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Acculturation Strategies

Acculturation strategies have been shown to be strongly associated with positive adaptation: integration is usually the most successful, while marginalization is the least successful, and assimilation and separation are moderately successful. For the present study, quantitative study indicates that marginalization is the only significant contributor to Chinese students’ appraisal of their overall pressure (t = 2.57, p = 0.01 < 0.05). Students who identified themselves as more marginalized were much more stressed than those students who perceived themselves as less marginalized. The other three acculturation strategies (integration, assimilation, and separation) are not significantly related to the students’ evaluation of their overall pressure in the United States.

Gender differences are observed regarding the marginalization strategy. Student women easily identified themselves as marginal between Chinese and American cultures, while student men less so (t = 3.12, p = 0.003). This suggests that women in this study vacillated more between Chinese and American cultures, identifying with neither, nor being accepted by either, for that matter. An education psychology student clarified her identity conflict:

I do not have any American friends, nor do I have any interaction with Chinese students here. I live an isolated life in the United States with few friends around. I celebrate neither Chinese holidays nor any American holidays. American people think I am a Chinese, while people in China think I am not a pure Chinese anymore, but an Americanized Chinese. Sometimes I cannot help but wonder who I am: American, Chinese, or Chinese American. (Participant 16)

Based on the quantitative study, most Chinese students adopt integration as their acculturation strategy and chose to maintain their cultural identity and seek daily interaction with Americans (M = 4.08, SD = 1.09). The follow-up qualitative study, however, reveals that although most Chinese students displayed a willingness to adopt the integration strategy, their actual behavior did not support such an inclination. For instance, the interview transcripts show most of the engineering and natural science students tended to assume the separation strategy, withdrawing from social activities and confining their interaction within their own community. As a consequence, they were further isolated from American culture which hindered cultural understanding. In contrast, students in the business school tried to adopt the assimilation strategy, explicitly claiming that they wanted to “assimilate as soon as possible.” An accounting doctoral student stated:

I do not have any Chinese friends here, because I really want to be an American. By that, I mean I want to speak English without an accent, be courteous and respectful to others, and enjoy life to the best of my ability. I speak American English fluently and am capable of using the latest fashionable words and phrases. I meet Americans, visit their homes, and learn their lifestyles. Different from most Chinese who rent an apartment in Chinatown, I share a house with two American guys. I do not contact any Chinese students in my department, and I can sense they do not like me either, because they feel I am kind of whitewashed. But I really do not care what they think about me. (Participant 6)

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