Scholarly article on topic 'Acculturation and Psychological Adjustment of Foreign Students (the Experience of Elabuga Institute of Kazan Federal University)'

Acculturation and Psychological Adjustment of Foreign Students (the Experience of Elabuga Institute of Kazan Federal University) Academic research paper on "Economics and business"

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Abstract of research paper on Economics and business, author of scientific article — Tarasova Ayziryak Nailevna

Abstract The whole world is experiencing the process of globalization which major tendency is intercultural mixing and student exchange. A great number of students from Central Asia come to attend Russian universities. They subsequently face the problem of cultural shock in their new environments. The current study presents a research on acculturation experiences of foreign students in Elabuga Institute of Kazan Federal University. The study aims at defining the environmental stressors in their first year of study and elaboration of effective techniques of managing acculturative stress. The results of the paper show that the majority of students have to cope with cultural shock to this or that extent during their first year of study. It is concluded that University on the whole and teachers in particular come first among the factors soothing acculturative stress in foreign students, by providing constant significant support and guidance over their culturally different students. Properly organized learning and teaching and as well inclusion of foreign students into social activities of the Institute enhance their psychological adjustment. The research contributes to theoretical understanding of acculturative stress and practical implications for teachers who work with foreign students.

Academic research paper on topic "Acculturation and Psychological Adjustment of Foreign Students (the Experience of Elabuga Institute of Kazan Federal University)"

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ELSEVIER Procedía - Social and Behavioral Sciences 237 (2017) 1173 - 1178

Social and Behavioral Sciences

7th International Conference on Intercultural Education "Education, Health and ICT for a Transcultural World", EDUHEM 2016, 15-17 June 2016, Almena, Spain

Acculturation and Psychological Adjustment of Foreign Students (the experience of Elabuga Institute of Kazan Federal University)

Tarasova Ayziryak Nailevna*

Kazan Federal University, 423605, Elabuga, Russia

Abstract

The whole world is experiencing the process of globalization which major tendency is intercultural mixing and student exchange. A great number of students from Central Asia come to attend Russian universities. They subsequently face the problem of cultural shock in their new environments. The current study presents a research on acculturation experiences of foreign students in Elabuga Institute of Kazan Federal University. The study aims at defining the environmental stressors in their first year of study and elaboration of effective techniques of managing acculturative stress. The results of the paper show that the majority of students have to cope with cultural shock to this or that extent during their first year of study. It is concluded that University on the whole and teachers in particular come first among the factors soothing acculturative stress in foreign students, by providing constant significant support and guidance over their culturally different students. Properly organized learning and teaching and as well inclusion of foreign students into social activities of the Institute enhance their psychological adjustment.

The research contributes to theoretical understanding of acculturative stress and practical implications for teachers who work with foreign students.

©2017Published byElsevierLtd. Thisis anopen access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of the organizing committee of EDUHEM 2016.

Keywords: acculturative stress, cultural shock, foreign students, intercultural education, psychological adjustment.

1. Introduction

Recently the number of international students coming to Russia in their pursuit to get higher education, more skills, and experience has considerably grown. As a result, admittance of students with a different cultural background

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +79061181498.

E-mail address: ANTarasova@ksu.ru

1877-0428 © 2017 Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of the organizing committee of EDUHEM 2016. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2017.02.175

(citizenship, social class, religion, and ethnicity) made Russian universities diverse and multicultural. Such diversity demands that foreign students should adapt to a new cultural environment and new lifestyle of the host country. Such adaptation which is known as acculturation has social (Berry, 1997; Mui and Kang, 2006; Reynolds and Constantine, 2007) and academic outcomes, as international students encounter distinctive challenges in adjusting to a new cross-cultural environment that might influence their academic achievements and psychological well-being (Andrea, 2014). Research shows that in the conditions of a new cultural environment that presupposes having its own social norms, customs, and traditions, the majority of international students have to face such a problem as cultural shock (Nilsson, Buttler, Shouse and Joshi, 2008; Desa, Yusooff, Kadir, 2012), psychological difficulties, barriers and conflicts (Lin and Yi, 1997) derived from cross-cultural adjustment. Accordingly, the abovementioned phenomena provoke acculturative stress. Acculturative stress is defined by Berry as the dual process of cultural and psychological change that takes place as a result of contact between two or more cultural groups and their individual members and as emotional and physiological reaction to a new environment that has unfamiliar cultural values, customs, and expectations (Berry, 2005). According to Mui and Kang, acculturative stress is a multidimensional phenomenon -encompassing physical, phsychological, financial, spiritual, social, and language dimensions (Mui and Kang, 2006). According to scientist, such factors as a language barrier, academic difficulties, financial problems, psychological and cultural diversity, poor social support and integration, racial discrimination, and problems in daily life tasks (Mori

2000, Sandhu 1995) have a great impact on acculturation process (Pan, Wong, Chan and Joubert, 2008).

