international student life

international student

Chinese International Students and Challenges they face.

Culture shock, Learning Shock, Finances, Loneliness, Age issues and more.

With people aging in many countries, colleges are having to deal more with adult students. Students from China make about 20% of all international students in the United States, mostly pursuing graduate degrees.

The definition of adulthood in the US emphasizes more when a person becomes self reliant and not reliant on their parents any more.

Today, more than 80% of graduate students in American colleges are adults over 25 yrs. Graduate adult students are more familiar with higher education and more likely to be focused on a professional field. Some Graduate students are in Mid career or changing careers.

Therefore graduate programs in American universities promote a learning environment that fit adult learners. Students are encouraged to be more self guided and learn from each other more than from faculty.

In Chinese culture, adulthood is more related to being able to have self control and having obligation to other people as opposed to individualistic transition from childhood to adulthood. The criteria to measure adulthood for Chinese is the existence of adult responsibilities like marriage, children and caring for ones parents.

There is however a difference between Rural and Urban Chinese. Urban Chinese are more likely to experience a more individualistic adulthood because they tend to marry later in life, have more education and more career opportunities than rural Chinese.

However, these distinctions don't exist for Chinese international students because Chinese Universities are located in urban areas and whether students are from rural or urban areas, they still spend their late teenage years in the urban areas hence have similar life experiences.

Chinese undergraduate students enter university right after high school, unlike the US where you will find many adult learners. Most people in China will not consider returning to school as adults and undergraduate students are mostly young and encouraged not to date or marry until they graduate. Actually until 2005, undergraduate students in China who wanted to marry were required to withdraw from college.

Therefore Chinese undergraduate students are not adult learners as opposed to many undergraduate students in the US. As a result, many Chinese international students in the US face a challenge transitioning when studying abroad and also transitioning into adulthood.

Most Chinese graduate students have little or no experience in work experience due to Chinese tradition where students are encouraged to complete higher education early in life before entering the workforce, usually before age 30. Graduate schools and scholarships opportunities in China also have age restrictions.

The workforce also has for a long time preferred to hire younger people although this age discrimination is facing challenge these days.

The bad job situation in the United States and tougher immigration controls means that Chinese graduate students are having a hard time getting jobs in the US. Even those who return are having harder time to get jobs because the economy in China is not very good. Graduate students who take long periods to complete their masters and PHDs go back to China and face age discrimination due to their tradition of not wanting to hire older people.

Dating and marriage is another concern for Chinese international students. Chinese young people are expected to be married by age 30 and given many graduate students study past this age, this is a great concern for them. There is a saying in China that unmarried people over 30 are "leftovers" and they have a hard time getting a life partner. This is especially so for international students who don't have many chances to get a partner abroad.

The high costs of studying abroad also prevents many Chinese students from going back home frequently to help their parents, a requirement for adulthood in Chinese Culture. Therefore many international students face a dilemma when transitioning to adulthood when studying abroad in the US because the constraints they find themselves in prevent them from assuming full adulthood responsibilities.

Many Chinese students also experience a learning shock which refers to the "experiences of frustration, confusion and anxiety experienced by some students, when exposed to unfamiliar learning and teaching methods, getting unexpected and disorienting cues, and faced with ambiguous and conflicting expectations".

Chinese education is usually teacher centered, content based and test driven and many Chinese students are viewed as passive but diligent and also lacking creativity. Chinese students are usually uncomfortable with class activities, group discussion and asking questions.

This unfamiliarity of Chinese students to American learning ways is a type of learning shock that is closely related to culture shock experienced by many.

To help resolve these issues, many graduate schools have adopted a mentoring culture to encourage communication about what issues international students may be struggling with. The mentors can be other more experienced international students to help the newer ones.


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