Stress and Coping Experiences of International Students with Language Barriers during the Acculturation Process

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Stress and Coping Experiences of International Students with Language Barriers during the Acculturation Process
Lee, Jungeun
Place of Publication:
[Gainesville, Fla.]
University of Florida
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1 online resource (121 p.)

Thesis/Dissertation Information

Doctorate ( Ph.D.)
Degree Grantor:
University of Florida
Degree Disciplines:
Mental Health Counseling
Counselor Education
Committee Chair:
Smith, Sondra
Committee Members:
Echevarria-Doan, Silvia C.
Clark, Mary Ann
Amatea, Ellen S.
Oakland, Thomas D.
Graduation Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Academic advising ( jstor )
Acculturation ( jstor )
College students ( jstor )
International students ( jstor )
Language ( jstor )
Language barriers ( jstor )
Psychological counseling ( jstor )
Psychological stress ( jstor )
Psychology ( jstor )
Social psychology ( jstor )
Counselor Education -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
international, language, stress
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
born-digital ( sobekcm )
Mental Health Counseling thesis, Ph.D.


This 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. ( en )
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In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
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Includes vita.
Includes bibliographical references.
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Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
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This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 2008.
Adviser: Smith, Sondra.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Jungeun Lee.

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University of Florida
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University of Florida
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Copyright Lee, Jungeun. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.
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664684950 ( OCLC )
LD1780 2008 ( lcc )


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2 2008 Jungeun Lee


3 To all who walk together with me on the road of my life


4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I was blessed to have support from many person s in my life. The beginning of the journey to this work would not have been possible with out the unconditional love of my parents. My husband put me through the journey by standing next to me with his constant encouragement and support. I would like to thank my supervisory chai r, Dr. Sondra Smith, who has gone beyond any expectations that I could have for a supervisory chair. Her wise and compassionate guidance throughout the 6 years of my masters and doc toral studies was unflinching. I especially appreciate her meticulous reading and rereading of my manuscript s offering insight each time. I also thank my supervisory committee for th eir mentoring and the study participants for sharing their precious and inspirational stories.


5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...............................................................................................................4LIST OF TABLES................................................................................................................. ..........8LIST OF FIGURES.........................................................................................................................9ABSTRACT...................................................................................................................................10CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION..................................................................................................................11Background.............................................................................................................................11Statement of the Problem....................................................................................................... .12Conceptual Framework........................................................................................................... 14Theoretical Framework: Constructivism................................................................................ 15Purpose of the Study........................................................................................................... ....16Rationale for the Methodology...............................................................................................17Significance of the Study........................................................................................................18Definition of Terms................................................................................................................192 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE........................................................................................ 22Introduction................................................................................................................... ..........22Acculturation..........................................................................................................................22Acculturation Strategies.................................................................................................. 24Acculturative Stress......................................................................................................... 26Stress and Coping Model of Acculturation.....................................................................28The Role of Language in Acculturation Process............................................................. 29Studies on International St udents Language Barriers........................................................... 30Composition of Language Barriers.........................................................................................34English Language Proficiency Barriers...........................................................................34Communication Barriers................................................................................................. 35Psychological Barriers.....................................................................................................37Environmental Barriers................................................................................................... 39Challenges due to Language Barriers..................................................................................... 40Academic Difficulty........................................................................................................ 40Interpersonal Difficulty...................................................................................................41Psychological Distress..................................................................................................... 433 RESEARCH METHOD.........................................................................................................45Chapter Overview............................................................................................................... ....45Grounded Theory Methods.....................................................................................................45


6 Theoretical Sampling....................................................................................................... 46Stages of Coding..............................................................................................................47Theoretical Memos.......................................................................................................... 48Subjectivity Statement......................................................................................................... ...49Data Collection and Analysis................................................................................................. 51Interview..........................................................................................................................53Participant Demographics............................................................................................... 54Steps of Analysis............................................................................................................. 55Trustworthiness...............................................................................................................56Pilot Study.................................................................................................................... ..........57Participants......................................................................................................................57Data Collection................................................................................................................58Data Analysis...................................................................................................................58Data Story........................................................................................................................59Relevance to Dissertation Research........................................................................................ 604 FINDINGS ..............................................................................................................................61A Theoretical Model...............................................................................................................61Perceived Stressors.................................................................................................................63Time-consuming Nature of Language Barriers............................................................... 63Strong Need for Language Use.......................................................................................65Environmental need for language use...................................................................... 66Limitations in Academic Activities.................................................................................69Immediate Stress Responses................................................................................................... 72Physical Responses..........................................................................................................72Psychological Responses.................................................................................................73Stress-moderating Variables................................................................................................... 75Environmental Variables................................................................................................. 75Psychological Variables.................................................................................................. 78Coping Strategies.............................................................................................................. ......79Cognitive Reframing....................................................................................................... 79Emotional Release........................................................................................................... 82Behavioral Exposure....................................................................................................... 82Adaptation..................................................................................................................... ..........84Better Communicators..................................................................................................... 84Personal Growth..............................................................................................................875 CONCLUSIONS AND I MPLICATIONS............................................................................. 89Introduction................................................................................................................... ..........89Conclusion..............................................................................................................................89Implications................................................................................................................... .........93Counseling Profession.......................................................................................................... ..93Strengths...................................................................................................................... ...........97Limitations and Recommendations for Future Research........................................................ 99


7 APPENDIX A INCLUSION/EXCLUSION CRITERIA FOR THE INITIAL SAMPLI NG....................... 103B PRE-INTERVIEW SCREENING QUESTIONS................................................................. 104C INTERVIEW QUESTIONS (INITIAL)............................................................................... 105D INTERVIEW QUESTIONS (2ND ROUND)...................................................................... 108E EXAMPLE OG THEORETICAL MEMO........................................................................... 110REFERENCES............................................................................................................................111BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.......................................................................................................121


8 LIST OF TABLES Table page Table 3-1 Participants of study......................................................................................................55Table 3-2 Participants of pilot study.......................................................................................... ....58


9 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page Figure 2-1 Stress and copi ng m odel for acculturation................................................................... 29Figure 2-2 Theoretical model for stress and copi ng experiences of international students with language barriers........................................................................................................62


10 Abstract of Dissertation Pres ented 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 stude nts with language barriers in the United States. K nowledge 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 communicate d. In this qualitative study utilizing grounded theory methods, twelve students were interv iewed about their perceptions, emotions, and behaviors during the process from stress, coping, and adaptation. Key finding of the study was a theoretical mode l 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 fr om the data: perceived stressors, immediate psychological and phys ical responses, stress-moderating factors (environmental and psychological), coping strategi es (cognitive reframing, emotional release, and behavioral exposure), and adap tation. The theory presents a th ree phases in a linear order to explain the students stress and coping experiences in conjunct ion 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 num bers of students from many foreign c ountries (Sandhu, 1995). During the 2005-2006 academic year, 564,766 international students co nstituted 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 6th) and the United Kingdom (ranked 11th) are non-English speaking countries (Institute of International Education, 2006). Due to language barriers, students who come from non-English speaking c ountries 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 Un ited States, students from non-English-speaking countries are required to prove their English prof iciency via standardized testing (TOEFL: Test of English as a Foreign Language) as a conditio n 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 (Hei kinheimo & 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, Chri stiansen, & Van Horn, 2002). A positive acculturation and adapta tion process for international students from non-English speaking countries may be facili tated by college counsel ors who are cognizant of these language and communication difficulties, th e 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 need s of international students from non-English speaking countries and to facilitate their academic and personal success in the United States, further description and understa nding of international students unique experiences due to language barrier and its impact on acculturation process is needed. Statement of the Problem Accultur ation refers to changes in values, belie fs, and behaviors that result from sustained contact with a second culture. A lthough refugees and immigrants also experience acculturation, international students face unique stressors and concerns (Johnson & Sandhu, 2007). These students, often classified as sojourners (W ard, Bochner, & Furnham, 2001), must quickly adapt their daily lives to broader United States so cial 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 resu lts from the process of acculturation (Berry, Kim, Minde, & Mok, 1987). Adjustment to a new e nvironment is inherently stressful. Academic pressure, financial difficulty, poor health, loneliness, and interp ersonal conflict are common to both domestic and international students w ho enter a new school (Baker & Siryk, 1986). However, international students may experience more serious alienation than domestic students due to a greater change in cultu re and less access to social and emotional resources (Hechanova-


13 Alampay et al., 2002; Klomegah, 2006; Pedersen, 1991). In addition to th e universal challenges of higher education, many sojourners report a pr ofound sense of loss, anxiety, and feelings of isolation (Brislin & Yoshida, 1994). In contrast with international students who spea k English as their first or official language, sojourners from non-English speaki ng countries add language barrier s 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, 199 7; 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 pro cess of Chinese students despite high TOEFL and GRE scores (Sun & Chen, 1997). Historically, language competence and communi cation behaviors have received attention in research regarding sojourners and immigrants, often from th e perspective of cross-cultural communication (Kim, 1988), social psychology (Berry, 1997), and sociolinguistics (Giles, 1977; Giles & Johnson, 1981). Findings reveal that la nguage 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 broa der immigrant group more often studied in these research fields. Conversely, the counseling field has attended to the affective, beha vioral and cognitive consequences of acculturation for international students (Kagan & Cohen, 1990), including the psychological impact of acculturative stress (Joh nson & Sandhu, 2007) and various qualities that may predict successful adjustment (Hechanova -Alampay et al., 2002). Nonetheless, few


14 researchers have focused on understanding how langua ge barriers affect in ternational students acculturation, nor have they designed counseling in terventions 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 rele vant to acculturation. This study is designed to invest igate the impact of language barriers during on the acculturation process of international students from non-Englis h speaking countries, with special attention to the resulting acculturative stress and how they cope with that stress. Conceptual Framework Earlier studies on accu lturation mainly emphasi zed group differences rather than individual differences; group-level acculturation studies ex amined geographical, biological, political, economic, cultural, and social changes (Be rry, 1994). However, more recent studies on acculturation have shifted the focus to individu al-level changes, thus acknowledging individual differences within the same cultural group. Researchers have investigated psychological (e.g., motives, attitudes, values, abilit ies) and experiential aspects of how individuals learn a new culture and shed their original culture (Berry, 1994). S till, relatively little attention has been given to the pattern and proce ss of adaptive changes in indivi duals (Kim, 1988). For example, the potential for conflict exists when indivi duals 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 Berrys (1997) stress and c oping model of acculturation as a conceptual framework to generate research questions abou t acculturation process of international students with language barriers. Berrys model is a part of the recent trend of indi vidual-level analysis of


15 acculturation and identifies the cultural and psyc hological 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 whic h the individual lives: origin and settlement. Concurrently, the acculturation process includes five phenomena: acculturation experiences (life events), stressors (appraisal of experiences), copi ng (strategies used), stress (immediate effects), and adaptation (long term outcome). Berrys m odel also notes that the five phenomena of acculturation are influenced by moderating fact ors prior to acculturation (e.g., age, gender, migration motivation, cultural distance, personality) and during acculturati on (e.g., length of time, acculturation strategies, social support, societal attitudes). The research questions addressed by this study are closely related to Berrys five phenomena. Theoretical Framework: Constructivism In keeping with the conceptual framework of Be rrys (1997) stress and coping model of acculturation, this study focuses on individual-le vel rather than group-level differences to investigate the acculturation proce ss of international students with language barriers. In order to acknowledge variation in individu al change processes, constructivism will inform this studys 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 c onstructivist paradigm affords an opportunity to examine in detail the complexity of human e xperience as people live, interact, and make meaning within their own social worlds (Appleton & King, 2002). This studys constructivist pe rspective assumes that inte rnational students from nonEnglish speaking countries are active agents w ho create realities a nd meanings surrounding language barriers while studying in the United Stat es. Also, these students actively engage in their acculturation processes by adopting their own accu lturation 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 le vel of English language ability, cross-cultural communication skills, and the qualit ies of interactions with host citizens. During their acculturation process, internati onal students experiences, perceptions, and interpretation of language barriers affect thei r 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 sensemaking representations. The lens of constructi vism helps the researcher understand the variety of created realities and sen se-making representations that international students construct about their individualized acculturat ion processes (Guba & Lincoln, 1994). Purpose of the Study This study aim ed to develop a theoretical mode l to describe the international students stress and coping experiences due to their language barriers. Unde rstanding the core experience of international studen ts 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 Be rrys (1997) stress and coping model of acculturation, this study explored the five sets of phenom ena of international students experiences due to language ba rriers: 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 ex periences, (b) how the students appraise their experiences, (c) what kind of coping strategies they adopt, (d) what imme diate psychological and psychosomatic stress symptoms they experience, a nd (e) what long-term adaptation they achieve.


17 Rationale for the Methodology Although language barriers are cited as the b i ggest 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 experience s 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 ha ve been presented without any guide to implications or meani ng. Systematic efforts to determin e what qualities account for, mediate, or moderate findings in the accu lturation research are rare (Nguyen, 2006). Theories that examine the processes and cont exts of acculturation are needed to provide a deeper understanding of acculturation within th e realm of individual e xperience. The specific context of this study encompasses questions of how international stud ents from non-Englishspeaking countries face and manage language barrier s 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 me thods are a qualitative research approach designed for the systematic generation of theo ry from data (Glaser, 1978). In this study, grounded theory methods will serve as the rese arch method to produce (a) descriptions of language barrier experiences, (b) explanations of how language ba rriers impact the acculturation process, and (c) a theory about relationships betw een language barriers and other related factors. Interrelationships among these factors may be mu ch 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 mem bers, and fello w students better understand how language barriers impede an acculturation pr ocess, create acculturative stre sses, and promote an adaptation of international studen ts from non-English speaking countries they may contribute to a more beneficial academic and social experience for in ternational students. Without this understanding, students who struggle with English may suffer a multitude of acculturation problems. Lack of language proficiency negatively affects numer ous aspects of non-native-English speaking international students academic and social in teraction on United States campuses (HechanovaAlampay 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). Langua ge barriers can also deter international st udents from social interaction with their American peers (Hayes & Lin, 1994) and professional interaction with their professors (Jacob & Greggo, 2001). International students academic and social di fficulties due to their language barriers can also negatively affect their emotional well-being (Leung, 2001). Due to the lowered academic and social self-efficacy, interna tional students may experience a sense of loneliness and social isolation (Jacob & Greggo, 2001); f ear of speaking to native sp eakers of English (Hsieh, 2006; Luzio-Lockett, 1998; Schram & Lauver, 1988); psychological strain such as depression and anxiety (Hechanova-Alampay et al., 2002); and negative selfimage, feelings of shame, humiliation, or inferiority when they perceive th eir English language ability as poor (Barratt & Huba, 1994). In serious cases, international students may devel op 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, langu age barriers are not only simp le linguistic challenges but more complicated phenomena where psychological factors and impacts are closely related with. In this study, such psychologica l aspect of language barriers would be described to enhance our understanding of the dynamics of how internati onal students perceive and deal with their language barriers during the acculturation process in the U.S. With the help of this studys findings, internationa l students and the counselors who help them can prioritize and address common experien tial features of language barriers to lessen acculturative stress. As international students try to overcome thei r language barriers, they would almost certainly benefit from more satisfying cross-cultural communicat ion and interpersonal interactions with United States citizens as well as other inte rnational 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 cultu re; broader worldview or perspect ive; reduction of ethnocentrism, intolerance and stereotypes; in creased cognitive complexity; a nd greater personal awareness, self-esteem, confidence, and creativity (Church, 1982). Conversely, native English-speaking United States citizens may garner similar a dvantages from more positive cross-cultural interactions with international students. Definition of Terms As Ki m (1988) pointed out, differe nt terms are used by different investigators to refer to essentially the same process, and the same terms are defined by differe nt 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 differe nt 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 cu lture. 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 duri ng acculturation, such as lowered mental health status (particularly anxiety, depres sion), feelings of margin ality and alienation, and heightened psychological and psychoso matic 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 possi bly meaning well-adaptation an d mal-adaptation (Berry, 1997). A distinction has been made between psychological and sociocultural adapta tion, with the former referring to a clear personal and cultural identity, good mental h ealth, and personal satisfaction in the new context, and the later referring to so cial skills, culture learning, and other external


