Communication Experiences of International Students in the U.S.: A Comparison Study of Cross-Cultural Adaptation between European and Asian Students

Rita Jones, Yang Soo Kim

Abstract


The purpose of this study is to examine the communication experiences of international students on American campuses.  Y. Y. Kim’s (1988, 2001) Cross-Cultural Adaptation Theory provides the basis for offering an explanation of the linkage between the communication competence and psychological health of international students vis-à-vis the American sociocultural milieu.  In addition, the study analyzed the level of ethnic proximity and its effect on the individual adaptation experiences of European and Asian international students on American university campuses. The analysis uses portions of verbal transcripts obtained through 24 in-depth personal interviews between October and December 2012.  Participants of the interview were international students from European and Asian backgrounds who were attending universities in the central Tennessee area.

The results show that host language competence and cultural similarities/differences reflected in verbal and nonverbal behaviors are important sources of psychological challenges/success for international students.  European and Asian student groups are involved in different levels of communication activities with host nationals, based on their ethnic proximity and their degree of difficulty in adapting to the host culture. Nonetheless, as Kim’s theory predicts, the overall outcome of the study affirms that communication is the central force in the adaptation of international students, as it promotes psychological health in an unfamiliar host cultural environment.


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