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Stress and coping experiences of international students with language barriers during the acculturation process

Dissertation
Author: Jungeun Lee
Abstract:
My study focused on stress and coping experience of international students with language barriers in the United States. Knowledge of the language spoken in the host community plays a central role within the cultural learning process, since language is viewed as the primary medium through which cultural information is communicated. In this qualitative study utilizing grounded theory methods, twelve students were interviewed about their perceptions, emotions, and behaviors during the process from stress, coping, and adaptation. Key finding of the study was a theoretical model to hypothesize the relationships of the categories and their components for stress and coping experiences of international students with language barriers. It was based on the five core categories extracted from the data: perceived stressors, immediate psychological and physical responses, stress-moderating factors (environmental and psychological), coping strategies (cognitive reframing, emotional release, and behavioral exposure), and adaptation. The theory presents a three phases in a linear order to explain the students' stress and coping experiences in conjunction with the changes in the meanings of language barriers.

5 TABLE OF CONTENTS

page

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...............................................................................................................4

LIST OF TABLES...........................................................................................................................8

LIST OF FIGURES.........................................................................................................................9

ABSTRACT...................................................................................................................................10

CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION..................................................................................................................11

Background.............................................................................................................................11

Statement of the Problem........................................................................................................12

Conceptual Framework...........................................................................................................14

Theoretical Framework: Constructivism................................................................................15

Purpose of the Study...............................................................................................................16

Rationale for the Methodology...............................................................................................17

Significance of the Study........................................................................................................18

Definition of Terms................................................................................................................19

2 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE........................................................................................22

Introduction.............................................................................................................................22

Acculturation..........................................................................................................................22

Acculturation Strategies..................................................................................................24

Acculturative Stress.........................................................................................................26

Stress and Coping Model of Acculturation.....................................................................28

The Role of Language in Acculturation Process.............................................................29

Studies on International Students’ Language Barriers...........................................................30

Composition of Language Barriers.........................................................................................34

English Language Proficiency Barriers...........................................................................34

Communication Barriers.................................................................................................35

Psychological Barriers.....................................................................................................37

Environmental Barriers...................................................................................................39

Challenges due to Language Barriers.....................................................................................40

Academic Difficulty........................................................................................................40

Interpersonal Difficulty...................................................................................................41

Psychological Distress.....................................................................................................43

3 RESEARCH METHOD.........................................................................................................45

Chapter Overview...................................................................................................................45

Grounded Theory Methods.....................................................................................................45

6 Theoretical Sampling.......................................................................................................46

Stages of Coding..............................................................................................................47

Theoretical Memos..........................................................................................................48

Subjectivity Statement............................................................................................................49

Data Collection and Analysis.................................................................................................51

Interview..........................................................................................................................53

Participant Demographics...............................................................................................54

Steps of Analysis.............................................................................................................55

Trustworthiness...............................................................................................................56

Pilot Study..............................................................................................................................57

Participants......................................................................................................................57

Data Collection................................................................................................................58

Data Analysis...................................................................................................................58

Data Story........................................................................................................................59

Relevance to Dissertation Research........................................................................................60

4 FINDINGS..............................................................................................................................61

A Theoretical Model...............................................................................................................61

Perceived Stressors.................................................................................................................63

Time-consuming Nature of Language Barriers...............................................................63

Strong Need for Language Use.......................................................................................65

Environmental need for language use......................................................................66

Limitations in Academic Activities.................................................................................69

Immediate Stress Responses...................................................................................................72

Physical Responses..........................................................................................................72

Psychological Responses.................................................................................................73

Stress-moderating Variables...................................................................................................75

Environmental Variables.................................................................................................75

Psychological Variables..................................................................................................78

Coping Strategies....................................................................................................................79

Cognitive Reframing.......................................................................................................79

Emotional Release...........................................................................................................82

Behavioral Exposure.......................................................................................................82

Adaptation...............................................................................................................................84

Better Communicators.....................................................................................................84

Personal Growth..............................................................................................................87

5 CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS.............................................................................89

Introduction.............................................................................................................................89

Conclusion..............................................................................................................................89

Implications............................................................................................................................93

Counseling Profession............................................................................................................93

Strengths.................................................................................................................................97

Limitations and Recommendations for Future Research........................................................99

