Globalization has not only significantly influenced the commercial sector but also education-related activities. The number of international students in various institutions of learning, particularly higher learning continues to grow annually. Chinese students form a considerable percentage of individuals studying internationally. Consequently, scholars have explored the impacts that studying broad have on Chinese students. Education scholars point out that education is an intellectual as well as a social activity. For that reason, studying abroad influences the intellectual and social attributes of international students from China.
In their analysis, Gu and Schweisfurth (2015) confirm that studying abroad is an instrumental identity transforming experience. Using the transnationalism perspective, Gu and Schweisfurth (2015) contend that the dynamic socio-cultural experiences that Chinese students experience while studying abroad transform their social and cultural perspectives considerably. Besides, this diverse socio-cultural exposure equips these students with new competencies, skills, and worldviews. Concurring with the views of Gu and Schweisfurth (2015), Meng, Zhu, and Cao (2018) elaborate that studying abroad enhances the intercultural competence of the Chinese students. In particular, studying abroad makes the students embrace the concept of global citizenship.
As earlier stated, education is both an intellectual and socialization process. According to Marginson and Dang (2017), Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory of human learning asserts that human interaction plays a decisive role in influencing the learning process in humans. Therefore, Chinese students studying abroad are exposed to the diverse cultures of their host nations thus redefining their social and cultural perspectives. Due to this exposure, the learners embrace multiculturalism, making them tolerant to the cultures of other societies.
However, various scholars confirm that Chinese students find it challenging to fit into the new socio-cultural settings of their host nations. Practically, it is a common feeling to develop a culture shock when individuals move to new social settings that illustrate social beliefs and practices that are different from their native societies. Likewise, Chinese students studying in nations like the United Kingdom, United States and Canada feel socially and culturally alienated. Nonetheless, Ma (2017) admits that the social adjustment process of Chinese students studying abroad is a lengthy one because Chinese international students tend to believe that they are isolated from the host society. Consequently, these students prefer to connect with other Chinese students and lack social relationships with their colleagues from other nations (Ma, 2017).
Social adjustments, as used in this case, refer to the process of process of “adapting to and fitting into a host society, establishing and maintaining new social relations, and developing a sense of belonging” (Ma, 2017, p. 857). Without adequate links with individuals from the dominant culture, it is challenging to fit into a new society. In fact, this practice turns an individual into a culture misfit in the new setting. Besides, it can adversely affect the learning process of an individual since learning best occurs through social interaction (Marginson & Dang, 2017).
Scholars have established various factors that influence the social adjustment process on Chinese international students. As stated by Ma (2017), some of these factors include language barrier, cultural variations, and perceived discrimination. In agreement with the deliberation of Ma (2017), Meng, Zhu, and Cao (2018) affirm that lack of host language proficiency is the most instrumental factor that affects Chinese international students’ social adjustment process.
Importantly, Wu (2017) admits that the cultural adjustment process can be a particularly isolating and stressful experience for international students from nations with different cultural practices from their host nation. Consequently, Chinese international students engage in various off-campus activities to assist them to cope with the stress of cultural adjustment. Wu (2017) explains that these students engage in activities such as team-building to assist them cope with the psychological stress they experience in their new settings.
Moreover, they engage in group discussions to assist each other adjust to the new culture. As indicated by Wu (2017), illustrating mindfulness is one of the vital coping strategies that Chinese international students, particularly first –years employ to assist each other. In reality, it is normal for individuals to develop a feeling that they are being discriminated when they are in a new social setting. Therefore, Chinese international students engage in collaborative group discussions to accrue a sense of belonging and togetherness. In these groups, the students console each other and deliberate on various ways that can assist them in adapting into their new settings effectively. This act of sticking together and developing a sense of belonging plays a vital role in enabling the international students embrace the new cultural traits of their host country.
However, Yao (2014) states that it is vital for Chinese international students to build friendships with students from the host nation to enhance their cultural competence and coping process. Yao (2014) further asserts that forming or interacting in groups made of Chinese learners alone can attract negative perception from other students. In this respect, Chinese students should utilize their various student groups to enlighten other students about Chinese culture and also learn about the culture of the host country where they are studying. Specifically, this stance insists that Chinese international students should not embrace an isolationist approach in their education life.
The reviewed literature offers vital information on the socialization practices of Chinese students studying abroad. Importantly, it has also elaborated on the various challenges that the students face in their attempt to adjust to their new cultural settings. Thus, this gathered information is instrumental in guiding the present study in understanding the social and cultural meaning of the various activities that Chinese international students engage in at Carleton University (Canada).
- Gu, Q., & Schweisfurth, M. (2015). Transnational connections, competences, and identities: Experiences of Chinese international students after their return ‘home’. British Educational Research Journal, 41(6), 947-970.
- Ma, J. (2017). Cooperative activity as mediation in the social adjustment of Chinese international students. Journal of International Students, 7(3), 856-875.
- Marginson, S., & Dang, T. A. (2017). Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory in the context of globalization. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 37(1), 116-129.
- Meng, Q., Zhu, C., & Cao, C. (2018). Chinese international students’ social connectedness, social and academic adaptation: The mediating role of global competence. Higher Education, 75(1), 131-147.
- Wu, I. (2017). Pathways to Well-Being during the Cultural Transition Process: The Daily Experiences of Chinese International Students (Unpublished doctoral dissertation).