International students often have to struggle with a plenty of challenging stressors, namely language barriers,

difficulties in adjustment (Poyrazli and Grahame 2007), homesikcness (Poyrazli and Lopez 2007), loneliness (Sawir, Marginson, Deumert Nyland and Ramia, 2008), difficulties adjusting due to cultural differences (Constantine, Anderson, Berkel, Caldwell, and Utsey, 2005; Reynolds and Constantine, 2007), financial problems (Poyrazli et al.,

2001, Yang and Clum, 1995), perceived prejudice and discrimination (Beoku-Betts, 2004); Karuppan and Barari, 2011;Lee and Rice, 2007),loss of social support (Pedersen, 1991) and feelings of hatred, guilt and fear (Sandhu and Asrabadi, 1994).

Many researchers underline a close connection of acculturative stress with mental health of a person. Individuals with a high level of acculturative stress are in the risk group in experiencing not only depression (Mui and Kang, 20064 Rahman and Rollrock, 2004), but also suicidal ideation (Hovey and King, 1996). Further research has shown that acculturative stress correlates with a high degree of anxiety and symptoms of depression in international students (Crockett et. al. 2007).

In accordance with the increase in the number of studies devoted to investigation of the nature of acculturation stress there appeared scientific works aiming at elaboration of individual means and strategies of coping with acculturative stress, especially in young migrants (Pheko et. al. 2014).

As today's society is getting immensely multicultural and multilingual and the number of international students enrolled in higher education in Russia is increasing every year the body of research on the process of acculturation done by Russian researchers is constantly growing. Researches on acculturation experiences of foreign students are being intensively studied in Russia. Researchers consider the social and cultural aspects of acculturation, ways of soothing acculturative stress in foreign students, methods of successful psychological support over them, etc. The research that has been done by Russian researchers (Tatarko, Maslova, Stefanenko, A.A. Nalchadjan, E.Y. Chebotareva, B. Mikhailova) has resulted in identification of various individual and group characteristics of adaptedness of an individual (Stefanenko, 2008; Tatarko, Lebedeva, 2011; Nalchajyan, 2009). The main directions of analysis of foreign students' adaptation are the study of the formation of their individual adaptation strategies in overcoming stress (Melnikova, 2008; Chebotareva, 2012); social interactions of migrants with their host society (Mikhailova, 2010); correlation of value orientations and successful adaptation (Chkhikvadze 2010), etc.

The study by E.U. Chebotareva, for instance, discusses the strategies of struggling acculturation stress in students from different regions and the connection of using certain strategies with successful cross-cultural adaptation. According to the author, constructive coping strategies contribute to successful adaptation; help to overcome adaptation problems and negative emotional states (Chebotareva, 2012). We absolutely agree with the author and developing her idea add that individuals facing acculturative stress have to cope with it to different extents. Thus, its degree may vary from the lowest to the highest one. Some students percept acculturative experience as something negative, namely as a source of stress and depression whereas others take it as something positive, a challenge and new opportunities for self-development and self-perfection. That is why it becomes important to work out individual strategies in addition to general ones.

1.1. Kazan Federal University context

Elabuga Institute is a subdivision of Kazan Federal University. It is located in a provincial town in the Republic of Tatarstan. Tatarstan is a federal subject of Russia, a multicultural republic that is mainly populated by ethnic Tatars and ethnic Russians, with significant numbers of Chuvash, Mari, Udmurt, as well as Bashkir, Mordvin, Ukrainian minorities. The Institute trains about 5,000 students providing them with advanced teaching facilities. In recent years, Elabuga Institute has admitted approximately 300 international students coming from the countries of Central Asia (Turkmenistan, Tadzhikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan).