21 outcomes that link individuals to their context, su ch as handling daily problems related to school or work (Berry, 1997; Ward & Kennedy, 1993) Adjustment: a term refers to mental-emotional st ate of comfort, satisfaction, and positive attitude of the individual International students: foreign students who came to th e United States to study in degree programs in U.S. higher education institutions. International students with language barrier s: 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 inte rnational students language barrier and its im pact on the acculturati on 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 accu lturation 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 barr iers (academic, interpersonal, psychological distress). Acculturation Although acculturation is now a term comm only used in discussions around immigrants, refugees, and international students, its meani ng 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, referr ing to psychological changes induced by crosscultural imitation. In its simplest sense, accultura tion covers all the changes that arise following contact between individuals and groups of di fferent cultural bac kgrounds. A more formal definition of acculturation was proposed by Re dfield, 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 subs equent changes in the original culture patterns of w ither or both groups (Redfield et al., 1936). Redfield et al.s


23 definition is now regarded as th e classical definition of the con cept and is perhaps the one most cited by acculturation re searchers (Sam, 2006). Sometimes, the term, acculturation, is wrongly used instead of assimilation, as exemplified by an everyday expression such as he is accu lturated to, implying he is very assimilated into. In the past, acculturation was used synonymously with assimilation, meaning a unidimensional, linear process in which indi viduals became assimilated to the host culture through the gradual process of giving up their original cultu ral background. However, more recent conceptualizations, such as Berrys ( 1997) model, suggest that it is possible for individuals to retain their ethnic identity and behaviors whil e acquiring competence in the host culture. Berry (1997) regards assimilation as one of four acculturation stra tegies as individual may use during acculturation and defined it as turni ng ones 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 ps ychological acculturation schools of thought, the framework of Berry (1990, 1997) has received the most attention (Sam, 2006). Berry suggested that the acculturation process proceeds accordi ng to the degree to which the individual simultaneously participates in the cultural lif e of the new society and maintains his or her original cultural identity. The simultaneous pa rticipation and maintenance of the two cultures may lead to four different outcomes which Berry (1997) called assimilation, integration, separation, and marginalizati on. These four outcomes are co llectively referred to as


24 acculturation strategies. Since acculturation is a continuous process, an individual may adopt different strategies at different times, and to deal w ith different life issues. Especially, long-term outcomes is referred to adaptation and it consis ts of two kinds of adaptation: Psychological and sociocultural adaptation (Ward & Kennedy, 1993). Psychological adaptation refers to more subjec tive and internal aspects of ps ychological well-being, satisfaction, and comfort with the new culture. Sociocultura l adaptation refers to a more objective and external aspect of acculturation, involving the in dividuals effectiveness in dealing with the challenges of the new environment and the task s that he or she must complete in that environment (Ward & Kennedy, 1993). While c onceptually distinct psychological and sociological adaptations are empi rically 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 dem ands 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 accult urate 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 st rategies include assimilation, separation, marginalization, and integration. Assimilation is defined as relinquishing ones way of absorbing and moving into the host culture. International students adopting the assim ilation 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 adap tation, 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 resu lt in high level of stre ss and anxiety, low selfesteem, difficulties in work or school, and low mood rating (Ward & Kennedy, 1994). Separation refers to a strategy of segregati ng from the host culture and remaining within relationships primarily from their culture of origin. Internationa l 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 pr oficiency, separation has been associated with various problems, including depression, withdrawal and obsessioncompulsion (Torres-Mastrullo, 1976) as well as somatic symptoms, PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) and alcohol abus e/dependence (Escobar, Randolph, & Puente, 1983). Marginalization is the condition in which in dividuals lose cultur al and psychological contact with both their traditiona l 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 marginalizat ion strategy may face th e highest levels of acculturative stress and greatest risk of psychological maladjustment (Ward & Kennedy, 1994). Integration implies some maintena nce of the cultural integrit y 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 increa singly 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 isolat e oneself from the host culture is associated with greater stress, and that an integration approach is usually th e 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 integrat ion showed high English langua ge proficiency and high peer contacts with both their own et hnic group members and the host na tionals (Berry, Phinney, Sam, & Vedder, 2006). Acculturative Stress The concept of stress has had wide usage in recent psychological a nd m edical literature (Lazarus, 1997). Stress is considered to be a ge neralized physiological and psychological state of the organism brought about by the experiences of stressors in th e environment, which requires some reduction in normal functioning to occur, and then, through a pro cess of coping achieve satisfactory adaptation to the new situation. To deal with problematic aspects of accultu ration, the concept of acculturative stress was proposed by Berry (1970). Acculturative stress is a response by pe ople to life events that are rooted in cross-cultural contact. Frequently, these reactions include heighten ed 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 theoreti cal basis in studies of how people deal with negative experiences by engaging in various coping strategies, lead ing eventually to some form of adaptation (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). The sec ond 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 inte rnational students acculturative stress, in particular, the cultural distance between the host culture and the home culture of international students in terms of cultural practices, langua ge fluency and educational experiences,


27 geographical distance and dissim ilarity between the two culture s (Zhang & Rents, 1996), and physical differences related to skin color and ot her facial features (Be rry, 1997; Poyrazli, Arbona, Bullington, & Pisecco, 2001; Wan, 2001; Ward, 1996) For instance, European international students may adjust more easily to the United St ates because of their Caucasian features and color of their skin, whereas families from Africa, South America, and Asia are distinguishable by their physical features and skin color, and thus may experience subtle discrimination and prejudice that may not facilitate easy adjustment (Berry, 1997; Segal, 1998). Research has indicated that international st udents from non-Western countries experience significantly more adaptation difficulties than th ose from Western countries (Surdam & Collins, 1984). For example, Yeh and Inose (2003) studied a group of interns from Asia and found that Asian international students, compared with their counterparts from Europe, Central/Latin America, and Africa, seemed to experience highe r acculturative stress. This study also found that English fluency, social connectedness, and satisf action with social support were predictive of lower acculturative stress experi enced by international students. In another study, a sample of 274 Chinese, Japanese, and Korean immigrant juni or high and high school students reported that communication difficulties were the most common problem, and the use of social support networks was the most frequently report ed coping strategy (Yeh & Inose, 2002). During international students acculturation process, the amount of cognitive effort required to process information, communicate in a new language and behave appropriately in a new academic, physical, and cultural context can re sult in cognitive fatigue, mental exhaustion, burnout, confusion, and disorientation (Constantine, Kindaichi, & Okazaki, 2005; Mori, 2000; Sandhu & Asrabadi, 1998). When academic and social expectations are not met, negative thoughts about themselves and a sense of inferi ority may begin to dominate their thinking and


28 have unfortunate repercussions such as withdr awal and increased passivity in their social interactions, academic performance, and mood st ates. As these students face demands to speak English, perform academically, and negotiate school, legal, or health care systems, they are likely to experience high levels of acculturative stress (Lafromboise, Coleman, & Gerton, 1993). Stress and Coping Model of Acculturation Two m ain theoretical perspectives on how i ndividuals manage the process of acculturation have received attention in literat ure. One is a stress, coping a nd adaptation approach; the other is the cultural learning perspective (Be rry, 2006; Ward, Bochner, & Furnham, 2001). The cultural learning approach implies that acculturation problems arise because sojourners have difficulties managing everyday social encounters. Therefore, adaptation comes in the form of learning the culture-specific skills that are require d to negotiate the new cultural milieu (Bochner, 1986). In contrast to the cultural learning perspective, the stress, coping and adaptation approach conceptualizes acculturation as a series of stress-provoking life ch anges that draw on adjustment resources and require coping responses. Berry (1997) presented a more explicit and elaborate stress and coping model of acculturation. As can be seen in Figure 2.1, this model highlights stress and features the central flow of life events, appraisal, coping and short and long tern outcomes. These processes are likely to be influenced both by societal and individual level variables. The macro level characteristics of society include social, political, and dem ographic factors, such as ethnic composition, extent of cultural plura lism, and salient attitudes towards ethnic and cultural out-groups. On the micro level, individua l and situational aspect s of acculturation exert influences on stress, coping and adaptation. Berry also distinguished between influences arising prior to and during acculturation. In the first instance, factors su ch as personality or cultural


29 distance may be important; in the second, dur ing the acculturation process, acculturation strategies or social support may be more relevant. Figure 2-1 Stress and coping model for acculturation The Role of Language in Acculturation Process Language com petence has a direct impact on a persons learning and development due to its instrumental value in transmission of information and for regulating cognitive processes (Baker, 2001). As such, its role for learning a nd development during the acculturation process is evident and indisputable. When focusing on direct relationshi p between language proficiency and learning and development, the communicative function of language is emphasized. This communicative function is central to the notion that a persons pr oficiency in the host language is a significant predictor of academic performa nce and social participation (Driessen, 2000). Group acculturation Physical Biological Economic Social cultural Society of origin Political context Economic situation Demographic factors Society of settlement Attitude Social support GROUP LEVEL VARIABLES INDIVIDUAL-LEVEL VARIABLES MODERATING FACTORS PRIOR TO ACCULTURATION Age, gender, education, pre-acculturation Status, migration motiv ation, expectations Cultural distance (language, religion, etc.) Personality (locus of control, flexibility) MODERATING FACTORS DURING ACCULTURATION Phase (length of time) Acculturation strategies: attitudes & behaviors Coping: strategies & recourses Social support Societal attitudes: pr ejudice & discrimination Acculturation Experience Life events Appraisal of Experience Stressors Strategies Used Coping Immediate Effects Stress Long tern Outcomes Adaptation


30 Furthermore, language is instrumental in satis fying basic needs for bonding and security and, as such, also impacts a persons identity de velopment (Vedder & Horenczyk, 2006). Knowledge of the language spoken in the recei ving community plays a central role within the cultural learning process, since language is viewed as the primary medium through which cultural information is communicated. Because language and cultural learning are intimately linked, miscommunications will likely result if inte rnational students do not acquire at least some fundamental verbal skills (Masgoret & Ward, 2006). Studies have found that language fluency has a straightforward relationship to sociocultural adjustment; it is associated with increased interaction with members of the host culture and a decrease in so ciocultural adjustment problem s (Ward & Kennedy, 1993). For this reason, it seems important to examine the role of language barriers in facilitating communication competence, which include both effective and ap propriate communicative behaviors (Spitzberg, 1988). Studies on International St udents Language Barriers There has been recent attention given to th e internationalization (Leong & Ponterroto, 2003) and globalization (Leong & Bl ustein, 2000) of counseling as well as to the issues facing international students as they ad just to institutes of higher ed ucation in the United States (e.g., Komiya & Eells, 2001; Mori, 2000; Tatar & Ho renczyk, 2000). Delgado-Romero, Galvan, Maschino, and Rowland (2005) found over a 10-y ear period (1990-1999) that international students composed 4% of the popul ation in counseling research. This lack of inclusion is problematic because it reflects a lack of focus on international clients. Additionally, DelgadoRomero and colleagues stated th at this finding potentially repr esents a confounding factor in research whereby international research participan ts might be forced into U.S. racial and ethnic categories rather than treated as a separate population. Pederson (1991) also pointed out that


31 research on counseling international students are not supported by a grand theory. In Yoon and Portman (2004)s critical literature review on counseling international stud ents, language barriers were addressed just as one of the personal factors on international students adjustment. Therefore, it might not be surpri sing to find no academic work that has explored the nature of acculturative stress due to language barriers as well as counseli ng interventions specifically designed to address this issue. Language deficits have been found to be a si gnificant source of st ress among international students (Carr, Koyama, & Thiagarajan, 2003; Kh er, Juneau, & Molstad, 2003; Misra & Castillo, 2004; Misra, Crist, & Burant, 2003; Mori, 2000). Carr, et al. ( 2003) claimed that language deficits, a lack of traditional social support, high academic achievement pressure, and financial aid restrictions are a few of the critical stresso rs international students encounter. Therefore, the researchers implemented a support group for Asian in ternational students at a large Midwestern university to help studen ts feel at ease with American university life, address homesickness, language problems, and academic and social stre ssors. Kher, et al. (2003) conducted a case study on one international student's experiences as he undertakes his academic journey at a rural southern university. The author of the case study claimed that language barriers are one of the difficulties they are often unprepared to overcom e. Kagan and Cohen (1990) found that fluency in the English language might have a direct eff ect on the adjustment process of international students. In Jacob and Greggos (2001) study of a collabor ative program for counselor trainees and international students, the issu e of language barriers was addressed. He used a focus group to produce a list of concerns of in ternational students. Specific areas of communication problems due to language barriers can be summarized as following: 1) fear of making mistakes when


32 speaking English, 2) need to have help to practic e the language, 3) feeling left out in class, 4) feeling responsible for initiating contact with U.S. students, 5) difficulty speaking with or talking to university faculty members, and 6) difficulty to work on a group project. According to Yeh and Inose (2003), English lan guage proficiency is related to levels of stress for international students. In partic ular, those students w ho have strong language proficiency in English reported less stress in ad justing to the new culture. A higher level of language proficiency, that is, frequency of us e, fluency, and degree of comfort using the language, may reduce the stress some international students have hen engaging in conversations with U.S. students. Barratt and Huba (1994) claimed that intern ational students who have a high level of English proficiency experience less embarrassmen t and are less self-conscious about their accent or ethnic background. They also asserted that higher levels of English proficiency help international students in the academic setting beca use they are more likely to speak in class and participate in discussions. One British study stands out in the area of in ternational students psychological distress due to their experiencing of language barriers. Luzio-Lockett (1998) ar gued that language restrictions hamper confidence in the speaker. Thus, this emotional strain in turn takes over the control of ones linguistic expressions and di minishes communication. International students may experience psychological distress such as fee ling of being frustrated, humiliated, rejected, incompetent or inferior, as they cannot expres s themselves and the dominant language is the way in which one can represent academic knowledge. As language barriers interact with academic proficiency, students might face concomitant proble ms like lack of confid ence, negative self-