7 APPENDIX A INCLUSION/EXCLUSION CRITERIA FOR THE INITIAL SAMPLING.......................103

B PRE-INTERVIEW SCREENING QUESTIONS.................................................................104

C INTERVIEW QUESTIONS (INITIAL)...............................................................................105

D INTERVIEW QUESTIONS (2ND ROUND)......................................................................108

E EXAMPLE OG THEORETICAL MEMO...........................................................................110

REFERENCES............................................................................................................................111

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.......................................................................................................121

8 LIST OF TABLES Table page

Table 3-1 Participants of study......................................................................................................55

Table 3-2 Participants of pilot study..............................................................................................58

9 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page

Figure 2-1 Stress and coping model for acculturation...................................................................29

Figure 2-2 Theoretical model for stress and coping experiences of international students with language barriers........................................................................................................62

10 Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy STRESS AND COPING EXPERIENCES OF INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS WITH LANGUAGE BARRIERS DURING THE ACCULTURATION PROCESS

By Jungeun Lee

December 2008

Chair: Sondra Smith Major: Mental Health Counseling

My study focused on stress and coping experience of international students with language barriers in the United States. Knowledge of the language spoken in the host community plays a central role within the cultural learning process, since language is viewed as the primary medium through which cultural information is communicated. In this qualitative study utilizing grounded theory methods, twelve students were interviewed about their perceptions, emotions, and behaviors during the process from stress, coping, and adaptation. Key finding of the study was a theoretical model to hypothesize the relationships of the categories and their components for stress and coping experiences of international students with language barriers. It was based on the five core categories extracted from the data: perceived stressors, immediate psychological and physical responses, stress-moderating factors (environmental and psychological), coping strategies (cognitive reframing, emotional release, and behavioral exposure), and adaptation. The theory presents a three phases in a linear order to explain the students’ stress and coping experiences in conjunction with the changes in the meanings of language barriers.

11 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Background As a crucial center of knowledge and technology, the United States has attracted large numbers of students from many foreign countries (Sandhu, 1995). During the 2005-2006 academic year, 564,766 international students constituted 3.9% of the total enrollment in academic institutions across the United States. Among the twenty-five most common countries of origin, all but Canada (ranked 6 th ) and the United Kingdom (ranked 11 th ) are non-English speaking countries (Institute of International Education, 2006). Due to language barriers, students who come from non-English speaking countries may face a greater challenge than students whose first language is English. Even for students from countries that use English as their official language (e.g., Belize, Puerto Rico), the transition to formal academic English may be difficult (Soto-Carlo, Delgado-Romero, & Galvan, 2005). Thus, language differences can become a critical concern for international students who come from non-English speaking countries. Because the English language is an indispensable tool for international students who study at higher educational institutions in the United States, students from non-English-speaking countries are required to prove their English proficiency via standardized testing (TOEFL: Test of English as a Foreign Language) as a condition of admission to colleges and universities (Coppi, 2007). However, international students from non-English-speaking countries often struggle with English comprehension and speech even when they attain high TOEFL and GRE (Graduate Record Examination) scores (Heikinheimo & Shute, 1986; Kagan & Cohen, 1990). Thus, language barriers are an almost universal obstacle for international students from non-

12 English speaking countries, especially during the beginning of their acculturation process (Hechanova-Alampay, Beehr, Christiansen, & Van Horn, 2002). A positive acculturation and adaptation process for international students from non-English speaking countries may be facilitated by college counselors who are cognizant of these language and communication difficulties, the impact of language barriers on academic and interpersonal problems, and the ways in which the problems can be ameliorated. Moreover, college counselors can help faculty, staff, and administrators increase their knowledge and ability to work with international students. In order to best meet the counseling needs of international students from non-English speaking countries and to facilitate their academic and personal success in the United States, further description and understanding of international students’ unique experiences due to language barrier and its impact on acculturation process is needed. Statement of the Problem Acculturation refers to changes in values, beliefs, and behaviors that result from sustained contact with a second culture. Although refugees and immigrants also experience acculturation, international students face unique stressors and concerns (Johnson & Sandhu, 2007). These students, often classified as “sojourners” (Ward, Bochner, & Furnham, 2001), must quickly adapt their daily lives to broader United States social systems as well as to standards imposed on them by the higher education system (Misra & Castillo, 2004; Mori, 2000). Acculturative stress refers to stress that results from the process of acculturation (Berry, Kim, Minde, & Mok, 1987). Adjustment to a new environment is inherently stressful. Academic pressure, financial difficulty, poor health, loneliness, and interpersonal conflict are common to both domestic and international students who enter a new school (Baker & Siryk, 1986). However, international students may experience more serious alienation than domestic students due to a greater change in culture and less access to social and emotional resources (Hechanova-

