By Pei-Wei, Isaac, and Leah
How can we create an environment which supports international students’ ability to cope with the challenges of life in State College and studying at Penn State?
- Design questions relate to the research question (include the protocol in the posting) informed by a personal researcher who is also an international student (personal reflections) and the book Becoming Qualitative Researchers by Glesne (1992)
- Interview 2 international students each
- Conduct one-on-one face-to-face interviews, using the designed question protocol, with volunteer international students and audio recorded if possible.
- Each researcher will document their interviews
- Compile information from all interviews to determine areas of concern and suggested solutions
- Find sources from other university sites to gain more information to learn how they address these issues
- Develop a proposed solution to the design challenge
Summary of research
Personality may play a big role in the impact of culture shock on individuals. My informant said that her initial move here was emotionally traumatic, inducing agoraphobic like symptoms which kept her mostly housebound for years. Even going to the library was a stress inducer. Going to restaurants where choices would have to be made about unfamiliar food was also something to be avoided. Contrastively, my informant reports having a foreign roommate who was far more adventurous, actively seeking opportunities for socialization. A second problem reported by my informant was communication, which went beyond simple difficulties with speaking and listening. Being expected to express and support opinions on the spot in class when one comes from a culture that encourages students to read, reflect, and write before speaking can be a major cause of dissonance and frustration for international students. In my informants word: “The one thing I realized after I came here is that this is a really verbal culture. If you can express yourself verbally enough, then you are okay…But if you cannot express yourself verbally then you are a dumbass.” But for foreign graduate students the most serious problem problem reported by my informant is professors and advisors who lack experience, understanding, and patience working with second language learners. My informant reports there have been numerous cases of students asked to drop out of a class by professors because their English was not good enough. In one case, a foreign student who already had 22 publications in English to their name was told by his advisor that he needed to take ESL writing classes. My informant reports that patronizing tones and micro-aggressions by professors can make communicating with them about problems very difficult for foreign students. My informant suggests that Penn State should research the lived experiences of foreign students at its institutions. “We really need to understand how they socialize in this institution when they come. Don’t just welcome the money. welcome the students, in providing enough support.”
Basically, I interviewed three international people on campus about challenges they have regarding to life in State College and studying at Penn State. All questions brought about negative responses. They all felt being so far away from home and experience different culture is not as pleasant as what they imagine. They came to America where everything is so different than where they came from. Even though they try to adjust to the environment and learn new ways of living, they felt so frustrated without getting support or finding useful resources easily. Language is the big barrier for them to communicate with others and participate in either academic activities or social gathering. The reactions people present decrease their confidence in speaking English and gave them pressure to say what they think. Although Penn State is a large university with growing body of international students from a variety of countries, international students do not feel the sense of belonging and felt difficult to get involved in American society. They normally hang out with students from other countries because they are in the similar situation and understand each other. The reason for not able to become friends of Americans is not their choices but Americans are not good hosts to actively invite them or try to know them. The view of thinking oneself first or not being friendly to others is really against cultural values of most international students. This unfriendly environment including people, facility and curriculum gives international students hard time to succeed and need to struggle to find their own ways to survive or being appreciated.
I interviewed two international students, one who is part of a national program and one who came here on her own. Responses to the questions were mixed, but common themes emerged. While both utilized the university in providing housing support, they both found the options expensive and not ideal. There was no support for either of them in learning about the campus and bus system and both relied on other international students in helping them navigate life in State College and Penn State. One student did not know about all the organizations and resources available to her until a long time after she was here. Another area of concern was in the area of assignments and professors. Since English is their second language, it takes them much longer to complete assignments and they don’t always understand everything the professor is saying as they sometimes talk too quickly. They both felt international students find comfort in associating with one another, but yet both felt students were missing out by not venturing outside their community.
Current Understanding of the Problem
International students face many challenges when coming to Penn State to live and work. These challenges can be grouped into several categories: a) acquiring housing and apartment mates, b) language challenges which impact classroom assignments, participation, and understanding of professors lectures and course expectations, c) finding their way around campus and learning what resources are available, and d) feeling accepted, appreciated and included by their American peers.
- Compile a list of the interviewees’ suggestions of the problems.
- Research other universities to see what type of support they provide.
- Create a plan to address our findings and the design challenge.
Glesne, C., & Peshkin, A. (1992). Becoming qualitative researchers: An introduction. White Plains, NY: Longman.