1.2. The aims of the study

The current study presents a research on acculturation experiences of foreign students in Elabuga Institute of Kazan Federal University. The study aims to discuss the complicated nature of the experience of international students in a new cross-cultural environment. The study also defines the environmental stressors in their first year of study. The article discusses the significant role of the University in general and teachers in particular in elaboration of effective techniques of managing acculturative stress. The paper emphasizes the stress-buffering effect of social and psychological support and guidance over culturally different students.

2. Methodology

To achieve the aims of the study the authors sought to obtain data for analyses by employing questionnaires and Acculturative Stress Scale for International Students who have recently come to Elabuga and enrolled in the Institute in order to define the main stressors in the process of their acculturation.

2.1. Participants

Our research has a primary focus on international students coming abroad who have to adapt to the different culture of the host country. The participants were 180 students enrolled in Elabuga Institute of Kazan Federal University. The students represented a wide range of nationalities: the Turkmen, the Tadzhik, the Uzbek, the Kyrgyz. The age of the respondents ranged from 18 to 27. 100 % of these students had been living in Elabuga for less than one year.

2.2 Measures. The study used Personal Data Sheet (covering citizenship, age, marital status, duration of residence in Elabuga) and Acculturative Stress Scale for International Students (ASSIS) developed by Sandhu and Asrabadi (1994). This scale consisted of 36 items in 7 subscales. The 7 subscales measured acculturation stress in relation to Perceived discrimination (items 3, 9, 11, 14, 17, 23, 26, 29), Homesickness (items 1, 6, 21, 35), Perceived Hate (4, 15, 20, 24, 33), Fear (items 7, 18, 27, 31), Stress due to change/culture shock (2, 13, 22), Guilt (10, 34), and Miscellaneous (5, 8, 12, 16, 19, 25, 28, 30, 32, 36). The scale was adapted into the Russian Language. The responses ranged between 1-5 (where 1= strongly disagree, 2= disagree, 3= not sure, 4=agree, 5= strongly agree). The minimum score is 36, the maximum score is 180.

3. Results

The results of the research indicate that most of foreign undergraduate students of Elabuga Institute of Kazan Federal University experience moderate acculturative stress.

Table 1 shows the items with the highest means for homesickness.

Table 1. The Respondents Mean Based on Homesickness

Item Mean

I miss the people and country of my origin 4.56

I feel sad leaving my relatives behind 3.96

Table 2 shows the items with the highest mean for fear.

Table 2. The Respondents Mean Based on Fear

Item Mean

I feel insecure here 3.10

I fear for my personal safety because of my different cultural background 3.08

Table 3 shows the items with the highest mean for guilt.

Table 3. The Respondents Mean Based on Guilt

Item Mean

I feel guilty that I am living a different lifestyle here 3.01

4. Discussion and Recommendation

It does not come surprising that most of undergraduate international students of Elabuga Institute of Kazan Federal University experience certain amount of acculturative stress as adjusting to new community may be challenging for students coming from foreign countries and impact not only on their psychological well-being but also affect their academic success.

Our research has shown that some students experience moderate acculturative stress and are able to integrate both cultures in their everyday lives. So, according to the results of the study, the respondents experience moderate acculturative stress due to hate, perceived discrimination, culture shock. We suppose that this happens due to little cultural difference between Russian students and those coming from Central Asia. It may be explained by the fact that, firstly, Turkmenistan, Tadzhikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Russia are states of former Soviet Union. The Asian culture is quite similar to the Russian one, therefore students enrolled in Elabuga Institute experience moderate level of stress due to culture shock. Secondly, 55% of the population of Tatarstan (Russia) are Muslim (Krindatch, 2004), as well as the majority of the population in Turkmenistan, Tadzhikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, so they cannot but have plenty of common cultural features. Thirdly, Turkmen, Kyrgyz, Uzbek and Tatar languages belong to the family of Turkic languages and have similar grammatical, phonetic and syntactical structure and cognates in the basic vocabulary. Consequently, when they initially arrive at the University they have an opportunity to be understood by the population speaking Tatar (it is the second official language in Tatarstan). This fact definitely might reduce the level of stress due to language barrier. Thus, we may speak about little cultural distance that is referred as a predicting factor how acculturating individuals/groups adapt to a new culture (Berry, 1997). The dissimilarities can be attributed to language, climate, religion, cuisine, traditions and customs, social and moral values, etc. As we see, international students of Elabuga Institute experience less adjustment difficulties due to little cultural distance. Therefore, we may conclude that Tatarstan is the most favorable and friendly region in Russia to live and study for students from Central Asia.

