Recommendations for American Universities
- 1. Universities need to offer more effective orientations to incoming Chinese students. The international student office on campus should provide workshops and seminars that specifically focus on the differences between American and Chinese academic cultures. Also, before starting their programs of study, newly arrived Chinese students should be required to take short-term cultural and/or language classes in language schools or community colleges. This would provide Chinese students with a context to understand the dissimilar academic culture and milieu and learn the necessary skills they need to successfully function at an American university.
- 2. Helping Chinese students improve their English proficiency is important. There are several different ways universities could facilitate this improvement: (a) Universities could offer tuition-free or tuition-reduced noncredit English classes during a student’s first year on campus; (b) universities could offer English language workshops; and (c) the international student office could create a weekly conversation club where international students would practice their English with native speakers.
- 3. American universities should maintain an international student affairs department (international student office) with qualified staff to work on Chinese students issues. The international student office needs to be increasingly aware of the special problems of Chinese students. Research has indicated that signs of Chinese students’ stress may not be visible to outsiders, as their cultural background tends to camouflage this (Yang and Clum 1994; Yeh 2000). Cultural factors, such as the shame and disgrace associated with admitting to having emotional problems, as well as the handling of problems within the family rather than relying on outside resources, prevent Chinese students from seeking outside help. Counseling services need to reach out to provide more counseling opportunities to Chinese students and especially pay attention to their particular emotional needs such as dating and marriage concerns. Perhaps hiring some Chinese personnel might improve services to Chinese international students.
- 4. University officials should work together with academic departments and colleges to provide more meaningful social activities to help integrate Chinese international students into university life: happy hour social events, potluck dinners and picnics, hiking and camping outings, and organized campus and shopping tours would be very helpful for Chinese students to experience American social life and gain understanding of the culture. Other support services might include arranging airport pickups and temporary housing for newly arrived students. Establishing an agency to help newly arriving students deal with various problems they might encounter could offset many adjustment hardships.
- 5. The current study indicates most Chinese students have limited financial resources to pursue degrees. Financial anxiety presents a major source of stress to Chinese students. American universities should consider providing student loans to Chinese international students who may face financial difficulties. Students who demonstrate financial emergencies should be allowed to seek temporary and off-campus employment. Various ways of disseminating information about financial aid to Chinese students should also be employed.
- 6. American universities should advocate on behalf of Chinese international students to advance the legitimate interests of these students whenever visa and immigration issues are involved. The current study reveals most Chinese students reside in marginal status positions in the United States, and many of them learn that it is difficult for them to reach their dreams (finding decent jobs or attaining permanent residency in the United States) due to lack of legitimate access. Visa issues, job opportunities, and immigration concerns were identified as the greatest stressor to Chinese students due to current immigration policy. Universities should be more sensitive to the difficulties which may befall Chinese international students struggling to successfully land a job with little assistance in American society. The American university community should be familiar with resources available to Chinese international students and direct Chinese students to take advantage of appropriate resources when they are in trouble.
- 7. American universities should better publicize the university counseling services by having counseling staff meet students during orientation and inform them of programs and services, both on campus and off, available to international students. Additional training of counseling staff to raise their cultural awareness and take an interest in other cultures, and perhaps hiring some Chinese personnel might improve their services to Chinese international students.
- 8. Many Chinese students express disappointment in a lack of social interaction with American students. It would be beneficial for American universities to help facilitate communication and interaction between Chinese students and domestic students. Mentoring programs could be established. For instance, upper-class American students could assist newly arrived Chinese students in becoming familiar with the campus and the surrounding community. Various cross-cultural events should be organized periodically with both Chinese and American students encouraged to participate. All of these efforts would serve to help Chinese international students adjust to living in the United States.