33 concept, low self-efficacy, and fear of using Eng lish, which eventually can lead them to avoid communication in English. Despite psychological distress due to language barriers, intern ational students are unlikely to seek out counseling or ps ychological services (Pedersen, 1991; Yi, Lin, & Kishimoto, 2003; Zhang & Dixon, 2001). Several factors may account for this, including a lack of familiarity with mental health services or counseling, stigma associated with psychological symptoms, cultural beliefs regarding the nature of symptoms and what constitutes appropriate help-seeking, and a misbelieve that counseling services are only for U.S. students. When counseling is sought, international students tend to have a higher no-sh ow rate after the first session compared with their U.S. counterparts (Anderson & Myers, 1985). One reason for international students underuse of counseling services may be the type of counseling that is available (Johnson & Sandhu, 2007). Typical counseling sessions use a direct style of communication to identify and addre ss personal problems with a professional who is usually a stranger. This format may be very foreign to international students coming from cultures with more indirect styles or those that rely on familiar social and religious supports, such as community leaders, family members, prie st, Imams, or Shamans, for addressing such problems (Johnson & Sandhu, 2007). Another reason for the underuse of counse ling services by international students is language barriers. Communicating in English is difficult for any person who is not a native English speaker. Even in counties where Engl ish is the predominant secondary language individuals generally pref er to speak in their native langua ge. Discussing complex emotional and relationship issues in language other than the primary one can be difficult even for the most confident of individuals whose second language is English (Pope, Singaravelu, Chang, Sullivan,


34 & Murray, 2007). The third reason can be the lack of availabi lity of culturally competent counselors (Delgado-Romero & Sanabria, 2007). It cannot confidently be concluded that international students are averse to therapy in general when many lack access to bilingual and bicultural counselors with an international pe rspective who are competent to understand and work with the issues pr esented by these students. University counseling centers mi ght work with various campus departments, including the department of international stud ent affairs, to help develop peer programs fo r international students if one is not availa ble (Yeh & Inose, 2003). Like wise, Jacob and Greggo (2001) recommended that counseling centers consider developing alternative counseling programs, similar to peer programs, that would have gra duate-level counselors work with international students in non-counseling environments. A less formal style of counseling may help international students feel comfortable while he lping graduate-level c ounseling students develop a higher level of multicultural awareness. Composition of Language Barriers The concept of language barriers can be exam ined in detail by analyzing its key elements. Although factors related to language barriers ov erlap functionally, are interdependent, and operate simultaneously, the factor s serve the present purpose of id entifying elements that are crucial in international stude nts language barriers. English Language Proficiency Barriers International students from non-English speaki ng countries enter into the new linguistic world of English as second language learners. This world is differe nt than their native world. In som e cases (e.g., with Korean or Japanese stud ents), acquiring English as a second language requires an opposite cognitive process to produce words in a sentence. English language has word order that follows sequence of subject, verb and object; Koreans or Japanese language has


35 a word order that follows the sequence of subject, object and verb. So, "I li ke you" in English is "I you like" in Korean in terms of word order in a sentence (Lee & Carrasquillo, 2006). Due to this difference in the language-thinking proce ss, English language is often difficult for international students to master (Reid, 1997). Having an accent can also distort effective communication (Lacina, 2002). It is not uncommon to hear international students from non-English speaking countries report that they only understand a small portion of classroom lectures and discussions and, because of that, leave school everyday frustr ated and exhausted. Language barriers have a significant impact on the students adjustment as effective communication is required in almost every aspect of their new e xperiences in the United States (Sheu & Fukuyama, 2007). Many universities provide ESL classes to assist with any language barriers that these students may face (Engel, Insalaco, Singara velu, & Kennon, 2007). Counselors may find it is helpful to be a coach who encourages internat ional students to make mistakes in speaking English in order to improve their lan guage proficiency (Sheu & Fukuyama, 2007). Communication Barriers Language learning and the acquisi tion of broader communication skills are at the heart of cross-cultural effectiveness. Language proficiency and communication com petence underpin effective cross-cultural relations, and increa sed contact with member s of the host culture reciprocally reinforces and improves communica tion skills. Language, communication and social interaction skills, along with a wider knowledge of norms a nd values, all contribute to sociocultural adaptation (Masgoret & Ward, 2006). Although cultures may vary in general, Northe rn European and English-speaking societies tend to be individualis tic, whereas Asian, African, Latin Am eican, and Islamic societies are collectivistic. This social construction influe nces social relationsh ip, and interpersonal


36 communication patterns widely (Chen, Brockner, & Chen, 2002) Students from collective cultural backgrounds may prioritize close relationship and may feel confused when interacting with U.S. students who tend to emphasize aspects of individualism (e.g. independence, assertiveness, and self-relian ce). Consequently, many internati onal students perceive social relationships in the US culture to be rather s uperficial (Cross, 1995) and may feel disappointed and discouraged with their interp ersonal relationships while in the U.S. (Mori, 2000). However, international students may not necessarily feel th at way if they were better informed of the differences between their culture and U.S. culture. European international student s are less likely to experience acculturative distress than students from the geographic regions of Asia, A frica, and Latin/Central America (Yeh & Inose, 2003). Since many U.S. cultural valu es are based on European norms (Carter, 1991) international students from Europe may experi ence less contrast in cultural patterns of behavior and value systems, as well as language, allowing for a sm oother communication with Americans in their daily interactions. Cross-cultural communication competence require s more than the learning of a language, and competent communication requires the learner to face a number of challenges (Masgoret & Ward, 2006). For example, social pragmatic differences can lead to breakdowns in communication. Thus, although language fluency is a significant part of communication, nonverbal forms of communication ar e also salient in the crosscultural communication process (Masgoret & Ward, 2006). There are numerous aspects of nonverbal communication, including activities such as culture-specific gestures, display of gaze, adapta tion of preferred body gest ure, the expression of emotions and the performance of ritualized rou tines such as greetings and leave-takings. Such


37 nonverbal acts often carry implicit messages that define the nature of relationships within a culture, and these messages can va ry widely across cu ltures. In many ways, learning nonverbal forms of communication can presen t a bigger challenge to international students than achieving language fluency since it is often difficult to acquire the heuristic knowledge that is embedded within a culture (Masgoret & Ward, 2006). B ecause nonverbal behaviors are essential to effective cross-cultural communicat ion, it is important that they are in accordance with cultural expectations. Indeed, experimental research on cross-cultural interaction has shown that culturally congruent nonverbal behaviors are a more powerful predictor of interpersonal attraction than ethnic ity (Dew & Ward, 1993). Psychological Barriers Language proficiency and communication capacity com es, in part, from self-confidence (Yeh & Inose, 2003). Second langua ge confidence refers to ones belief in being able to communicate in an adaptive and efficient manner when using the second language (Clement & Bourhis, 1996). Language restric tions have been found to hamper self-confidence in the speaker (Luzio-Lockett, 1998). Thus, emotional strain im pedes ones control of linguistic expression and diminishes communications. Intern ational students could experien ce psychological distress such as frustration, humiliation, rejection, incompeten ce, or inferiority when they are unable to express themselves in ways that best repres ent their knowledge. Because of their language difficulties, they might face problems due to lack of confidence, negative self-concept, low selfefficacy, and fear and avoidance of speaking English. Related research has identified the goal of achie ving effective cross-cultural interactions as an important predictor of language motivation and proficiency. For ex ample, studies have demonstrated that an individuals success in learning the language of the host culture is


38 influenced by their willingness to communicate with members of that culture (MacIntyre, Dornyei, Clement, & Noels, 1998). Self-reported (perceived) Englis h language fluency predicts acculturative stress (Yeh & Inose, 2003). Specifically, internat ional students with a higher frequency of language use and high language fluency level feel more comfortabl e speaking English, and de velop lower levels of acculturative distress. Internati onal students with higher levels of English language fluency are related to be less embarrassed and less self-c onscious about their foreign accent or ethnic background. They may be able to interact more confidently in their daily lives (e.g., asking questions, asking for help, ordering food). In add ition, those who reported hi gher level of English language fluency acknowledge that they perfor m at higher levels in some academic classes because they feel more comfor table participating in class discussions. Yeh and Inoses (2003) research suggests that the ways in which inte rnational students perceive and feel comfortable with their English language fluency significantly influences their acculturative stress and academic performance. A focus group used to produce a list of concerns of international students identified five dimensions, one of which was communication-re lated language barriers (Jacob & Greggo, 2001). Specific areas of communication problems due to language barriers included fear of making mistakes when speaking English, need to have help practicing the language, feeling left out in class, feeling responsible for in itiating contact with U.S. studen ts, difficulty speaking with or talking to university facu lty members, and difficulty working on a group project. Implicitly underpinning factors of internati onal students English language confidence are the past communicative experiences and future expectations held by the immigrants or sojourners. A study by Clement, Dornyei, a nd Noels (1994) has proposed that language


39 confidence, along with subsequent language achie vement, is a function of the frequency and quality of contact require not only the willingness of the newcomer to communicate with members of the host culture, but also the wil lingness of host nationals to interact with newcomers (Smart, Volet, & Ang, 2000). Environmental Barriers Non-acceptance by the d ominant culture and the complexity of living in two cultures may lead these students to feel marginalized and alienated and to experience a sense of identity confusion and intrapsychologi cal conflict (Chitt ooran & Sankar-Gomes, 2007). Because international students may experience initial difficu lties adapting to the host social culture, there may be a tendency to stay within their own natio nality and language group s as a response to a non-accepting environment. Unfortunately, some U.S. citizens may see this behavior as international students isolating themselves ra ther than a normal and expected reaction to unfamiliar surroundings. Optimally, the focus should be on improving the environment for international students rather than bl aming the victim (Yoon & Portman, 2004). Three basic conditions impact la nguage learning are exposure to the language, interaction with other people or written language, and the need to communicate (Littlewood, 1992). International students need to communicate, but they sometimes experience negative interaction with host citizens due to others insensitivity and lack of support. Negative responses or inconspicuous rejections of native English speakers to international students different accents or choice of words, errors, or failures in communi cating in English directly cause international students to experience sh ame, frustration, or sense of infe riority. Therefore, fundamental and common reasons for environmental barriers include the unintentional insensitivity of host citizens university personnel wh ich cause experiences of embarra ssment or frustration due to rather than international students lack of English proficiency itself.


40 In one study, a training workshop for library staff was designed to help them communicate effectively with international students (G reenfield, Johnston, & Williams, 1986). Similar communication-based programs and othe r types of help for U.S. stude nts, staff, and faculty could be made available on campus. It is critical that individuals within host cult ures are also prepared to provide the appropriate assi stance to reduce stress for international students. Therefore, university counseling centers ca n work with various campus departments, including the department of international stud ent affairs, to help develop university staffs cross-cultural communication skills and competence. Challenges due to Language Barriers Academic Difficulty Academ ically international students experience difficulties with completing essay examinations and note taking during lectures due to limited la nguage proficiency (Deressa & Beavers, 1988; Parr, Bradley, & Bingi, 1992). International students also have academic concerns that include unders tanding and comprehending the grading system, how to select course work, writing and speaking in English, and adjusting to the American classroom climate (Lin, 2000). University professors have reported that thei r international students had great difficulty with listening comprehension, responding to que stions, and class part icipation (Sun & Chen, 1997). Interaction between teacher and students in an academic classroom situation includes formal, planned lecture material, informal que stions or comments from the students, and unplanned responses to students by the professor. During these give -and-take activities, students are expected to perform multiple tasks that may pose formidable challenges for international students.


41 Chinese students often report low confidence in English abilities particularly with listening, speaking, writing, pronunciation, and vocabulary (Huang, 2006). Their low confidence affects the amount of class lectures Chinese students believe they can understand. A total of 92.3% of the participants reported having challenges in understanding academic lectures (Huang, 2006). Therefore, the limited research available suggests that the perception and degree of comfort international students have with their level of En glish fluency influences their acculturative stress and academic performance. Language barriers and adjusting to a different educational system can result in students receiving lower grades than expected, leading to a loss of academic self-efficacy, which in turn lower general adjustment (Poyrazli, Arbona, No ra, McPherson, & Pisecco, 2002). International students may not fully understand the U.S. edu cational system. They ma y have to adapt to differences regarding the grading system, expectations about class attendance, student-faculty interactions, selecting course s, and learning relevant study skills. Understa nding lectures, deciphering instructor expectati ons, expressing opinions in cla ss discussions, answering essay questions, writing research papers, and findi ng a supportive advisor re quires a cultural and language know-how and sophistication that many in ternational students do not possess (Charles & Steward, 1991; Meyer, 1995; Mori, 2000; Parr, Bradley, & Bingi, 1992). Interpersonal Difficulty Students ab ility to communicate in the host cult ure further complicates their adjustment to the loss of social support incurred by moving to a new country. Not surprisingly, ones English proficiency influence ones social interaction and adjustment (Pedersen, 1991; Schram & Lauver, 1988; Surdam & Collins, 1984). International students who report higher confidence in using English upon arriving in the US adapted better (Hayes & Lin, 1994). Ther efore, international


42 students inability to speak English fluently may increase their social isolation and hinder their ability to obtain more social support in U.S. society. International students find that the difficulty in communication permeates every aspect of their lives (Kher, et al., 2003; Mori, 2000). Because of the langua ge impairment, students may experience social alienation. The lack of language skills also affects th e students daily living activities, including understan ding housing procedures, orga nizing paperwork, and becoming familiar with registration and enrollment schedules (Kher, et al., 2003). Some international students may have minimal contact with the host cu lture outside of the a cademic setting, either because of a lack of opportunity or because of an inability or unwillingness to step out of their comfort zone, especially if lack of fluency in the English language is an issue (Chittooran & Sankar-Gomes, 2007). Language skills are relevant to the performa nce of daily tasks and are important in establishing interpersonal relati onships in a foreign country as they affect the quality and quantity of cross-cultural interactions. Few studies, however, ha ve focused specifically on the relationship between variables related to second language acq uisition and culture learning, though a number of researchers have suggested that ones level of proficiency or fluency in the language of the host country is associated with general adaptation to the new culture. This relationship has been often attributed to the newc omers increased ability to use the language in interactions with members of the receiv ing culture (Gullahorn & Gullahorn, 1966). Li and Gasser (2005) studied th e cross-cultural self-efficacy of international students from 17 Asian countries and found that increased interaction with othe r American students facilitated international students sociocultural adjustment process by assis ting international students to develop local network, understand the local culture, and acquire social skills necessary for


43 adjustment to the new culture. Li and Gasser ( 2005) recommended that international students engage in cross-cultural social interactions, watch their peers pe rformances in social contexts, solicit feedback and encouragement for thei r own performances and focus on their own performance instead of their emotional arousal in social interactions to enhance their selfefficacy. Psychological Distress Being imm ersed in a foreign culture, la nguage and communication styles can cause international students substantia l psychological distress. The severity of the language barriers become exacerbated when international students f ace the insensitivity of native-English speakers. Because international students us ually are sensitive to their la nguage inadequacies and have a high desire to be accepted by their professors and p eers, their full participation in classes often is difficult. They feel inferior because their Englis h is not as good as native-born students and fear native-born faculty and students will not understa nd them (Robertson, Line, Jones, & Thomas, 2000). As a course of action, international students tend to increa se anxiety and fear of speaking with or to them or may feel le ft out of the conversation, especi ally when others speak quickly. Accumulation of these unpleasant experiences may cause psychologi cal disturbance and somatic symptoms (Lacina, 2002). Thus, language barriers ar e a main concern as they are often identified as one of the predictors of adjustment satisfa ction (Surdam & Collins, 1984; Yeh & Inose, 2002; Yeh & Inose, 2003). In other words, the more language barriers inte rnational students experience, the less satisfaction they report duri ng their acculturation process. As stress accumulates, the ability to cope or readjust can be overtaxed, depleting their physical or psychological resource s (Misra & Castillo, 2004). In turn, there is an increased probability that physical illness or psychological distress will follow (Misra & Castillo, 2004;


44 Misra, Crist, & Burant, 2003; Yang & Clum, 1994). Excessive stress may induce physical impairments, and it is not uncommon to find intern ational students afflicted with lack of energy, loss of appetite, headaches, or gastrointestinal problems (Misra & Castillo, 2004; Mori, 2000). In addition, some international students may somaticize their feelings of stress to avoid the stigma of seeking psychological assistance (Cox & Walsh, 1998; Misra & Castillo, 2004). As such, international students use college health centers more frequently than American students do for stress-related problems (Ca rr et al., 2003; Mori, 200).