However, for some of undergraduate foreign students of Elabuga Institute of Kazan Federal University it may happen to be quite challenging and difficult. Obviously, it depends upon a person and his or her ability to adjust easily to a new environment. The findings show that the highest mean of acculturative stress is due to homesickness. Numerous studies have shown that homesickness has a negative impact on academic success (Willis et al., 2003; Stroebe et al., 2002), and have established a close connection of homesickness to mental health problems in international college students (eating and sleeping problems, low energy, headaches, etc.) (Ye, 2005). We assume that the high level of acculturative stress due to homesickness in Elabuga Institute of KFU may be explained by two facts: firstly, by short time of their staying in Elabuga, and secondly, by strongly close family relationships in the culture of Central Asian states. The analysis has shown that students of Elabuga Institute experience moderate acculturative stress due to fear (I feel insecure here, m= 3.10; I fear for my personal safety because of my different cultural background, m= 3.08). International students can experience both physical fear and fear of the unknown because of

insecurities and worries (Sandhu and Asrabadi, 1994), financial difficulties, academic failure, self-realization, threat to ethnic identity, etc. According to the Integrated Threat Theory of Prejudice (Stephan and Stephan, 1996) the main threats for international students are negative stereotypes, intergroup anxiety, realistic threats, and cultural threats concerning differences in morals, values, standards, beliefs, and attitudes. The results of the Acculturative Stress Scale used in our study indicate that homesickness in international students of Elabuga Institute is followed by guilt and fear. The dimension of guilt covered two statements: "I feel guilty to leave my family and friends behind" (mean= 3.01) and "I feel guilty that I am living a different lifestyle here " (mean= 2.91). We may suppose that relatively higher mean due to guilt can be explained by the fact that several of the respondents are married, so in their need of greater knowledge and better education they had to leave not only their parents but also spouses and children. Sometimes the desire to integrate more with the host nation may lead to guilty feelings as a betrayal to their own culture (Sandhu and Asrabadi, 1994).

There is a need of tailoring up measures of social support for international students of Elabuga Institute against acculturative stress. One of the possible means of creating a pleasant atmosphere for international students' academic success is facilitation of their social activity and promotion of their significance in Kazan Federal University. In Elabuga Institute several such steps have already been taken. For instance, the administration of the Institute organized Festival of Peoples' Friendship where foreign students introduced their culture, national traditions and customs to Russian students and teachers; and as well during the year, they were participating in scientific and practical conferences ("Final scientific and practical conference of students of Kazan Federal University"), where a few students took prizes. Also the specialists of the Elabuga Institute have been providing psycho-pedagogical assistance for foreign students in the form of trainings and talking circles, during which students had a chance of sharing their problems and getting rid of fear and lack of confidence. There is "University of Talents" at the disposal of Elabuga students with a set of trainings in self-realization and self-development. We assume that measures of such kind may accelerate foreign students' adaptation to the new environment and promote intercultural interactions that will definitely reduce acculturative stress. We share the opinion that informal peer-pairing programs may be very productive (Chen, 1999), they can be a strong beneficial coping resource in cross-cultural transition as a means of connecting international students with students of host country.

5. Conclusion

Our findings have shown that the students under analysis are a vulnerable group of students in Elabuga Institute who have faced certain problems in their adaptation to new conditions of their lives. Though the level of acculturative stress in international students of Elabuga Institute is moderate, the administration and teaching staff should particularly focus their attention on how to assist international students in their adaptation to a new cross-cultural environment. Of course, we do not only mean solving practical (daily household and academic) problems: universities need to provide international students with social and psychological support in getting enough knowledge about the host country's culture and traditions. In addition, there is a need of further research on international students' integration into the educational process in Kazan Federal University as intercultural mixing and student exchange is a relatively new phenomenon for the Republic of Tatarstan.

Acknowledgements

The study is done thanks to the financial aid allotted within the framework of the state support to Kazan Federal University to raise its competitiveness

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