Coping Strategies

As for coping strategies, respondents were asked to rank three-type strategies (problem-focused, emotional-focused, and avoidance-focused) on a 5-point scale with 1 being used seldom and 5 being used very often. Results indicate that problem-focused (M = 4.13, SD = 1.09) ranked the highest among these three strategies, followed by emotion-focused and avoidance-focused (see Table 5.27).

In terms of coping strategies, there is no significant difference across gender, majors, length of stay, academic status, marital status, age, and other individual variables.

Summary of Individual Variables

Individual variables such as gender, major, age, marital status, and length of stay show significant influences on stress. As for academic pressure, no significant gender differences were observed. Other stressors and concerns, however, varied across gender among the subjects. Female Chinese students expressed more anxiety and frustration in language situations (t = 2.69, p = 0.009 < 0.05) and dating problems (t = 2.18,p = 0.03 < 0.05), while male students were more easily subject to the stress of future vocational achievement and immigration issues (t = 2.93, p = 0.007 < 0.05).

Where significant differences between majors were identified, social science students rated their stress significantly more severe than natural science or engineering students did. Social science students recorded experiencing more financial stress than students in natural science did (t = 3.85, p = 0.001 < 0.05). Language problems and concerns varied across majors among Chinese students as well (t= 3.06, p = 0.005 < 0.05), with social science students having more language barriers than natural science students.

Significant differences in stress levels were also observed between married and single students. Married students experienced substantially less stress than single students did when it comes to academic pressure (t = 3.11, p = 0.003 < 0.05), loneliness (t = 2.20, p = 0.03 < 0.05), dating or marriage problems (t= 3.63, p = 0.001 < 0.05), and cultural shock (t = 2.17, p = 0.03 < 0.05). With the support of their spouse, married students’ adjustment is likely to be less stressful compared to that of single students.

Age showed variable influence on the acculturation process as well. Older students experienced more visa, job, and immigration pressure (t = 2.17, p = 0.014 < 0.05), while younger students were more easily subject to academic pressure, homesickness, and loneliness (t = 2.73, p = 0.01 < 0.05).

Students’ length of stay exerted influences on the stress level as well. Students who have been in the United States for more than 4 years experienced more stress resulting from future vocational opportunities and immigration issues (t = 2.17, p = 0.014 < 0.05), while students in the United States less than a year were more easily subject to language issues (t = 2.73, p = 0.01 < 0.05).

The follow-up qualitative study provides additional evidence to further validate the result of the quantitative study. For Chinese students, exposure to American higher education is always stressful. Facing the new environment, new culture, academic challenges, linguistic barriers, financial pressures, long separation from families, as well as concerns over visa status and future immigration, students find themselves experiencing a variety of stresses. Chinese students reported having stress and concerns in three major areas: personal, sociocultural, and academic. Personal concerns were divided into four subcategories: (a) loneliness and homesickness, (b) pressure from dating or marriage, (c) job opportunities and visa problems, and (d) financial pressure. Sociocultural concerns included the following categories: (a) interactions with Americans, (b) cultural deficiency, and (c) social isolation. Academic concerns included the following categories: (a) language barrier, (b) achievement, and (c) interactions with faculties.

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