13 Alampay et al., 2002; Klomegah, 2006; Pedersen, 1991). In addition to the universal challenges of higher education, many sojourners report a profound sense of loss, anxiety, and feelings of isolation (Brislin & Yoshida, 1994). In contrast with international students who speak English as their first or official language, sojourners from non-English speaking countries add language barriers to the list of factors that impede their acculturation process (Al-Mubarak, 2000; Huang, 2006; Jacob & Greggo, 2001; Lee & Carrasquillo, 2006; J.-C. G. Lin & Yi, 1997; Luzio-Lockett, 1998; Mori, 2000; Poyrazli & Kavanaugh, 2006; Roth & Harama, 2000; Sheu & Fukuyama, 2007; Trice, 1992). High TOEFL scores do not ensure a smoother adjustment. In fact, lack of English proficiency was identified as the biggest obstacle in the acculturation process of Chinese students despite high TOEFL and GRE scores (Sun & Chen, 1997). Historically, language competence and communication behaviors have received attention in research regarding sojourners and immigrants, often from the perspective of cross-cultural communication (Kim, 1988), social psychology (Berry, 1997), and sociolinguistics (Giles, 1977; Giles & Johnson, 1981). Findings reveal that language and communication barriers impede the acculturation process of these groups (Kim, 1988). As a sub-group of immigrants, international students received less attention than the broader immigrant group more often studied in these research fields. Conversely, the counseling field has attended to the affective, behavioral and cognitive consequences of acculturation for international students (Kagan & Cohen, 1990), including the psychological impact of acculturative stress (Johnson & Sandhu, 2007) and various qualities that may predict successful adjustment (Hechanova-Alampay et al., 2002). Nonetheless, few

14 researchers have focused on understanding how language barriers affect international students’ acculturation, nor have they designed counseling interventions to facilitate this process. Because language proficiency has proven to be the most significant indicator in international students’ sociocultural adjustment (Olmedo & Padilla, 1978; Ward & Kennedy, 1993), it is reasonable to postulate that language barriers are highly relevant to acculturation. This study is designed to investigate the impact of language barriers during on the acculturation process of international students from non-English speaking countries, with special attention to the resulting acculturative stress and how they cope with that stress. Conceptual Framework Earlier studies on acculturation mainly emphasized group differences rather than individual differences; group-level acculturation studies examined geographical, biological, political, economic, cultural, and social changes (Berry, 1994). However, more recent studies on acculturation have shifted the focus to individual-level changes, thus acknowledging individual differences within the same cultural group. Researchers have investigated psychological (e.g., motives, attitudes, values, abilities) and experiential aspects of how individuals learn a new culture and shed their original culture (Berry, 1994). Still, relatively little attention has been given to the pattern and process of adaptive changes in individuals (Kim, 1988). For example, the potential for conflict exists when individuals attempt to learn a new culture. When acculturation causes conflict, individuals tend to experience social, psychological, physical, and health-related problems. Researchers consider this set of problems to be signs of ‘acculturative stress’ (Berry, Kim, Minde, & Mok, 1987). This study utilizes Berry’s (1997) stress and coping model of acculturation as a conceptual framework to generate research questions about acculturation process of international students with language barriers. Berry’s model is a part of the recent trend of individual-level analysis of