45 CHAPTER 3 RESEARCH METHOD Chapter Overview The purpose of this study was to describe a nd understand the stress and coping experiences of international students with language barriers during their acculturation process in the U.S. and to take critical steps tow ard generating a theory to explain the process of stress, coping, and adaptation that international students may undergo to deal with their language barriers. Grounded theory methods were used to pursue the research purpose. This chapter is organized into four prim ary sections: description of grounded theory methods, subjectivity statement, data collection a nd analysis process, and pilot study. The section on the method description reviews critical el ements of grounded theory methods such as theoretical sampling, stages of coding, theore tical memo. The second section, subjectivity statement, presents the resear chers own knowledge and experien ces of language barriers to reveal possible bias and predispositions. The process section describe s sampling, participant demographics, data collection proce dures, steps of analysis, and effo rts to ensure trustworthiness. The final section addresses the pilot study and its rele vance to the current study. Grounded Theory Methods Grounded theory m ethodology, as put forth by Glaser and Strauss (1967) and Glaser (1978), employs research procedures that permit th e fusion of empirical observations and theory generation. That is, grounded theory methodology is a way of conceptualizing data as the essential elements from which theory evolves. Glaser (1978) states: Grounded theory is a detailed grounding by syst ematically analyzing data sentence by sentence by constant compassion as it is coded un til a theory results. The result is that all data is conceptualized into categor ies and integrated into a theory.


46 Using grounded theory methods, a researcher becomes the primary instrument of data collection and analysis, and the researchers theoretical sensitivity allows him or her to develop theory grounded based on the data (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). Grounded theory data analysis is fueled by a constant comparative method (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) that can be described as comparative analysis (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). An inductive analytical process is used to form a c onstant interplay between data collection and data analysis. Using this microanalysis method, th e researcher continua lly makes theoretical comparisons between and within data, incidents, indicators, contexts, concepts, codes, and categories to delineate the dimensions, propertie s, and variations of each different condition (Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Strauss & Corbin, 1998) The use of constant comparative methods allow one to describe the different dimensions or properties of the developing concepts and categories and to analyze the similarities and differences within and between concepts and categories (Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Strauss & Corbin, 1998). Theoretical Sampling In qualita tive research, participants are to be recruited using purposeful, selective sampling methods (Glesne, 1999; Kruzel, 1999) because the focus is not on finding truth and generalization but deeper understanding of phenomenon and transferability (Patton, 2002). Sampling in grounded theory methods is guided by the emerging categories and themes in a process called theoretical sampling (Charmaz, 2006; Strauss & Corbin, 1998). Theoretical sampling is flexible and therefore is not determ ined rigidly before beginning the research to allow for maximum comparisons between concepts that emerge from the analysis and to encourage creativity (Charmaz, 2006; Strauss & Corb in, 1998). As a result, criteria for selecting participants may change as categor ies emerge from analysis of da ta and interview questions will become more refined with each interview.


47 Therefore, the use of sampling and analys is methods in the grounded theory methods occurs simultaneously and continues until no new information emerges, a point called theoretical saturation (Charmaz, 2006; Stra uss & Corbin, 1998). According to Strauss and Corbin (1998), Saturation is more a matter of reaching the point in the research where collecting additional data seems counterproductive; the new that is unco vered does not add that much more to the explanation at this time (p.136). Theoretical comparisons use evidence reflecti ng similarities, differences, and/or varying degrees of the observed incidents properties as tools to better understa nd the data (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). For example, after initially interviewing five international students with language barriers, this researcher may compare and contra st the participants, relying on the data guide these comparisons. Furthering this example, if results of preliminary data analysis indicate that previous experience with native-English speakers emerges as an important issue related to the degree of language barriers they experience, then the researcher may group my participants into two categories: experienced and inexperienced in ternational students. Then, the researcher may examine the implications for them to have and not have previous experience with nativeEnglish speakers and how students in each group feel, think and/or act. This theoretical comparison process may lead to further theory constr uction or further drive data collection. Stages of Coding In grounded theory analysis, data are coded dur ing three phases: open, axial, and selective (Glaser, 1978; Glaser & Strau ss, 1967; Strauss & Corbin, 1998). Each phase has specific goals aim ed at developing emerging themes, processes, relationships, and dimensions of the theory (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). Open coding: Open coding refers to the process of acquiring a better understanding of the data without benefit of a specific theore tical orientation. When conducting opening coding,


48 the researcher is intere sted in starting to ground the data by broadly coding each data source, proceeding line-by-line, constantly comparing th e basic codes and properties of the codes, and moving beyond the concrete to the more abstract a nd generalizable concepts reflected in the data (Glaser, 1978; Glaser & Strau ss, 1967; Strauss & Corbin, 1998). Axial coding: After completing open-codi ng the interview transcri pt, a researcher groups the open codes based on the nature of their pe rceived relationship and forms higher level of categories (axial codes). This immediate level of data analysis process helps a researcher make connections between and within emerging categor ies to specify the ca tegories dimensions, properties, and ranges (Glaser, 1978; Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Strauss & Corbin, 1998). During axial coding, a researcher is concerned with examining the phenomenon of study structure (context) and process (a ctions/interactions over time and their consequences) (Charmaz, 2006; Strauss & Corbin, 1998). Selective coding. In selective coding, th e axial codes are grouped into a theoretical structure that enables us to form new explanatio ns about the nature of the phenomena (Strauss & Corbin, 1998, p.103). The goal of se lective coding is to incorporat e all categorical dimensions, properties, and relationships, thus leading to the development of a cohesive theory validated by further data collection and comparison (Charmaz, 2006; Strauss & Corbin, 1998). Theoretical Memos Glaser (1978) defines theoretical m emos as the theorizing write-up of ideas about codes and their relationships as they strike the analyst while coding (p.83). Theoretical memos in grounded theory are analytic reflections from the researcher when coding, comparing, and developing a theory (Charmaz, 2006; Strauss & Corbin, 1998). They are meant to capture the ideas stimulated by the data, not to describe the data. A research er records whatever ideas that


49 may serve to clarify the concepts, an incident in the data, countere xamples to an incident, and the relationship of the researchers id eas to the ideas of others. Theoretical memos have four different functi ons: to work with ideas, allow freedom of thoughts, develop a memo bank, and sort the memo bank (Glaser, 1978). When using theoretical memos, the researcher may conceptualize ideas from the data, explore relationships between and within categories, and integrate the different ideas and categories. When writing memos, the researcher should maintain an open mind and not judge what he or she is writing to keep the ideas flowing. Subjectivity Statement A qualitativ ely oriented researcher never is separated from the study (Lincon & Cuba, 1985). Admitting up front that research is presented as interpretations of the data and that the researcher is an instrument of data collection and analysis seems to be a hallmark of qualitative research (Patton, 2002). Because biases never can be set aside fully, a researchers own rooted knowledge, experience, and insights seep in. Qualitative inquiry of ten produces unique interpretations of what is studied. Such unique in terpretations are highly valued in qualitative inquiry because their use may uncover the comple xities of the studied phenomenon and provide introspective and critical explana tions. However, the researchers bias and predispositions based on his or her knowledge and experiences also ma y mislead data interpre tation and understanding about the phenomenon. The subjectiv ity inherent in this process pos es potential th reats that may weaken the quality of the study. Thus, a research ers subjectivity, including personal experiences and beliefs, should be stated in order to he lp minimize such influences. Such subjectivity statements help readers understand the researcher s position and viewpoints toward international students with language barriers. Researcher s ubjectivity is stated in the following section.


50 The researcher of the proposed study is an Asian female, 34 years of age, with a background in mental health counseling. I am an international student w ho came to the United Stated five years ago to pursue a doctoral degree, at which time I began my own process of acculturation. When I began my doctoral study, language barriers hit me as the first and foremost challenge. When recalling my firs t year, I can summarize it as a nxiety and headaches. In class, my body always was tense resulting from my ef forts to understand what my professors and classmates were saying. Participation in discussion was only a dream because I understood dialogues more slowly than nativ e English-speaking students. Some times I had something to say but I missed the timing while translating my t houghts into English. Then others moved onto a different issue. After hours of class, I felt exha usted and had headaches probably because of an over-load of brain functions and tension. I also felt alone and left behind. In later years, I became a better English speaker as a result of a lot of help and patience from faculty and fellow students and exposure to the English language. However, I continued to experience difficulty presenting myself in an ar ticulate and expressive manner in academic and interpersonal settings. My f ear of making mistakes in front of people kept me from communicating with others. Moments were very embarrassing and dreadful when I tried to say something but what I said didnt make any sens e due to grammar errors or awkward use of vocabulary. My individual supervisor in the second year told me th at I looked like a deer in the headlight to describe that I looked alert all th e time. The experiences were very frustrating and tiring experience. Most of all, they adversely affected my academ ic self-efficacy and self-image as a student. My interactions with other inte rnational students I met in class or support groups outside of classroom lead me to the belief that many intern ational students also were under stress due to


51 language barriers. I also observed that some inte rnational students were actively participating despite their language barriers. Although they made mistakes and had a strong accent, they focused on the messages they wanted to deliver. I became more curious about language barriers as I observed different attitudes th at international students showed as to their language barriers. Because of my vivid experiences of suffering and limitations due to language barriers as an international student, I became anew to the im portance of language just like we do not acknowledge the importance of air every moment we breathe until it is taken away. After experiencing my language barriers, I view langua ge as a key instrument for structuring my thinking process and expressing who I am. As Bern stein (1971) states, La nguage is one of the most important means of initiating, synthesizing, and reinforcing ways of thinking, feeling and behavior which are functionally rela ted to the social group (p.43). Therefore, language has power, in part, because it carries information and is essential for participation in all social sett ings. This is not a new idea to communication and sociolinguistic specialists. Saville-Troike (1989) stated that one of the most important general functions of language is to regulate boundaries between a nd among people. This idea was called the boundary functions of language. That is, langu age regulates interac tion by unifying its speakers as members of a single speech comm unity, and excluding outsiders from intragroup communication (p.14). Internat ional students with language barriers may feel excluded and marginalized due to these boundary functions of language. Data Collection and Analysis Sampling Using grounded theory m ethods, the total numbe r in the sample is determined based on theoretical sampling until the rese archer reaches the point of theoretical saturation. Twelve participants were recruited throughout two rounds of sampling procedures until I found no new


52 information or questions concerning internationa l students language ba rriers and stress and coping experience during the acculturation process. Initial open sampling included six participan ts through criterion sampling (Kruzel, 1999). Criterion sampling involves selecting participants who meet some outlined criteria. Since the purpose of this study is to investigate the experien ces of international students from non-English speaking countries in terms of language barriers, the criteria ar e set in terms of three major categories: demographic criteria, perceived English use criteria, pe rceived stress level criteria. The ideal participant was an international students from non-English speaking countries, excluding international students from the c ountries whose first language (e.g., England, Australia) or official language (e.g., India, Pakistan) is English a nd is enrolled for at least two years in the U.S. higher education institutes to purs ue a bachelors, masters, or doctoral degree. In addition, she or he would have perceived their stress experiences due to language barriers and believe that they have overcome their language ba rriers. Gender, age, race, or culture were not considered at this stage of initial sampling. Th e complete inclusion-exclusion criteria are found in Appendix A. Base on the inclusion-exclusion criteria, pre-interview qu estions were developed to discern the appropriateness of the participants. The pre-inte rview questions are found in Appendix B. The analysis of the data from the initial sampling yielded new questi ons in regards with major studies of participants. Six initial part icipants expressed different degrees of stress experiences and perceived pressure from de mand in English language use depending on the fields of their major studies: strong expressi ons for stress and pre ssure by students from education and social science st udy and mild expressions by studen ts from engineering, science, and music. Some participants pointed out during th eir interviews that international students with


53 language barriers from a certain field may require a higher leve l of language ability for an academic success than other fields. Thus, the se cond round of sampling focused on international students with language barriers from the fields of education and social sciences in order to expand the data. Sampling criterion for this step was the same as initial sampling criterion with the added condition of their field of study. Another six participants were recruited for the second round. The initially sampled participants were recruited via email (international students list serve). Then, to find participants who met all cr iteria, each internati onal student who showed interest in participating was contacted individually to obtain information regarding the inclusion criteria via email or in person. The quest to find information-rich cases for the second round participants lead to my using insider knowledge of the participants degree programs to select participants whom I felt had a lot to contribute to my study. Th e researcher visited targeted department offices to contact st udent coordinators, student pres idents, or faculty members to attain recommendations or referrals to possibl e candidates. The target ed departments included sociology, anthropology, criminology, law, education, and communications. All relevant University of Florida IRB regulations were followed precisely duri ng the recruitment and interview process. Interview Individual interviews were us ed to c ollect data. Intervie ws were semi-structured, with each beginning with pre-prepared questions and intended probes, but were not limited to these questions. Questions were adaptable to the chan ging conditions of the interview process. Thus, their exact wording sometimes c ould be altered, some questions were not used, and other questions were added extemporaneously. The in terview process was mostly participant-guided and took about 60 ~ 80 minutes. The main intent of the interviews was to encourage participants


