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Overview of the Results
Chinese International Students’ Stressors
The results of this current study indicate that Chinese international students are likely to have the least positive or satisfying experience, experience more psychological disturbance, and have greater concerns in general than other international students. However, the current study did not collect data from non-Chinese students so a direct comparison cannot be made.
Survey findings revealed that the lives of Chinese students in the United States have never been easy and they have had to endure multifaceted life stresses. The quantitative study shows that job opportunities, visa, and immigration issues (M = 4.50, SD = 0.74), academic pressure (M = 4.32, SD = 1.45), dating or
Table 9.1 Means and SD of items indicated as greatest stressors
marriage pressure (M = 3.78, SD = 1.02), language barrier (M = 3.60, SD = 1.10), and financial concern (M = 3.56, SD = 0.62) rank high among the stressors.
Individual variables such as gender, major, age, and marital status showed significant influences on stress. As for academic pressure, no significant gender differences were observed. Other stressors and concerns, however, varied across gender among the subjects. Female Chinese students expressed more anxiety and frustration in language situations (t = 2.69, p = 0.009 < 0.05) and dating problems (t = 2.18, p = 0.03 < 0.05), while male students were more easily subject to the stress of future vocational achievement and immigration issues (t = 2.93, p = 0.007 < 0.05).
When significant differences between majors were identified, social science students rated their stress significantly more severe than natural science or engineering students did. Social science students recorded experiencing more financial stress than students in natural science did (t = 3.85, p = 0.001 < 0.05). Language problems and concerns varied across majors among Chinese students as well (t = 3.06, p = 0.005 < 0.05), with social science students having more language barriers than natural science students.
Significant differences in stress levels were also observed between married and single students. Married students experienced substantially less stress than single students did when it comes to academic pressure (t = 3.11, p = 0.003 < 0.05), loneliness (t = 2.20, p = 0.03 < 0.05), dating or marriage problems (t = 3.63, p = 0.001 < 0.05), and cultural shock (t = 2.17, p = 0.03 < 0.05). With the support of their spouse, married students’ adjustment is likely to be less stressful compared to that of single students.
Age showed variable influence on the acculturation process as well. Older students experienced more visa, job, and immigration pressure (t = 2.17, p = 0.014 < 0.05), while younger students were more easily subject to academic pressure, homesickness, and loneliness (t = 2.73, p = 0.01 < 0.05).
Based on the findings found in Chap. 4, Table 9.1 presents the ten most frequently reported concerns and stressors of the respondents, based on the mean score for each item. Within these ten concerns, two were job opportunities, visa, and immigration related: remaining in the United States to pursue other life goals after graduation (4.05) and viewing the F1 student visa as a barrier to their future employment in the United States (3.90); two were related to financial concerns: securing a teaching or research assistantship (3.91) and living a modest life (3.51); two were sociocultural: making friends with Americans (3.73) and having successful communication with Americans (3.50); two were academic: getting good grades (3.38) and spending more time studying (3.72); two were language related: writing research papers (3.51) and making presentations (3.51).
It is interesting to look at areas in which students expressed the least concern. The least concern was finding a future job in China (2.13). The result is not entirely surprising given that most Chinese students tend to remain in the United States to pursue other life goals after graduation.
The next to last frequently identified concern was seeking off-campus employment (2.25). This is probably because it is illegal for Chinese students to seek off-campus jobs. Part-time student employment limits the location (on-campus) and hours students are permitted to work (a 20 h per week maximum). Other items which were of slight concerns were understanding professors’ lectures (2.50) and accepting American sociocultural values such as individualism, competitiveness, and assertiveness (2.61).
The follow-up qualitative study provides additional evidence to further validate the result of the quantitative study. Chinese students report having stress and concerns in three major areas: personal, sociocultural, and academic. Within each of these three major areas, sub-themes were identified. The interview findings are discussed with reference to relevant findings from the Survey of Stressors and Coping Strategies of Mainland Chinese Students.