15 acculturation and identifies the cultural and psychological qualities that affect the development of acculturative stress and adaptation. Berry explains that the process of acculturation is initiated by the joint influence of the two societies in which the individual lives: origin and settlement. Concurrently, the acculturation process includes five phenomena: acculturation experiences (life events), stressors (appraisal of experiences), coping (strategies used), stress (immediate effects), and adaptation (long term outcome). Berry’s model also notes that the five phenomena of acculturation are influenced by moderating factors prior to acculturation (e.g., age, gender, migration motivation, cultural distance, personality) and during acculturation (e.g., length of time, acculturation strategies, social support, societal attitudes). The research questions addressed by this study are closely related to Berry’s five phenomena. Theoretical Framework: Constructivism In keeping with the conceptual framework of Berry’s (1997) stress and coping model of acculturation, this study focuses on individual-level rather than group-level differences to investigate the acculturation process of international students with language barriers. In order to acknowledge variation in individual change processes, constructivism will inform this study’s approach. Researchers who utilize a constructivist framework believe that individuals are active agents who construct their own meanings, understanding, and knowledge about the world through experiences with their environments. A constructivist paradigm affords an opportunity to examine in detail the complexity of human experience as people live, interact, and make meaning within their own social worlds (Appleton & King, 2002). This study’s constructivist perspective assumes that international students from non- English speaking countries are active agents who create realities and meanings surrounding language barriers while studying in the United States. Also, these students actively engage in their acculturation processes by adopting their own acculturation strategies to deal with language

16 barriers and their related difficulties (e.g., academic, interpersonal). How students experience language barriers varies depending on characteristics such as level of English language ability, cross-cultural communication skills, and the qualities of interactions with host citizens. During their acculturation process, international students’ experiences, perceptions, and interpretation of language barriers affect their choice of acculturation strategies and outcomes because they construct their own meanings out of language barriers and the acculturation process. Stringer (1996) describes these constructions of meanings as “created realities” and “sense- making representations.” The lens of constructivism helps the researcher understand the variety of “created realities” and ”sense-making representations” that international students construct about their individualized acculturation processes (Guba & Lincoln, 1994). Purpose of the Study This study aimed to develop a theoretical model to describe the international students’ stress and coping experiences due to their language barriers. Understanding the core experience of international students with language barriers would enhance our understanding of the dynamics of how international students perceive, experience, and overcome their language barriers during the acculturation process in the U.S.

Based on the conceptual framework of Berry’s (1997) stress and coping model of acculturation, this study

explored the five sets of phenomena of international students’ experiences due to language barriers: life events, stressors, coping, stress, and adaptation. Specific research questions of the study will include: (a) how language barriers occur as life events in international students’ acculturation experiences, (b) how the students appraise their experiences, (c) what kind of coping strategies they adopt, (d) what immediate psychological and psychosomatic stress symptoms they experience, and (e) what long-term adaptation they achieve.

17 Rationale for the Methodology Although language barriers are cited as the biggest obstacle to acculturation and as an important factor in acculturation and psychological strain (Hechanova-Alampay et al., 2002; Kagan & Cohen, 1990), little is known about the acculturation experiences that international students with language barriers undergo and how they perceive their experiences (Yoon & Portman, 2004). In other words, studies tend to operationalize the level of acculturation into sets of indicators (e.g., level of language proficiency) and the data have been presented without any guide to implications or meaning. Systematic efforts to determine what qualities account for, mediate, or moderate findings in the acculturation research are rare (Nguyen, 2006). Theories that examine the processes and contexts of acculturation are needed to provide a deeper understanding of acculturation within the realm of individual experience. The specific context of this study encompasses questions of how international students from non-English- speaking countries face and manage language barriers as the major stressor in the acculturation process. A qualitative methodology was chosen to examine the experiences of international students with language barriers because it has potential to yield rich, deep, and often unexpected information (McCracken, 1988). Grounded theory methods are a qualitative research approach designed for the systematic generation of theory from data (Glaser, 1978). In this study, grounded theory methods will serve as the research method to produce (a) descriptions of language barrier experiences, (b) explanations of how language barriers impact the acculturation process, and (c) a theory about relationships between language barriers and other related factors. Interrelationships among these factors may be much more complex than prior research suggests. For example, language barriers may mitigate or exacerbate students’ confidence level,