54 to discuss their percep tions, beliefs, and thoughts about stress and coping experiences due to language barriers in the U.S. higher education institute. The interview questions were intended to explore the following elements: general experience using English in the beginning of their study in the United States, immediate psychological and/or physical responses, thoughts and feelings rela ted to any difficulties, coping strategies to overcome the difficulties, barriers faced in coping, a nd the indication of adaptations. The initial interview questions are listed in Appendix C and the second round interview questions are in Appendix D. These questions ar e designed to elicit two types of information. First, information was gathered concerning participants memories about incidents involving stress experiences of language barriers and coping strategies that they have adopted. Second, information regarding the partic ipants perception and belief s about language barriers was gathered. Participant Demographics Table 3-1 su mmarizes the demographic qualiti es of the total sample. They will be identified and referred to by pseudonyms only to protect the identity of study participants. All participants chosen for this st udy were international st udents at the University of Florida, a university located in the s outheastern with a student population of approximately 50,000 enrolling annually. The initial participants voluntarily re sponded to the email recruitment while the second round participants were contacted by the res earch after their colleagues or faculty members made referrals. All participants have met the inclusion-excl usion criteria. All pa rticipants presented themselves as international st udents from non-English speaki ng countries who suffered from challenges due to language barriers to find a way to cope with stress. When recollecting their memory in the beginning of the study, all reported most difficulty in listening, speaking, and


55 writing. Reading also was an overwhelming task due to the length of reading assignments. They perceived language barriers as a source of stress despite of differe nt degree of stress experiences. They also believed that they have coped with the stress to overcome language barriers and were willing to share their successful coping stories. In the table 3-1, the first 6 were participants for the open-initial sampling and the remaini ng 6 were for the second round sampling. Table 3-1. Participants of study. Participant Gender Agerange Major Country of origins Years studied in the U.S. Anne Female 35-40 Chemistry China 2 Bob Male 30-35 Ecology Bolivia 3 Chris Male 30-35 Environmental engineering Taiwan 3 Danny Male 25-30 Physics China 2 Emily Female 35-40 Education Korea 2 1st round interview Fran Female 20-25 Music Japan 3 Grace Female 25-30 Advertising Taiwan 2 Henry Male 25-30 Criminology Thailand 3 Irene Female 30-35 Sociology Taiwan 4 James Male 30-35 Anthropology China 2 Kate Female 30-35 Law Japan 3 2nd round interview Lauren Female 25-30 CommunicationsKorea 2 Steps of Analysis Interview data were audio-taped and transcribe d. The transcripts from each participant were 35~45 pages long. After the transcription process, the researcher again read the interview transcripts to do open-coding by paragraph. All the open-codes for each participant were compared and contrasted to generate conceptual categories. The first round data collection and analysis produced one comprehensive list of open-codes. After labeling the open codes, the codes were analyzed in terms of their relationships to each other and clustered into broader, mutually exclusive categories for identifying axial codes and selective codes. The data from the second round of data collection were also audio-taped and transcribed, with transcripts a similar length as the first round. Then the second phase of data wa s open-coded to generate axial and selective


56 codes. The researcher continued writing memos about the data to record her thoughts on similarities and differences of the data. Then, the researcher integrated the two different data sets from the different data collections and ended up w ith the final data list of 373 open codes, 22 axial codes, and 5 selective codes. Theoretical memoing throughout the data analysis process produced hand-written memos in a quantity of a legal pad and helped the researcher find relationships between open and axial codes and to draft diff erent illustrations for a theoretical model. Trustworthiness Researchers create trustwort hy qualitative work by m aking thei r methods of data collection and analysis transparent and s howing how they arrived at th eir conclusions. Creswells (1998, p.201-203) methods for creating trus tworthy and transparent res earch are numbered below. These methods can be implemented in the fo llowing manner: 1) triangulation, using multiple sources, theories, investigators, or methods to de velop conclusions, 2) peer review and debriefing, 3) inclusion of subjectivity statement, 4) memb er checking, participants reviewing transcripts and providing feedback for accuracy. Throughout the data collection and analysis process, three methods among four listed above were utilized by the resear cher to increase the trustworth iness. The subjectivity statement was presented in the earlier section in this chap ter. After completing th e transcription and open coding process, member checking was followed so that participants could confirm, question, or refute the researchers interpre tation of the data and understanding of the contents and contexts that participants were desc ribing in the interview. Afte r hypothesizing the components of emerging theory during axial and se lective coding, this researcher adopted a peer review process by sharing the findings from the data with a gr oup of other internati onal students who had not participated in this study, as well as with one college counsel or, and one faculty member who offered academic language courses for international students.


57 Pilot Study A pilot study was conducted using the grounded theory m ethod and procedures for data collection and analysis. The study c onsisted of three interviews. Th e data analysis of open, axial and selective coding process was conducted with the data from the initial sampling. The purpose of the study was to generate the description of internat ional students stress experience due to their language barriers and the f actors around their experiences. Participants Study participants were selected based on their ability and interest in explicating and articulating their s tress experiences due to langu age barriers. The inclus ion criteria were 1) international students speaking English as their second language, 2) being in the United States for more than one year, yet less than five years, 3) being from a non-Eur opean country. The third criterion was set based on the assumption that students from European countries undergo less language stress because of cultural and linguistic similarities between American and European countries. The participants were recruited via email advertisement through the international students list serve. Adam is a 35~40 years old Hispanic male from Mexico. He studied science in the beginning of his study in the U.S. and later changed hi s major to social science. It is 4 years that passed since he came to U.S. to earn his Ph.D. degr ee. He said that he st arted learning English formal education when he was 5 and continued until he became 18 year old. He also has had chances to learn and practice Eng lish with direct interaction with English native speaker in his home country. Beth is a 30~35 years old Chinese fe male from the mainland China. She is also a doctoral student in social science and has been 3 years in the U.S. She studied English for about 6 years through formal education and has never had any direct inte ractions with English native speakers. Carl is a 30~35 years old Chinese male studying in social science as a doctoral student.


58 He came from Taiwan five years ago. He received about 10 years of English education in schools yet had minimal interacti ons with English native speakers before coming to the U.S. Table 3-2. Participants of pilot study. Participant Gender Age-range Country of origin Years studied in U.S. Adam Male 35-40 Mexico 4 Beth Female 30-35 China 3 Carl Male 30-35 U.S.A. 5 Data Collection Interviewing was the data collection m ethod for this st udy. It was a semi-structured interview taking about 60 ~ 70 minutes. The inte rview process was mostly participant-guided process through the researcher used some probi ng questions. The interview questions were as follows: What was it like to study in English in the beginning of your study in the United States? Explain your perceptions and feelin gs related to those difficulties Describe some reasons why you experienced those difficulties How about now? Do you still have those difficulties? What are your coping strategies to overcome those difficulties? What barriers have you faced in the course of that? What suggestions do you have for your school a nd other international students from your experiences? Data Analysis Interview data were audio-taped and transc ribed. The transcription was 40 pages long. Af ter the transcription process, I read the in terview again to open-code each paragraph and produced 155 open codes to generate conceptual categories. Common themes of international students stress experiences due to language barrier were identifie d that provided the context to meanings, circumstances, and conditions of what it was like to study and live while learning the


59 second language. Once all the open codes were labele d, the codes were analyz ed in terms of their relationships to each other and clustered into broader, mutually exclusive categories for identifying axial codes and selective codes. Data Story Findings were organized and presented as a th eoretical schema depic ting one core category (Lack of communication) and th ree peripheral categories (locus of language stress, factors around the language stress, and m anaging stress). The core category, lack of communication, explains the nature of internat ional students stress experience s. Lack of communication with host nationals in both academic and social settin gs was identified by participants as the core problem in their stress experiences. This core concept becomes a fundamental theme bridging the three component categories: Invisi bility, losing self, and separation. Participants described experi ences of being Invisible, which means that people send out verbal and non-verbal messages as if the participants are not th ere. This would happen with or without intention of host nationals in various settings such as in class discussion, in group activities, in interpersonal relationships with other classmates, or outside campus. The experience of losing self has been explai ned in the literature. Upon coming to the US, international students tend to feel a deep sens e of loss when leaving their families and friends behind (Sandhu, 1995). Simultaneously, international students may become deprived of social support systems that typically validate their sens e of self-concept and self-esteem, and provide emotional and social support (Pedersen, 1991; Snadhu, 1995). Given the situation that they already feel vulnerable, the feeling of losing self might be exacerbated when they experience lack of communication in the new environment. A final peripheral category was determined to be Separation. Not surprisingly, English proficiency has been found to be an important factor in social inte raction and adjustment


60 (Pedersen, 1991; Schram & Lauver, 1988; Surdam & Collins, 1984). Inability to speak English fluently is a primary inhibitor to becoming socially involved in the American society. Hence, separation occurs in the social milieu of international students in the U.S. When stress is severe, a complete separation occurs when students quit and go home to their home country. Those international students are not available for this research but one partic ipant spoke of students who were so stressed they quit and went home. Identifying people who might have severe stress due to language barriers and related difficulties at any earlier stage is important so that stress management intervention can be made available to them. Relevance to Dissertation Research The pilot study conducted for this proposal study served the purpos e of discerning the plausib ility of data collecti on and analysis techniques and the appropriateness of applying grounded theory to the research question. The pilot study revealed th at the technique of conducting an individual interview and usi ng a combination of both preconceived and extemporaneous questions was indeed effectiv e. The interview also proceeded smoothly and proved useful in later data analysis. The proce ss of data analysis us ed in the pilot study established the appropriateness of applying grounded theory to the research question. Several themes and sub-themes were generated, grounded in the participants actual words, and validated by related research. The findings of the pilot study he lped the resear cher expand the idea of language barriers to the related issues of language proficie ncy and communication competency. Thus, the researcher conducted literature reviews on cro ss-cultural communication competence as well as second language confidence. Lastly, discovery of two peripheral categories related to language stress and management, led the researcher to a stress and coping model of acculturation (Berry, 1997), which was adopted as conceptual fr amework for the proposed research.


61 CHAPTER 4 FINDINGS A Theoretical Model Data analysis using the constant comparative m ethod (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) yielded five major categories of stress and coping experiences among international students with language barriers: perceived stressors, immediate stress responses, stress-moderating variables, coping strategies, and adaptation. The twelve participants recognized three components of stressors: the time-consuming nature of language barriers, academic activity limitations, and a strong need for language use. Immediate stress res ponses were sub-categorized into physical and psychological manifestations. Two types of st ress-moderating variables (environmental and psychological) are identified as factors helping participants deal with the stress experiences. While utilizing these environmental and psychological variables, participants made efforts to an active and direct management with their stress experiences, that recapitulated to three major coping strategies: cognitive reframing, emotional release, and behavioral exposure. Later, the students reached an adaptation stage in whic h they perceived themselves as better communicators and attained personal growth. Based on these findings, a grounded theory has been developed to hypothesize relationships between the categor ies and their component s (see figure 2). The theory presents three linearly ordered phases to explain the students stress and coping experiences in conjunction with changes in the mean ings of language barriers to them. The first phase occurs as international students with language barriers pe rceive stressors; they report immediate stress responses that include physical and psychological manifestations. In this phase, students tend to perceive their language barriers as personal defects accompanied by a strong emotional response of shame. The second phase begins when intern ational students with language barriers


62 Figure 2-2. Theoretical model for stress and coping experiences of international students with language barriers Coping Strategies Cognitive Reframing Emotional Release Behavioral Exposure Better Communicator Personal Growth Adaptation Meanings of Language Barriers Personal Defect Temporary Learning Problem Opportunity Stress-moderating Variables Psychological Environmental open-mindedness supportive faculty & classmates presence of other ISLB Stressors P ersonal Timeconsuming nature Limited academic activity Environmental Strongneed for language use Physical : exhaustion, tension Psychological: a sense of shame or inferiority, damaged self-image Immediate Stress Res p onses goal-orientation/ m otivation


63 acknowledge and employ stress-moderating variables and start to adopt coping strategies. In this second phase, students tend to view the language ba rrier as a temporary learning problem rather than a personal defect. Thus, their emotional re sponses may attenuate from shame to frustration. Adaptation occurs during the last phase, when the students define the language barrier as an opportunity and finally arrive at self-acceptance. Though the se quence of the three phases determined by this research and described in this theoretical model suggest s a course of changes in participants per ceptions of language barriers, it does not imply that all participants proceeded through these stages at the same or similar rate or timing. Perceived Stressors Upon arrival in the U.S., international stude nts with language barriers are surrounded by a variety of possible stressors. Inte rna tional students come to the U.S. with a clear priority: to obtain a higher education degree within the designated time period specified on their Immigration and Naturalization Service I-20 form They are obligated to maintain full-time student status and are forbidden to work off-cam pus. Given this situation, their focus naturally falls on academic activities. Thus, internationa l students may encounter stressors in their academic environments that range from formal ac tivities such as coursework or practica to informal such as studying in the library or pr eparing group presentations. Accordingly, this study recognized three major stressors that directly re late to academic activities: the time-consuming nature of language barriers, strong need for langu age use, and limitations to academic activities. Time-consuming Nature of Language Barriers Language barriers often discussed as an em erging and significant source of stress am ong international students (Carr, Koyama, & Th iagarajan, 2003; Kher, Juneau, & Molstad, 2003; Misra & Castillo, 2004; Misra, Cris t, & Burant, 2003; Mori, 2000). Si milarly, participants in this study perceived language barriers as one of the biggest obstacles to academic goals, primarily


64 because of the time-consuming nature of language translation. Participants said that at the beginning of their studies, they required more tim e to read and write assignments in English than they would have needed in thei r native languages. This was es pecially common for students in the social sciences. Irene said: Like reading, probably, I dont ha ve to spend so much time fo r reading in Chinese. Here, for me like, Oh my god! For me like, a w hole week I am going through a dictionary. For writing one or two page reflect ion papers, my American cohor ts, they begin, if the class was 3 Oclock, they begin at 2 Oclock to write. For me, no way. Impossible. (Laugh). Henry stated that at first it took him a coupl e of weeks to read 300 hundred pages, but now he can finish within a couple of days or an hour if he skims the text. Lauren said she felt overwhelmed by the increased dilig ence required to digest her reading and writing assignments every week. For Bob, writing in English consumed most of his study time. He needed more time to write because he initially wrote papers in Spanish, translated them into English, and then carefully corrected grammar and appropriate wo rd choice errors. Participants who studied science and engineering said they did not have as many reading or writing assignments as other participants, but when they did they struggled fo r the same reasons. Overall, most participants said that they were overwhelmed by the addi tional time and effort necessary for Englishlanguage assignments. A similar problem occurred with oral presentation assignments. Grace stated that, although she carried out many successful presentations in Chinese, English presentations presented a challenge. She added that spontaneous communi cations in class were even more difficult because she couldnt prepare her res ponses in advance. She explained: In Chinese, just outline I can tell whatever in my mind. But it doesnt happen like that in English. First time, I wrote down every single wo rd even like, HOWEVER, that kind of a conjunction word. I couldnt ju st sayor improvise expressions. So I had to put more efforts for preparing my presentations. But the di scussions in class, I cant prepare like that. So in my first semester, I wasnt really getting involved with discussions in class.


