US colleges typically accept two admissions tests, the SAT and ACT. Cole Claybourn explains the differences in US News & World Report. (January 2024)

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