18 particularly regarding academic tasks. Thus, students’ low self-confidence may affect their choice of acculturation strategies. Significance of the Study If counselors, faculty members, and fellow students better understand how language barriers impede an acculturation process, create acculturative stresses, and promote an adaptation of international students from non-English speaking countries, they may contribute to a more beneficial academic and social experience for international students. Without this understanding, students who struggle with English may suffer a multitude of acculturation problems. Lack of language proficiency negatively affects numerous aspects of non-native-English speaking international students’ academic and social interaction on United States campuses (Hechanova- Alampay et al., 2002). Among other problems, language barriers can lead to a loss of academic self-efficacy, which in turn predicts lower general adjustment (Poyrazli, Arbona, Nora, McPherson, & Pisecco, 2002). Language barriers can also deter international students from social interaction with their American peers (Hayes & Lin, 1994) and professional interaction with their professors (Jacob & Greggo, 2001). International students’ academic and social difficulties due to their language barriers can also negatively affect their emotional well-being (Leung, 2001). Due to the lowered academic and social self-efficacy, international students may experience a sense of loneliness and social isolation (Jacob & Greggo, 2001); fear of speaking to native speakers of English (Hsieh, 2006; Luzio-Lockett, 1998; Schram & Lauver, 1988);

psychological strain such as depression and anxiety (Hechanova-Alampay et al., 2002); and negative self- image, feelings of shame, humiliation, or inferiority when they perceive their English language ability as poor (Barratt & Huba, 1994). In serious cases, international students may develop somatic symptoms such as headaches, chest pain, fatigue, or loss of appetite as a part of these negative reactions to language

19 barriers (Lacina, 2002). Thus, language barriers are not only simple linguistic challenges but more complicated phenomena where psychological factors and impacts are closely related with. In this study, such psychological aspect of language barriers would be described to enhance our understanding of the dynamics of how international students perceive and deal with their language barriers during the acculturation process in the U.S. With the help of this study’s findings, international students and the counselors who help them can prioritize and address common experiential features of language barriers to lessen acculturative stress. As international students try to overcome their language barriers, they would almost certainly benefit from more satisfying cross-cultural communication and interpersonal interactions with United States citizens as well as other international students. There are many benefits to improving these cross-cultural interactions. On a global level, cross-cultural interactions lead to effective international relations and diffusion of knowledge among cultures (Pedersen, 1991). On an individual level, sojourners report an increased appreciation of their home culture; broader worldview or perspective; reduction of ethnocentrism, intolerance and stereotypes; increased cognitive complexity; and greater personal awareness, self-esteem, confidence, and creativity (Church, 1982). Conversely, native English-speaking United States citizens may garner similar advantages from more positive cross-cultural interactions with international students. Definition of Terms As Kim (1988) pointed out, different terms are used by different investigators to refer to essentially the same process, and the same terms are defined by different investigators in different ways. For example, a variety of terms have been used to refer to the process sojourners and immigrants to go through in a new and unfamiliar culture including ‘ acculturation’,

20 ‘adjustment’, ‘adaptation’ , ‘assimilation’. These terms means the cultural contact process in essential but may refer to different outcome of the contact. Assimilation: a term used to emphasize the acceptance of cultural elements of the host society by the individual Acculturation: a term which has been defined as culture changes that results from continuous, first hand contact between two distinct cultural groups (Redfield, Linton, & Herskovits, 1936). While changes to both groups are implied in the definition, in fact most changes occur in the non-dominant group as a result of influence from the dominant group. However, acculturation is not limited only to learning and acquiring some aspects of the host cultural elements. According to Berry (1994), the outcome of acculturation can vary from assimilating with the host culture to integrating both original and host culture. Integration is considered most positive and less stressful outcome of acculturation. Acculturative stress: one kind of stress, that in which the stressors are identified as having their source in the process of manifestations which occur during acculturation, such as lowered mental health status (particularly anxiety, depression), feelings of marginality and alienation, and heightened psychological and psychosomatic symptom level (Berry, 1994). Adaptation: Kim (1988) suggested that this term can be used as the most broad concept that accommodates other existing meaning including assimilative, acculturative, and adjustive. However, in this study, this term specifically refers to the long term effect of acculturation due to the cross-cultural contact possibly meaning well-adaptation and mal-adaptation (Berry, 1997). A distinction has been made between psychological and sociocultural adaptation, with the former referring to a clear personal and cultural identity, good mental health, and personal satisfaction in the new context, and the later referring to social skills, culture learning, and other external

21 outcomes that link individuals to their context, such as handling daily problems related to school or work (Berry, 1997; Ward & Kennedy, 1993) Adjustment: a term refers to mental-emotional state of comfort, satisfaction, and positive attitude of the individual International students: foreign students who came to the United States to study in degree programs in U.S. higher education institutions. International students with language barriers: international students from non-English speaking countries that speak English as a native or official language. U.S. host citizens: U.S. citizens who were born and grew up in the United States and speak English as a first language. Language barriers: a figurative phrase with difficulties faced when international students from non-English speaking countries attempt to communicate in English with those who speak English as their first language such as U.S. citizens.