65 In regard to listening and speaking ability mo st necessary during in-c lass discussions and conversations with professors and classmates, participants felt that they were slower to understand situations and to come up with responses. Grace described: I would say language barriers made my encoding and decoding process more slow and hard. There are more steps, like listening to English, understanding it, thinking in Chinese and translating into English. At the most basic level, communications rely on encoding and decoding information. Participants said that their en coding and decoding process include d an extra step to translate English to and from their native language. When asked whether they think in English now, all participants said they still think in their nativ e language for their studies, although most become accustomed to routine English conversation (such as daily greetings) without thinking in their native language. As long as they think in their native languages, participants have an additional step to slow their encoding and decoding processes. As Grace explained, non-routine communications further delay encoding and decoding due to lack of preparation and practice. Strong Need for Language Use The second stressor identified by the participants was the ne ed for English language use for various academ ic activities in and outside of classrooms. Some participants reported that daily life activities at restaurants, banks, or driver license offices were simpler and easier to learn than the language used for academic purposes; th ey found that language within higher education circles required a higher level of articulation and fluency. Such claims were more common from participan ts in departments that utilize spoken and written language as the primary means of acad emic expression and communication. For example, violin major Fran felt grateful to have an altern ative way to prove her academic merit other than speaking or writing in English (i .e., by violin performance). Likewise, Anne, a chemistry student, could demonstrate academic competence via expe riments in the lab. In contrast, Emily found


66 language was the only way to express her opinions, ideas, and abilities fo r her major, education. Irene believed that her thought s appeared less persuasive be cause of limited vocabulary or awkward wording in class disc ussions or written papers. Among 12 participants, only 4 from chemistr y, physics, environmental engineering, and music reported their academic performance and e xpressions did not entirely depend on linguistic expression. Chris, who studies envi ronmental engineering, said that in his field there was not much need for spoken communication, as compared to other studies. More importantly, Chris reported that he probably experienced less stress than international students in other departments. Physics major Danny supported Chris comments a bout hard science departments, stating that there were few American students in the depart ment and, thus, less verb al English interaction. Nonetheless, the four participants who encountered less English usage in their academic environments still presented with strong personal aspiration and motivation to communicate more effectively in English. The remaining 8 participants reported that th ey faced a strong need for language use in their department activities to be successful. T hus, international student s with language barriers may experience different degrees of needs a nd demands for language use depending on their major field, which may lead to different levels of stress. Thus, the second stressor identified in this research, strong need for language use, appear ed to have two different sources of pressure for language use: environmental and personal. Environmental need for language use. Eight participants from law, social science, education, and communication di sciplines reported heavy demand for spoken and written English and expectation of language mast ery. Kate, in law school, pointed out: Some departments magnetize persons who have good language ability and communication skills and law school is one of them for sure Learning law is very demanding in language.


67 You have to be very precise, especially wh en you write. You wouldnt want to go to a law school if you are not good at language in the first place. These participants viewed language as the mo st important and sometimes the only means to perform and prove their academic ability. Their reported environmental needs for language use comprised reading assignments, papers, class di scussions, oral presentations, and lectures, many of which are designed to e licit academic interactions. Lectures by professors in their departments usually claim only a fraction of a three hour class; thus, class time features a greater proportion of participator y (verbal) activity. For example, Grace said that her major, advertising, highl y depends on oral communication and a lot of interaction between professors and students, disc ussions, presentations. Thus, she felt the need for a high level of language ability to keep up with discussions in class. She described the relative stress levels of her Chinese friends to her own: My other Chinese friends who are in engineeri ng department used to say if I were you I would die! They say they have a presentati on one time for the whole semester but before the presentation they come to me and share how anxious they are. I do my presentation more than 10 times per semester! If you are going to study advertisement, you definitely have to know how to communicate with others. I think engineering fiel ds less require this language and communication skills than us. You have to talk in my department! Talking is only part of language usage needs. Th ese eight participants also reported pressure to complete reading assignments to prepare for clas s discussion. In the beginning for Irene, reading posed the biggest challenge when her course work included many reading assignments to supplement class content. Later in graduate sc hool, writing and speaki ng took precedence in the form of research papers and teaching undergraduate classes. In addition, class participation was usually listed in the syllabus as a criterion for evaluation. Henry said, In the fi rst year, I tried to say anythi ng, even though something stupid. I had to say something in the class to show that I prepared. Most participants said that they


68 received relatively negative feedback in this ar ea compared to other evaluation criteria. For example, Irene said: I remember the second semester. My grade for being a discussion leader was B+ or B. I think one of the reasons why is the professor thought Im too quiet. I dont speak, I guess. If you dont speak in class, sometimes, professors dont know really its because you didnt study or because y ou have nothing to say. In law school, class participation took a differe nt slant. Kate said that there was no grade for class participation but some professors would give extra cred it for voluntarily participation. Alternatively, in almost every class professors would pick out particul ar students to answer questions, which required listening and speaking ab ility. Kate emphasized that law school exams and legal writing demand extensive language use. According to her, the exams are usually 4-5 hours of multiple choice and essay questions. The time pressure is so severe that professors excuse some mistakes in writing even for Ameri can students; stricter standards apply to other legal writing. Another main stressor for Kate was law school students competition for grades and jobs. She believed that her language barrier detracted from her status in the competitive rankings. Personal need for language use Personal needs drove the s econd source of demand for participants language use. All participants intended to work internationally as scholars, researchers, activists, or corporate figures. They perceived English language ability as critical in international work. In some cases, participants felt driven to seek opportunities to practice beyond the academic world. Anne said, I have a passion to getting myself to new environment and practice my English and enhance my communication ability internationally. Chris said he was always interested in foreign language and likes Englis h. He thought that studying in the U.S. would be an excellent chance to improve his English but couldnt find enough opportuniti es to interact in


69 his department (Engineering). Thus, Chris sought direct ex changes with native language speakers off campus to practice his English, whic h added more weight to his academic load. Chriss experiences contrast with those of the eight participants who faced a great need for language use in their departments. Beyond academic requirement, effective comm unication in English closely tied to participants career goals. Participants reported that these pers onal needs for language use have contributed to stress experien ces and at the same time boost mo tivation and goal-orientation to overcome language barriers during their adjustment to U.S. academic and cultural life. Limitations in Academic Activities Over and above the strong need for language use to conduct their academic activities successf ully, the participants reported that th ey felt limited in various academic activities because of their limited English mastery. The first limitation involved listening and the ability to comprehend what is going on in or outside of class. Communication is blocked when one person does not understand what the other says,. Anne described the stress of not being able to understand when taki ng classes in the first semester: Of course you would not feel comfortabl e in the first semester because there are a lot of stresses there. You are trying to understand but you cant. This kept students on the periphery of class discussion. Emily relied on intuition to follow instructions in her early classes because her understanding of instructions was vague and in complete. Even participants Grace and Lauren, who believe they began studies wi th better English ability than mo st other international students, couldnt fully understand what professors said un til a certain amount of ti me passed. Lauren said, First semester was the worst time in terms of language barriers. I know probably they are talking about something during the class discu ssion. But I wasnt sure for 100 percentage.


70 The most common complaint among participan ts was that they could not express themselves in an articulate and precise manner like they could in their home countries. Emily said, I was afraid that my pr ofessor or classmates would thin k that I have no idea or opinion about the issue because I do! Despite confidence in her intelligence and thinking abilities, Emily worried that she might appear inferior to American students merely because of her poor linguistic ability. Kate addressed the subjective discomfort of language limitation when she said, One thing I thought was, maybe I would enjoy mo re the debates in class if I am doing it in Japanese, in my own language. Grace recalled she was quiet all the time during her first semester, even though she knew answers or wanted to comment. She said, I wanted to say something but I wasnt equipped with proper term inology and expressions in English. In Irenes words, my mouth cant really fo llow my mind. Anne elaborated: Its not chatting about todays weather. The st uff that they discuss is highly intellectual topics. The most difficult thing because it seri ously involve the ways of thinking about the problems, the ways of approaching to the pr oblems, the ways of solving the problems. I had received a certain types of educations in my count ry. In my mind, there are already something built up. The most difficult thing to imp rove my English, its whats in my mind. I have been taught, I have lived in China more than 20 years. Its kind of how to communicate at that level. Thats the most difficult. Bob emphasized his frustration when he failed to express his thoughts a nd opinions clearly. He said, To have a nice talk with people daily basi s is not a problem. The real problem is to do research, to talk with people acad emically and intellectually. Bob gave the example of when he asked a question to a presenter: When I ask some questions, they say some thing else like they didnt understand my questions. Then, there is another person who ask the same question as mine, the speaker understand and give right answer. Then I go like to myself, there! That was my question! Bob figuratively described his feeling of language barrier limitation as bei ng stuck like a nail on the wall.


71 In addition to intellectual topi cs, participants cited the fast speed of conversations or discussion in class as another obstacle to involvement. Emily hesitated to speak up because she was afraid that her slow speech might impede the flow of the discussion. Ire ne couldnt time her comments to the fast pace by the time she organi zed and translated her thoughts into English, the discussion had moved on. Participants reported the most difficult situati ons to deal with were those for which they could not prepare in advance, which made th em anxious and nervous. Anne had a hard time following whenever a professor introduced questions to generate a new topic in class. Anne said: The worst situation is when you are standing in the stadium. And the professor and other students ask you some questions and you cant understand what they ask. Presentation can be ok if you prepare, but the questions, you are not sure about it. Privately you meet someone, maybe you quite dont understand. Bu t you dont want to ask again and again. Then, you can pretend to understand what they say. But its not working in the stadium. Everyone is looking at you. Sometimes, its good to have other Chinese students standing behind you. They are not so nervous as much as you. And they will tell you in Chinese what was asked. Language barriers also affected participants in teractions with American classmates in less formal situations. They found themselves less acti ve and initiative with American students than with their co-national students or other interna tional students. As Anne explained, I notice the difference because I can communicate easily and ha ppily with Chinese students. Its not like I dont want to talk to American student s. I dont want to make mistakes. Bob felt most limited expressing his thoughts in writing: Writing is more difficult than speaking to me. Its more academic. It takes l oooong time. Hard to find right expressions. Its worse. Its terrible. Bob was not the only partic ipant to complain of limitations in writing. Grace sighed and said simply, My writing sucks.


72 Immediate Stress Responses Participants presented a di fferent degree of stress depending on their m ajor study. International students with language barriers from engineering and music seemed to have less pressure of English language proficiency while st udents from social sciences, law, and education claimed higher pressure. Although stress levels varied according to their major, the core experience of stress and responses was similar fo r all participan ts: physical tension and fatigue and psychological distress such as damaged sel f-image and a sense of shame or inferiority. Physical Responses Most participants com plained of exhaus tion from long hours of study because language barriers extend their degr ees of work effort and exam prep aration, especially during the first semester. Thus, finding time for relaxation and en joyment was difficult for them. James said, I didnt have a life for enjoy. Very tired. Studying itself was not difficult but it became hard due to language barriers. Some participants said they would become physically tense in class due to anxiety, especially when trying to speak. Bob remembered moments that he was tense before speaking in class. Although his classmates told him to take a deep breath in attempts to help him relax and encourage his efforts, he remembered that breat hing did not work for hi m at that time. Anne described her most stressful time as when she wa s taking questions from the audience after her presentation. She said, I am so nervous at thos e times. Its seems like there is no brain in my head. Its just stop there. It doesnt work. I cant respond to wh at other said. I feel frustrated. Emily was so alert during class that she could feel the strain in her muscles. In her words, every single cell in her body was restless to unde rstand the class despite her limitations. Henry recalled that he even went to a hospital once because he was very pressured from my study. I had to go to hospital instead of classroom. I had to catch up with my American classmates.


73 Psychological Responses A sense of sham e or inferiority emerged as the main theme of participants immediate psychological responses. They usua lly experienced these emotions in situations when they felt like others underestimated their intelligence and academic ability. Such experiences may seriously damage the self-image that they ha d established in their home countries, which can lead them to lose self-confidence and to withdraw from course -related behaviors. Irene adopted the little mermaid fairy tale metaphor to express her psychological status in her first semester She stated: I am the speechless mermaid. She wants to become a human being so she exchanged her voice with a witch so that she can be a human being. I feel like I am the mermaid because I want to get my study. So I exchanged my voice to study. I feel that way.and I feel like, in my private time, I miss my language so much. I miss Chinese so much. I began to write a lot in Chinese and read a lot in Chinese becau se I feel, here, especi ally in university in the first year, I had so many things in my mi nd but I didnt have th e outlet at alland I feel confused, why people think like I probabl y more like stupid, because, simply because my Englishs not good enough.My emotions we re like, I was upset, depressed, so frustrated. But there was nothing I coul d do. I didnt know who to talk to. In these statements, she described her language barri ers as a seemingly inhere nt defect that left her voiceless, which could be understood as a sense of loss a nd damaged self-confidence. Irene felt also embarrassed when unable to articulate her ideas as fluently as her classmates. This sense of shame implanted unverified be liefs that her classmates felt uncomfortable with her English and wanted her to stop speaking. Bob felt similarly to Irene and confessed that he had irrational beliefs that people would want him to stop talking. He described: When people dont understand me, then, I feel like I should be quiet Just stop talking. Sometimes I keep myself quiet and I dont wa nt to talk any more because I feel so frustrated. I feel like I have no energy to say something. Other students had similarly strong reactions to the stress of voicelessness. On the first day of class, Kate was singled out by her professor for a Socratic exchange. When repeatedly called


74 on, she burst into tears in front of everyone b ecause she could not understand the question in the first place. She recalled that moment to be the worst time for her: I kind of hit the bottom when I was called in the class. I read the case. I was really prepared. I just didnt understand what he was asking. A nd other people jumped in, and, I knew, I knew the answer, but I just couldnt understand his question. Chris talked about how degrading and painful it was for him to feel left behind when he could understand only about 10% of what his professor was saying. Grace described her feelings this way: Definitely I was frustrated. I thought my English suck. Wh en discussions going on, I say nothing and just sitting in there, I felt bad. Because I have my own opinions. I want to say something. But I couldnt speak up as much as I want. She added that she could not muster up confidence in the beginning to break in to the fast speed of class discussions. Emily seemed to struggle the most among the participants. She suffered mainly from a damaged self-image. In the beginning she felt th at she was no longer the excellent student she was in her home country but rather a burden w ho needed special treatment from her peers and professors. Although she was grateful for the special treatment, but it hurt her pride when she felt unable to keep up and attain important knowledge. She was most disappointed in herself when lack of understanding prevented her from participating in cla ss activities. Prolonged sense of disappointment developed into sense of inferi ority and self-hatred. She blamed herself and wondered, How can I call myself a doctoral stud ent when I dont even understand whats going on in class? I am like a baby learning a language! I made myself a fool by coming to US with my terrible English. She emphasized that these ne gative thoughts and emotions arose despite how helpful and kind her classmates and professors were. In that way, she has lost the fun and excitement of studying that she has been longi ng. Sometimes she cried and felt depressed for days at a time.


