Psychological insight plays an important role in the education process. According to Chen and Vijayaram (2013), knowing the psychological process is very important in the academic development for the student. The evaluation of the level of the psychological process of a learner helps the instructor apply the most appropriate learning strategy (p. 434). This means that students need to gain psychological stability in order to enhance their academic achievement. The stability includes concepts of acculturative stress and social adjustment. Cultural differences between distinct cultures affect the achievements of students (Spielberger, 2004). Olivia (2007) also notes that social adjustment has a significant impact on academic achievement (p. 124).
The government of Saudi Arabia is extremely interested in supporting students to study abroad. Consequently, the government has adopted a scholarship program for students to study abroad. The program is known as The King Abdullah Scholarships Program. This program was created with the intention that returning students would can promote the educational competencies Saudi universities. These students could also provide elemental competencies in the development of the public and private sectors (King Abdullah Scholarships, 2010). Through this program, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has witnessed a steady increase in the number of students on scholarships to study abroad in the last decade (King Abdullah Scholarships, 2010). All these students who study abroad still require the support of the Saudi government.
The students cannot meet high and acceptable standards of performance when they are under any anxiety. This applies when students are excited and anxious because of the lack of social adjustment in a new cultural environment (Reis, 2013, p. 256). The definition of anxiety can assist in understanding how it affects performance. Sartain and Katsarou (2010) define anxiety as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure” (as cited in American Psychological Association, p. 39). Therefore, anxiety can be described as a mixture of emotions such as tension, fear, and worry. These emotions are accompanied by physical changes in response to these difficult emotions or feelings. Anxiety is common during tough and unpredictable situations.
Apparently, anxiety is very common in the society today (Pepperell & Punt, 2006, p. 60). Nobody can deny the disturbing role of anxiety in this fast-paced life, and while it is difficult for anyone to avoid it completely, it varies in severity. In general, anxiety can either be trait or state. According to Cassady (2010), trait anxiety is persistent, while state anxiety is temporary, and will pass when the stressful situation ends. In the academic life, state anxiety has a significant impact on students’ performance and achievement (Cassady, 2010).
Cultural disparities can cause anxiety in numerous situations. This can be attributed to the impressive and misunderstanding of the behavior, customs and traditions of the new culture (Naylor, 1997, p. 76). Anxieties resulting from cultural differences play a significant role in affecting a person’s thoughts and behaviors. Therefore, if the anxiety is not handled well, its impact can be negative. Each culture has its unique characteristics that distinguish it from the others. Thus, when a person comes from the Middle East to the U.S, he or she will struggle to adapt to the new culture because of the gaps that exist between the two cultures. Therefore, this research will focus on the aforementioned factors to show how specific cultural differences can reduce the performance of Saudi students in the American universities.