22 CHAPTER 2 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE Introduction This chapter summarizes the current level of knowledge about international students’ language barrier and its impact on the acculturation process. A brief historical review on the acculturation studies is delineated along with the concept of acculturative stress and strategies. More importantly, the role of language in the acculturation process is examined link international students’ language barrier and its impact on their acculturation process. Studies on the international students’ language barriers are summarized in terms of four compositions of language barriers (English language, communication, psychological, environmental barriers) and three areas of challenges due to language barriers (academic, interpersonal, psychological distress). Acculturation Although acculturation is now a term commonly used in discussions around immigrants, refugees, and international students, its meaning and operationalization remain elusive. Sam (2006) specifies that Powell, in 1880, is accredited as the first person to have used the term “acculturation” in the English language, referring to psychological changes induced by cross- cultural imitation. In its simplest sense, acculturation covers all the changes that arise following contact between individuals and groups of different cultural backgrounds. A more formal definition of acculturation was proposed by Redfield, Linton and Herskovits in 1936. They defined acculturation as “Those phenomena which result when groups of individuals having different cultures come into continuous first-hand contact, with subsequent changes in the original culture patterns of wither or both groups” (Redfield et al., 1936). Redfield et al.’s

23 definition is now regarded as the classical definition of the concept and is perhaps the one most cited by acculturation researchers (Sam, 2006). Sometimes, the term, acculturation, is wrongly used instead of assimilation, as exemplified by an everyday expression such as “he is acculturated to…,” implying “he is very assimilated into….” In the past, acculturation was used synonymously with assimilation, meaning a unidimensional, linear process in which individuals became assimilated to the host culture through the gradual process of giving up their original cultural background. However, more recent conceptualizations, such as Berry’s (1997) model, suggest that it is possible for individuals to retain their ethnic identity and behaviors while acquiring competence in the host culture. Berry (1997) regards assimilation as one of four acculturation strategies as individual may use during acculturation and defined it as turning one’s back on his or her original cultural background and adapting wholly into the host culture. Acculturation was originally introduced as a group-level phenomenon by anthropologists and sociologists (Linton, 1949). However, early discussions around the concept also recognized it as an individual-level phenomenon (Dohrenwend & Smith, 1962). “Psychological acculturation” refers to the changes an individual experiences as a result of being in contact with other cultures (Graves, 1967). Within psychological acculturation schools of thought, the framework of Berry (1990, 1997) has received the most attention (Sam, 2006). Berry suggested that the acculturation process proceeds according to the degree to which the individual simultaneously participates in the cultural life of the new society and maintains his or her original cultural identity. The simultaneous participation and maintenance of the two cultures may lead to four different outcomes which Berry (1997) called assimilation, integration, separation, and marginalization. These four outcomes are collectively referred to as

24 “acculturation strategies.” Since acculturation is a continuous process, an individual may adopt different strategies at different times, and to deal with different life issues. Especially, long-term outcomes is referred to “adaptation” and it consists of two kinds of adaptation: Psychological and sociocultural adaptation (Ward & Kennedy, 1993). Psychological adaptation refers to more subjective and internal aspects of psychological well-being, satisfaction, and comfort with the new culture. Sociocultural adaptation refers to a more objective and external aspect of acculturation, involving the individual’s effectiveness in dealing with the challenges of the new environment and the tasks that he or she must complete in that environment (Ward & Kennedy, 1993). While conceptually distinct, psychological and sociological adaptations are empirically related to some extent where correlations between the two measures are in the +.4 to +.5 range (Berry, 2006). Acculturation Strategies Different patterns of responding to the demands of acculturation have been referred to as acculturation attitudes, strategies, modes, or outcomes. Berry and Kim (1988) identified varying ways in which individuals can seek to acculturate as acculturation strategies by posing two questions: “Is there value placed on and a desire to retain my cultural origin?” and “Is there a desire or need for positive relations and interaction with the host culture?” Four different acculturation strategies may be arrived at based on combinations of dichotomous yes or no answers to these questions. The strategies include assimilation, separation, marginalization, and integration. Assimilation is defined as relinquishing one’s way of absorbing and moving into the host culture. International students adopting the assimilation strategies try to disengage from their culture of origin in hopes of being accepted into the dominant host culture. While assimilation strategy has shown effectiveness for social adaptation, negative impacts have been seen with