75 Stress-moderating Variables Som e variables may serve as a buffer that help them endure as intern ational students with language barriers go through physical and psychol ogical stress responses in the beginning of their studies. These variables are differentia ted from coping strategies in terms of how participants come to benefit from or utilize them. These stress-m oderating variables were part of their environmental elements (e .g. faculty and classmates) given to the students or a part of psychological predisposition (e.g. mo tivation). In comparison, coping strategies were the result of their choices and decisions in order to redu ce the stress level on their own. Four variables were identified in this stu dy and categorized into two s ub-groups: environmental and psychological. Environmental variables included supportive faculty members and classmates and the presence of other internati onal students in their academic settings. Psychological variables were an open-minded personality and goal-oriented attitude. Environmental Variables All participants reported that having supportive and understanding faculty m embers and classmates made it easier to endure their stress experiences. Supportive and understanding manifested in several ways. Some people gave practical support to in ternational students by helping with proofreading, editing papers, or allowing them to use an electronic dictionary in exams. However, the most shared meaning of being supportive by participants was the awareness of their professors and classmates that language barriers hindered international students spoken and written communications an d a willingness to accept that they needed reasonable accommodations. For example, Emily recalled one of her professors who reminded students to speak more slowly for the sake of internat ional students. The professor al so invited Emily to speak up by asking about examples of her home country that re lated to a discussion topic. Emily considered


76 this invitation a thoughtful act by a professor w ho was aware of how hard it could be for an international student with language barrier s to jump into fast-paced discussion. Henry commented that a supportive advisor was critical in dealing with language barriers. Because he was limited in spoken and written co mmunication, he felt a great deal of difficulty when he explained his research ideas to his former advisor. That advisor lacked compassion and patience for Henrys limitations. Henry felt distanced from and uncared for by his former advisor. After transferring to his current department, he met his current advisor an d experienced a totally new relationship. Henry said: When people dont understand what I say they mi ght think I am stupid or not really smart but my advisor was different. He saw what I had in my idea. He gave me a lot of chance to talk about my idea and help me develop it from very abstract thing. Because he knew that what I wrote for him was not th e final thing, so he just ove rlooked my language problem and tried to see the big picture of my idea, th e possibility of my idea. He taught me extraintellectual strategies like how I present my self or how I communicate with others in academia. Like Henry, all participants emphasized that the other speakers response in communications made a big difference in their ability to overcome their language barriers. They felt less pressured and communications we nt more smoothly when they had supportive faculty and classmates around. For example, Grace appreciate d her classmates for being patient and making efforts to communicate with her. They helped by asking Is this what you mean? or paraphrasing (So what I hear is that) to clearly unders tand what Grace meant in conversations when she couldnt pr ecisely express her opinions and thoughts. Similarly to Grace, Irene pointed out the impor tance of the other speakers respon ses. It seemed to her that the inviting attitude of professors and classmates influenced her to feel definitely more comfortable to talk. She elaborated: It depends on the class atmosphere. When the professors are more en couraging, if there are my cohorts who are kind and understanding my s ituation, then I speak a lot. It makes a big difference depending on who you talk to.


77 Zack recalled that, when he asked questions, no one refused him and he never received any negative feedback about his la nguage abilities. He believed th at the positive interaction experience helped lessen his stre ss due to language barr iers and shaped his confidence. Most participants stated that the y, too, had supportive faculty and cl assmates in their department. However, one participant shared her difficult experience with her graduate coordinator, who said, You have a language problem. Go and ta ke some English classes. She said that she felt nervous enough to forget words in front of th e coordinator because his non-verbal and verbal messages felt evaluative and critical. Another participant explained how systemic support made her department experience positive. Kate said that law school policy allowed international students whose first language was not English half or quarter extra time for exams. She commented that the policy compensated for the time-consuming nature of tr anslating thoughts from her native language to English. In addition to supportive faculty and classm ates, the presence of other international students with language barriers in their academic settings was an important variable that mediated participants stress experiences. Despite different countries of origin, all participants indicated that international students naturally bonde d with each other as they shared the stress of life as non-native English speakers. Kate shared her though ts on this bond: Especially in law school here, students ar e not so diverse. Fo rtunately, I met some international students here and also American st udents who are interested in other culture. I have a group of 9~10 people. We hang out togeth er. I feel comfortable with them and I talk more and better. Anne said that international students comprised one third of her department, many of whom were from the same country of origin. Fellow Chin ese students in her department networked to support each other without verbaliz ing the request. She said, We he lp out with translation when


78 one person is not understanding what is being said. We discuss a lot abou t the class topics to digest what we just learned. For her, having other interna tional students around gave her a comfort zone as well as a model to reassure her self-image: Yes, I was nervous in the beginning but you know I met some other students in the same situations as mine. Most of them had same English level at that time so that made me feel a little bit less nervous becaus e we are all same. Why cant I? If they can do, I can do. Psychological Variables All participants expressed passion for their m a jor subjects and strong motivations to learn more about them in the U.S., where they beli eved that they access knowledge closer to the source (i.e., not translated). As Grace mentioned, (Sociology) theori es are in English by a lot of American scholars. It is original stuff. James also chose to study in U.S. because he believed that he could learn something original in his field of anthropology. He explained that when an English textbook written by an Ameri can scholar is translated into Chinese, sometimes meanings are lost. Such motivations dovetail with intentions to become scholars in th eir fields, as described in the strong need for language use section above. With this goal-orientation and motivation to le arn something original, the participants are willing to tolerate the painful e xperiences of losing their voices as metaphorically described by Irene. In Kates words, I could deal with it because one thingt he bottom line is I love law. Thats what I have been doing for my entire care er. I love it. I can always enjoy studying law. Most participants saw open-mindedness as another psychological buffer to their stress experiences. They perceived themselves as active and initiative people who felt a genuine curiosity toward new things. They believed that such open-mindedness helped them decide to come to the U.S. to study in the first place a nd, once here, increased their tolerance for the hardships of limited foreign language skills and a new environment. Emily and Lauren


79 emphasized that they wanted to le arn about their major field of st udy as well as American culture, history, and people w ith an open mind. Coping Strategies At the beginning of their studies, when part icip ants realized stressors due to language barriers and experienced immediate stress respon ses, they perceived language barriers as personal defects. Mitigating variables such as positive interaction with supportive faculty and classmates; presence of othe r international stude nts; and psychological qualities like goalorientation and open-mindedness worked to c ounteract shame, embarra ssment, and physical discomfort. These variables helped change thei r perceptions of language barriers as personal defects to a kind of temporary learning problem th at would lessen over time As this perceptual change in the meaning of language barriers progr essed, participants needed to choose how to deal with their negative emotions in a more active and conscious way In this study, such active and conscious decisions by intern ational students comprised th ree possible coping strategies: cognitive reframing, emotional rel ease, and behavioral exposure. Cognitive Reframing When frustrated and stressed out by language barriers, m ost participants tried to think about their experiences consciously and rationally. They said that it was painful for them to ruminate on unpleasant situations and emotions. However, after a distressing encounter, they usually took solitary time to th ink about why they felt and re acted the way they did. Such thought processes led them to cognitively reframe, i.e., to take an alternative point of view on their language barriers or to gene rate rebuttals to the original ne gative thoughts. Positive self-talk was the most common technique. In Irenes se lf-talk, she transformed disappointment through thoughts such as these:


80 I may not be speaking English like a native speaker. But I am just like, you know, ok, I can speak Chinese, I speak Japanese, French, now I speak English. I have, at least, four different language ability. I even speak Chinese dialect. She tried not to focus on the negative aspect of her language limitations; rather, she highlighted the positive fact that she worked hard to speak four different languages. She also arrested negative self-image with self-talk like, I am not that bad. The miserable past already gone. I am not a, I am no longer the person who people say like you have language problem. In a similar way, Kate countered negative t houghts and feelings via observation of other students, rational thought, and self-respect. When she cried in class after failing to answer a professors question, she felt like she hit the bottom of her life in the U.S. However, social observations led her to conc lude that she was pushing herself too hard. She stated: After I calmed down, I looked around. I found that hmm, if American students seemed not understand the question when they are nervous. Maybe I just pushed myself too hard. After that, I got better, I ju st got more relaxed. In addition to reasoning, she intentionally reminded herself of positive aspects of her selfimagesuch as capability and awareness of her abilitiesthat she had established while working in Japan. Annes cognitive reframes helped her escape the pressure of perfectionism. Rather than feel dismayed and overwhelmed, she tried to re main positive about her limited language ability. She said: I know I am not good enough now but I can be be tter. Not getting myself a pressure about have to be better made a lot of foundation to actually move on in my past 2 years. It actually helped because I do not press yourself then, I am not getting anxious too much, just looking for an opportunity. If there is an opportunity that I can get, Ill get it. If there is no, then there is nothing I can do about it. Thats my way. Like Anne, Bob tended toward perfectionism regarding his English communications. He speculated that such a tendency may come from the gap between his perceived efficacy in Spanish versus English. In Spanish, he was an eloquent and confident speaker; in English, a


81 stutterer. Formerly, Spanish-language presentati ons and audience interact ions provided him with a sense of accomplishment and happiness. Thus, his English difficulties came as a shock. At first, he was so disappointed with himself that he with drew from communications in English. Later, he wanted to regain the joy of acad emic interactions and started th inking differently. To cope with the stress of language barriers, he judged that he should deal with hi s anxiety first because mental anxiety seemed to contribute to physical tension and stammering. He said that in the transition he repeated to himself: I should enjoy my academic work of doing pr esentations and writing papers...but I cant now. This stresses me. It may be difficult but I am able to do that. I have the decision inside to say Ill do it. I uphold my willingness to say I can! Emily was another participant who alleviated negative emotions and stress from language barriers with cognitive reasoning. Sh e did not want to be remember ed simply as a shy and quiet girl from Asia. Therefore, she consciously de cided to take initiative and overcome language barriers by modifying her daily attitude. In her words: I decided to change my way of thinking. Lets not make an excuse of language barriers even though I have them and it is very difficult to me. I hate that I have a language barrier so lets change it. And then, it even change d my personality. I become more extravert. Grace described a similar consciou s choice to face her problem: I just faced my problem. Not avoid. Take a re sponsibility. I owned my problem. And start doing something. Stop worrying about making mistake. Just open my mouth and say something. At first, I used to feel embarrassed when I made a mistake. But later I realized that people still understood wh at I meant. And they didnt care as much as I did. They understood that I am a second language speaker. One professor said dont be embarrassed. If someone makes a big deal out of your language barriers, then you should ask to the person like this: Can you speak your second lang uage as fluently as I do? The professor was the advisor of Chinese students organiza tion. What he said just made me think differently. Its my second language. I dont ne ed to be ashamed of it. Then it became easier to me to open my mouth. It was me who cared too much about my mistake. She was self-conscious about her English and worried about other peoples imagined responses, while in reality they did not care about her mistakes. Henry, Fran, and Emily concurred with


82 Graces comments about self-consciousness. They realized how self-conscious they were about their English after suffering for several semest ers. Such self-awareness empowered Henry to reason with himself to change his thoughts. He concluded: The first two years was terrible. I cared about my language barriers a lot. Sometimes, when you cant express well your t houghts and opinions into a lang uage you may feel confused about your intelligence. I have lost my confidence in that way. But think this way. My language just cant catch up my thoughts and ideas. After recognizing this, I have gained my confidence and no longer cared about my la nguage. Its like I had to realize by myself. Emotional Release The second coping strategy derived from the data was to release negative emotions by sharing them with someone they trusted. Almost every participant had someone willing to listen. Fran counted herself lucky to be able to talk about anything with her roommate and best friend. Anne and Danny, in engineering, shared with co -national students in the department. Chris talked to his wife. Grace joined a Chinese student association where she could be honest about how she felt about language barriers. Kate befrie nded her international classmates. Emily had no contacts in the U.S., so she made an international phone call to a friend in her home country just to share her tears in silence. Talking about feelings without be ing judged seemed important to these participants. Apparently th ey preferred co-national confidants with whom they could speak the same language or, at least, other internati onal students whose first la nguage was not English. In that way, they felt more secure because they did not need to worry about how the other person might think of their English. Behavioral Exposure In addition to cognitive refram ing and emoti onal release, the partic ipants also managed stress about language use by taking a more active and initiative role to improve their English. The principal behavioral strategy was to expose themselves to four different types of language use as much as possible: speaki ng, listening, reading, and writing.


83 All participants mentioned television as a good resource for standard American English. They turned on the TV subtitle function to lear n unfamiliar vocabulary and idioms used in real situations. This provided an easily accessible and fun way to practi ce listening and reading. Many participants wanted to maximize the language use of speaking but found it was not as easy as exposure to listening sources becau se it required a conversation partner (unlike reading, writing, and listening). As a solution, An ne, Grace, Bob and Chris enrolled in Academic Spoken English classes offered by university. Anne e xplained in detail how this class helped her: The teacher did a video coaching to let me know what kind mistake I make when speaking and what are the better ways to say things. Customized teaching only for you. And in class, there are a lot of international students and most of them were first semester students. So we discuss about our pressure that we feel The teacher listened to us and gave some suggestions. The teacher did a really good job to improve my confidence. Chris and Irene gained speaking practice by te aching undergraduates. In class, they were forced to have plenty of conversations with thei r students. Chris recalled th at it was very difficult to teach in English at first, but ultimately teaching offered him the biggest opportunity to improve his speech. Danny, whose classmates were often Chinese, ma de a point not to inte ract only with other Chinese students. Fran actively sought a we lcoming environment in which people showed patience with her language barriers. She said, A lot of people in my department are really nice and they would like to talk to me. But, of cour se, not all of them. If they are not, I would find another environment that welcomes me. With similar intention, James looked for people who would help and interact with him. He opened up to his advisor about his language barriers so that his advisor could comment on and correct on his speech. Chris and Lauren extended their circles beyond campus so that they could meet and converse with native English-speakers who were open-minded about foreign students. Chris visited book and yard sales in town where he co uld talk with local residents. Lauren was a


84 Christian, so she attended a Bible study group in a local church where she could ask questions and express her opinions without feeling judged. They both appreciat ed off-campus interactions, preferring to learn from real life situations rather than books. Adaptation Adaptation occurs during the last phase, when students define the language barrier as an opportunity and finally arrive at self-acceptance. Better Communicators Self-acceptance. After years of m aking a transition from stress to adaptation, all of the participants view themselves as better communicators in English. This change in self-image was not necessarily connected to fluency and rather em erged as participants in ternalized attitudes of acceptance and confidence and focused on how to communicate more effectively within their limitations. Like some other participants, Kate admitted that her English became a little better but still had room for improvement. Chris had a sim ilar opinion about his level of English fluency, saying that his English had not changed dramatica lly. Instead, participants perceived themselves to be better communicators as they gained greater confidence in their language and communication abilities and accepte d the inherent limitations of speaking English as a second language. In Emilys case, acceptance of her stre ngths and limitations brought a sense of inner peace. Similarly, Annes comfort, confiden ce, and just being myself defeated her embarrassment due to language barriers. She elaborated: I am not going to say Ive improved a lot of my English but there is a change in my attitude. At first, I feel embarrassed in the difficult moments, but now I feel its normal. Feel not so embarrassed. You just say, S orry, I cant understand. Could you say that again? I feel comfortable to say that. Because thats what I am. I may still have language barrier, but I dont feel bad about it.


