Since the late 1970s, sending students abroad has been a central part of the Chinese government’s policy. “Almost overnight, [Chinese] perceptions of America underwent a global change, from the decadent capitalist country to the land of gold and freedom” (Wang 1992, p. 10). Attracted by educational opportunities and the so-called American dream, China’s educated population vied for opportunities to go to the United States, despite the great uncertainties involved. Swept away by the fever of foreign study, most of them failed to think about the potential danger and difficulty of going abroad. As illustrated by the interview transcripts, the majority of participants were unsure about the exact goal of their upcoming sojourn when they left China.
Study abroad offers greater opportunities, but like life itself, it is full of stress and difficulty. As the analysis presented here shows, Chinese students’ stress coping and adaptation are not only influenced by group-level acculturation factors (e.g., society, culture, economics, and employment), but they are also influenced by individual-level factors (e.g., age, gender, major, marital status, expectations, predeparture knowledge, and skills). As a mature adult, before making a final decision about studying abroad, one should not only look at the overall picture of Chinese students’ group acculturation in the United States but also take careful consideration of the individual factors to determine whether one is personally ready for the inevitable stressors and difficulties.