25 regard to psychological adaptation (Kagan & Cohen, 1990; Searle & Ward, 1990). Assimilation is considered a risky strategy and likely to result in high level of stress and anxiety, low self- esteem, difficulties in work or school, and low mood rating (Ward & Kennedy, 1994). Separation refers to a strategy of segregating from the host culture and remaining within relationships primarily from their culture of origin. International students adopting a separation strategy may garner social support from their co-nationals and maintain their cultural identity. But, they may be socially and academically ineffective within the university community and larger society (Johnson & Sandhu, 2007). Measured by lack of English proficiency, separation has been associated with various problems, including depression, withdrawal and obsession- compulsion (Torres-Mastrullo, 1976) as well as somatic symptoms, PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) and alcohol abuse/dependence (Escobar, Randolph, & Puente, 1983). Marginalization is the condition in which individuals lose cultural and psychological contact with both their traditional culture and the larger society. Marginalization is characterized by striking out against the larger society and by feelings of alienation and loss of identity. International students adopting a marginalization strategy may face the highest levels of acculturative stress and greatest risk of psychological maladjustment (Ward & Kennedy, 1994). Integration implies some maintenance of the cultural integrity of the group as well as the movement to become an integral part of a larger societal framework. This strategy is associated with reduced risk and is increasingly recognized as the most adapted or well-adaptive strategy (Berry, 1997; Ward & Kennedy, 1994). Research with various immigrant groups has generally suggested that a tendency to isolate oneself from the host culture is associated with greater stress, and that an integration approach is usually the most adaptive strategy, while total assimilation into the dominant culture is more likely to be related to psychological maladjustment and

26 psychosomatic problems (Berry, 1997; Coll & Magnuson, 1997; Ward, 1996). For example, immigrant youth with an integration showed high English language proficiency and high peer contacts with both their own ethnic group members and the host nationals (Berry, Phinney, Sam, & Vedder, 2006). Acculturative Stress The concept of stress has had wide usage in recent psychological and medical literature (Lazarus, 1997). Stress is considered to be a generalized physiological and psychological state of the organism brought about by the experiences of stressors in the environment, which requires some reduction in normal functioning to occur, and then, through a process of coping achieve satisfactory adaptation to the new situation. To deal with problematic aspects of acculturation, the concept of acculturative stress was proposed by Berry (1970). Acculturative stress is a response by people to life events that are rooted in cross-cultural contact. Frequently, these reactions include heightened levels of depression and anxiety. This notion is broadly similar to that of culture shock (Oberg, 1960), but the term acculturative stress is preferred for two reasons (Berry, 2006). First, the term shock is essentially a negative one, implying that only difficulties will result from with a different culture contact. However, the term stress has a theoretical basis in studies of how people deal with negative experiences by engaging in various coping strategies, leading eventually to some form of adaptation (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). The second reason the concept of acculturative stress is preferable is that the source of the stressful experiences lies in the interaction between cultures, rather than in one culture or the other. Several factors moderate the degree of international students’ acculturative stress, in particular, the cultural distance between the host culture and the home culture of international students in terms of cultural practices, language fluency and educational experiences,

Full document contains 122 pages
Abstract: My study focused on stress and coping experience of international students with language barriers in the United States. Knowledge of the language spoken in the host community plays a central role within the cultural learning process, since language is viewed as the primary medium through which cultural information is communicated. In this qualitative study utilizing grounded theory methods, twelve students were interviewed about their perceptions, emotions, and behaviors during the process from stress, coping, and adaptation. Key finding of the study was a theoretical model to hypothesize the relationships of the categories and their components for stress and coping experiences of international students with language barriers. It was based on the five core categories extracted from the data: perceived stressors, immediate psychological and physical responses, stress-moderating factors (environmental and psychological), coping strategies (cognitive reframing, emotional release, and behavioral exposure), and adaptation. The theory presents a three phases in a linear order to explain the students' stress and coping experiences in conjunction with the changes in the meanings of language barriers.