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Knowledge and Skills

Culture-specific knowledge and social skills provide the foundation for effective intercultural interactions; they facilitate psychological adaptation to a new sociocultural environment. The findings of this study reveal that students who had previously resided abroad or had international exposure, especially in international corporations, adjusted significantly better during their subsequent cross-cultural sojourns. A female MBA student said:

Before I came to the United States, I immigrated to Canada and had been there for a year. When looking back, those days in Canada were the most difficult time in my life. I had a very decent job in China. I was a project manager at IBM. I never thought that I could not even find a white-collar job in Canada. My experience in Canada made me believe that other than revolution, there was nothing like going abroad to change the social status of a Chinese so abruptly. After searching for a job three months without any luck, I had to give in. I took a job as a waitress in a local Chinese restaurant. The dish-carrying job lasted six months. I worked either from 11 am to 6 pm or 6 pm to 11 pm everyday. I could no longer count the plates I carried or the number of guests I served. Although there is nothing disgraceful about manual labor in Canada, I felt I had to move on as soon as possible, because once you begin to rely on this cheapest mode of employment, you will become trapped in a low social stratum and never see daylight again. I applied to an MBA degree program in the United States, and luckily I was accepted by Arizona State University. I think life is fair. After I have been through all that I had suffered in Canada, I feel it is much easier to endure all kinds of stress in the United States mentally and physically; I feel strong enough to deal with any challenge. It turns out I am doing really great in the United States. (Participant 1)

A sociology student described her experience:

I worked at Bertelsmann Shanghai before I came to the United States. Seventy percent of the employees at Bertelsmann Shanghai are from Germany, America, Canada, or other Western countries. Our office was just like the United Nations, and my colleagues were from five continents. English was the working language at Bertelsmann. Due to daily exposure to the international working culture, I learned how to interact with Westerners, achieved a better understanding of Western social systems and values, and developed the expected behaviors during these interactions. Owing to this international exposure, I did not feel much culture shock after I came to the United States. (Participant 2)

A computer science student said:

Of course, to probe the New World required not only commitment and courage but also strategies and techniques. The work experiences at Intel China gave me a lot of training in self-development in an unfamiliar environment, how to interact with colleagues from other countries, how to better understand other cultural systems and social values, and how to develop the expected behaviors in a new culture. With this knowledge and skill, I did not have much difficulty adjusting to life in the United States, so I would suggest that it is better for Chinese students to work for a couple of years before they finally come to the United States. Hands-on working experience teaches you much more than what you can learn at school. (Participant 15)

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