85 Irene, too, explained that her se nse of language confidence came not only with better language ability but also when she accepted the notion that a language barrier is not a personal defect. Although Henry admitted that he still has a pr oblem with pronunciation because there are sounds that his tongue cannot creat e, he acknowledged a dramatic change in the attitude of being more assertive and expressive in any relationships. Henry said, When students have arguments in class discussion, I dare to come out and present my idea that might argue with them. Its a lot of improvement. Henry added that he also felt more in control of what he was saying. Acceptance of ones limitations in English fr eed participants from the pressure to be perfect or near perfect. Chris once thought that his English would never be good enough. However, now he is comfortable with the idea that as a second-language speaker he is unlikely to speak like a native English-speaker. Irene said that acceptance of her limitations as normative allowed her to feel comfortable asking, Can you say that again? when she didnt understand. Grace developed the strategy of not trying to be a native speaker. She previously struggled to incorporate difficult vocabulary into her sp eaking and writing. But now, to improve communications, she prefers simple words and give s an example if others dont understand what she says. She observed that the re is a big difference. I thi nk people understand me more, I see them nodding their heads. For Danny, self-acceptance meant that he normali zed his feelings and made the most of his abilities. Danny said he expects to still be far away from mast ering the English language even after he lives in the U.S. for 10 more years. He reasoned that Eng lish acquisition would be difficult because he was over age 30 when he first came to the U.S. Given this comparatively late start, he said his strategy would be to try my best and focus on academic English. He stated that if I keep working on it, I could master academ ic English at least. In this way, he discarded


86 the perfectionism that many part icipants reported during their early language development in favor of modest and realistic goals. Learning American communication styles. Another aspect of participants adaptation was learning American communicati on styles as they apply to form al and informal relationships with American professors and classmates. Anne recognized a bi g difference between American and Chinese professors in terms of communicat ion with students. She found that American professors maintained less hierarchical, more egal itarian relationships with students than Chinese professors, including granting students more i ndependence and freedom in terms of what to study and research. Emily also noticed the egalitarian tendency of American communication, such as calling other students by first names re gardless of ages. Once she became accustomed to such communication customs, she found it easier to approach others. Grace felt similarly to Emily in that she experienced a more open and reciprocal communi cation style between professors and students in the U.S. She gave the following example: Here, professors have office hours and open doors, everybody can come in and talk, and oh, they always greet with you, some professors even say, call my name but it never ever happen in Taiwan. In this example, Grace found the relationship with professors in the U.S. more egalitarian and casual as opposed to more authoritarian relationship with professors in Taiwan. Grace remembered that at first she misunderst ood direct confrontations by her classmates. She explained: If they dont agree with you, they just like directly talk to you. For me, thats kind of shock. People say something to me, well, I was like, should I take it personally? Or this person doesnt like me. But now I know th is is not because of me. By learning about differences in cultural communication styles, Grace learned new communication skills like assertiv eness and negotiation. She felt that the U.S. culture encouraged her to express herself and allowed her to speak according to her preference.


87 Personal Growth All par ticipants expressed that th ey do not regret their decision to come to the U.S. despite the difficulties and struggles the process enta iled. In Graces unambiguous words, Even though I have to go through all this, Id do it again. A new environment that required a new language set certain obstacles in their path s and at the same time stimulated learning and creativity. Such experiences expanded participants personally as well as academica lly. Thus, participants viewed language barriers as an opportunity for challenge and stimulation that motivated them to work harder. Anne declared, What I know is that I am better than me in the past. And I will become better compared to me now. There was clear agreement among particip ants that language barriers helped them to better themselves on a personal level. For Kate, her painful crying experience (illust rated earlier) was humbling but also offered enlightenment. She now sees her public tears as an emotional low point when she realized she couldnt sink any lower; this view from the bottom helped her see th ings differently. I think you have to hit bottom in order to star t learning something. And also, at that time, I definitely not as smart as I t hought I was. So, but at the same time, I also realized I was too much focused. So maybe I should open up my view just a little bit more flexible. It was a good experience mostly. Emily described her language barr ier experience similarly as being born again into a new self. When she felt like a baby learning how to speak, she was embarrassed at first. But later, when she let go of hurt pride and wistfu l thoughts of what an excellent st udent she had been in Korea, she could see her situation as a humble platform for personal growth. In facing difficulty, she gained a more acute awareness of her strengths, weaknesses, and possibilities. She became more active and initiative in relationships. Emily identified another element of personal growth: she became more caring and sensitive regarding others barriers. She appreciated other peoples care


88 and understanding of her language barriers and rec ognized that she could help other people in need. These new changes in herself fill her with hope. Like Emily, Henry saw the bright side of overc oming language barriers and said, I learned a lot from my sufferings. Such positive refr ames built a sense of accomplishment and selfconfidence, a can-do spirit. He noted that I feel like I became str onger and that his mind stabilized. He added that he w ould share his story to honor himsel f for what he accomplished and became. He believes that many international stud ents with language barriers endure the same difficult situations but do not ha ve a chance to speak out about th eir experiences. In a sense, he had his chance to speak out in this interview. Irene felt a sense of accomplishment a nd happiness, saying, About my improvement, I am, of course, happy. I feel real ly proud of myself going through all these. Irenes attitude toward communications had the biggest impact in overcoming language barriers. She learned the lesson dont be submissive. She said she f ought traditional stereotypes about Asian women as passive and unable to express th eir opinions. Irene stated: Compared to before, I see.huge differences. The way I talk. I feel more confident now. I let people know that, here is my weakness in the very firs t place, then I feel, ok, people wont charge me simply because of my langua ge. Then I begin to feel more comfortable talking. I already acknowledge that, you know, I dont have to feel ashamed. Irene took a proactive stance, too. She opened up to her students about her language barriers to help them better understand her. And it worke d. Although admitting her weaknesses up front was not easy, self-acceptance and newfou nd courage made this possible.


89 CHAPTER 5 CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS Introduction This study employed grounded theory m ethods to develop a theoretical model to describe and understand stress and coping experiences of international students with language barriers during their acculturation process in U.S. higher education institutes. Utilizing Berrys (1997) stress and coping model of acculturation as a con ceptual framework, this study explored the five sets of phenomena of international students ex periences due to language barriers: life events, stressors, coping, stress, and adaptation. This stu dy revealed five major cat egories representative of the perceptions, emotions, and experiences of participants in relati on to language barriers: perceived stressors, immediate stress responses, st ress-moderating factors, coping strategies, and adaptation. Chapter five presents a conclusion, implications, study strength s and limitations, and recommendations for future research. Conclusion The essence of students stress and coping experiences due to language barriers was a selfinduced m ultiphase developmental process for the study participants: three linearly ordered phases in conjunction with changes in the subject ive meanings of language barriers over time. The first phase was characterized by participan ts perception on language barriers as life event that impeded their adaptation process and crea ted immediate stress responses. Perceived impediments to adaptation and stress responses we re closely related with participants perception of language barriers as a personal defect or fault accompanied by a sense of shame and embarrassment. The second phase involved participants acknowledgement of environmental and psychological stress-moderating variables that helped two participants modify their interpretations of language barriers to a sort of temporary learning problem that might be


90 overcome, rather than a personal flaw and source of shame. In the last phase, participants fully implemented coping strategies and reached a st ate of adaptation in wh ich they viewed the language acquisition period as an opportunity to grow and become better communicators. Participants also recognized th e relationship between negative thoughts and negative feelings about their language barriers a nd themselves. Some found they he ld unrealistic expectations for their language abilities; others realized they were overly sel f-conscious about pronunciation and other mistakes in spoken language. Such awareness came through self-refl ection, observing other students similar behaviors (nor malizing), or after considering advice from co-national students and faculty who had similar language barrier backgrounds. While all participants suffered from stress, none of the participants reported utilizing counseling services or professional help to co pe with stress responses. This may be because participants tended to perceive their language barriers as a personal defect accompanied by shame and embarrassment. The participants st ruggled alone during the beginning of their adjustment period, when stress was most salient. They possibly believed only their co-national students or other internationa l students would understand th eir feelings yet were too overwhelmed to act in those early days. However, even without professional guidance, a form of self-remedy emerged as time passed. Participants began to implement coping strategies that included cognitive reframing, emotional release, and behavioral exposure. Interestingly, their most common self-reme dy choice shares some elements of the cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) approach and implies a process simila r to that of narrative therapy. CBT is an empirically s upported treatment that focuses on patterns of thinking that are maladaptive and works to challenge the beliefs that underlie such thinking. The goal of CBT is to help understand how certain thoughts cause distressf ul emotions and make the symptoms worse.


91 The client learn to identify thoughts about the worl d and her/himself that ma ke them feel afraid or upset, and learn to replace these thoughts with more accurate and less distressing thoughts as more effective ways to cope with feelings such as anger, guilt, and fe ar (Sharf, 2000). In this study, participants identified the negative beli efs and thoughts behind their emotions; they ascertained that shame and embarrassment were linked with a belief that language barriers are an inherent defect that necess itated an immediate solution and that miscommunication due to language barriers carried with it self-blame. In an actual CBT therapy session, a counselor may guide a client through the process of debating and rebutting maladaptive thoughts. In this study, many participants utilized a similar process that included positive self-talk to invalidate maladaptive thoughts and beliefs. Their cognitive re framing strategies brought about changes in their subjective experiences a nd behaviors surrounding language ba rriers. Rather than remaining passive, they sought more opportunities for la nguage use in spoken English mostly. The stories told by particip ants in this study about e xperiencing language barriers illustrated how the participants looked at their problems of language barriers from different points of view and altered their perceptions of the problems. Such a reau thorizing process is a key element of change in narrativ e therapy. Narrative th erapy, based on a cons tructivist point of view, attends to a persons perception of reality rather than trying to define reality itself (Sharf, 2007). Narrative therapists en courage and examine clients storie s to learn how c lients view their lives and, eventually, help them see their own stor ies in different ways (Sharf, 2007). Participants in this study unfolded their stor ies related to language barriers from the beginning of their study in the U.S. to the current point of time. In these stories, participants reto ld their experiences of language barriers and shifted the stories from a problem focus to stories with more positive outcomes. Participants stories about language ba rriers tended to evolve from viewing them as


92 personal defects, to temporary learning problems, and finally as an opportunity for enhancing communication and personal growth. Participants valued interactio ns with native English speaker s highly, especial ly supportive faculty and classmates. Although th e presence of other international students contributed to participants ability to manage stress, participan ts spent more time describing the importance of native English speaker support. This finding coul d be related to prior observations made by Littlewood (1992) who claimed that language lear ning can be facilitated or hindered by the affective filter of a learners attitudes towa rd the second-language community and learning situation. That is, a learners feelings about the second-la nguage community and learning situation impact his or her languag e learning. Participants indicated that their feelings of efficacy and emotional responses to feedback from others impacted their attitudes to overcome language barriers. Specifically, when they felt ashamed and embarrassed of their language barriers they were more passive and withdrawn. In contrast, when they felt confident and accepted they took initiative and contributed more freely. Participants reported they overcame their la nguage barriers not ju st by improving their English language ability, but also by revising their mindsets. They eventually developed the perspective to view language barriers as an opportunity to become better communicators in English and to achieve personal growth. Partic ipants described high levels of contact, involvement, acceptance, and affiliation with both their co-national and U.S. cohorts on campus. This result is in line with the most effective acculturation stra tegy, integration (Berry & Kim, 1988), through which individuals ca n acquire the skills and psychological flexibility to function effectively in both their culture of origin and in the U.S.


93 Implications This section exam ines possible implications of this studys findings for three different populations on campus: counseling pr ofessions; U.S. students, facu lty and other administrative staff; and international students with language barriers. Counseling Profession Findings from the present study suggest f our prim ary implications for counseling international students with language barriers. Becau se all participants indicated that the first semester or year was the most stressful time in terms of language barriers the first implication for clinical practice is that this population may benefit from early intervention. Before the semester starts, an orientation for internationa l students should include information on stress and coping with language barriers in the context of the acculturation process. During the first year, counselors may want to offer psycho-educational groups about language barr ier-related academic stress; communication skills to overcome limitations due to language barriers; coping skills; and cultural connotations of verbal and non-verbal comm unication behaviors in American culture. A second implication is that counselors need to advocate for intern ational students with language barriers. Prilleltensky and Prilleltensky (2003) suggest that counselors have two roles: healers and social change agents. From a social justice perspective, international students should be recognized as members of U.S. society becau se they contribute to American science and technology and contribute about 13.3 billion to the U.S. economy yearly (Institute of International Education, 2005). However, intern ational students apparently utilize fewer counseling services and are more likely than do mestic students to fail to show up for their appointments (Yi, Lin, & Kishimoto, 2003). They seem relegated to shadowy positions on campus, in which they may feel left behind a nd guilty because of their language barriers. Counselors on campus should be encouraged to take a more active role to reach out to these


94 peripheral students. At the same time, c ounselors should expand beyond a sole focus on international students. Counselors can educate and consult with Am erican staff, professors, and students to help them understand different aspects of the intern ational students with language barriers experience and how to in teract with th em supportively. Findings related to participant coping strategies in this st udy suggest that international students who seek counseling may benefit from CBT In this study, participants said that their stress abated when they recogni zed their maladaptive thoughts and made efforts to rebut such thoughts. First, using cognitive-behavioral met hods as their framework, counselors can guide international students with language barriers to understand that (a) they dont need to be ashamed of their imperfect English b ecause it is their second langua ge, (b) learning American communication styles and skills can be helpful, and (c) there are pos itive effects of the adjustment to language barriers. Second, couns elors can help these students express their negative emotions. Interp reters might facilitate expression of feelings in a students native language; however, this may not be practical. Thus, the use of attending skills such as paraphrasing and summary are espe cially vital to enhance comm unication in sessions with nonnative English speaking clients. Another possibilit y is to incorporate al ternative/nonverbal means of expression, such as creative arts, to s upplement verbal exchanges and compensate for language barriers. Counselors also can help intern ational students with language barriers to plan and rehearse behavioral adapta tions. These strategies may build confidence and self-efficacy regarding English language use a nd facilitate achieving studen ts communicative potentials. In addition to a CBT approach, counselors ma y find narrative therapy approach in helping international students with language barriers us eful. With narrative therapy as a framework, counselors can help students identify characters, plots, and themes in th eir stories related to


95 experiencing stress due to language barriers and the shape meanings of each element so that they can overcome stress due to language barriers. Then, counselors can help students work through the problems of language barriers by exploring their perceptions of the problems or emphasizing different aspects of these stories and thus, re-authoring stories. Si nce narrative therapists believe in the power of words to affect they way indivi duals see themselves and others, counselors using a narrative therapy framework can help international students frame their problem in such a way that they can see alternatives or avenues ope n to them. Then students may become ready to pursue a resolution for stress due to language barriers. Additionally, counselors can ask students to look into the future and at potentially posi tive new stories to help them maintain these therapeutic changes. A final implication for clinical practice pertai ns to counselors attitudes about work with international students. Language barriers are both a critical issue that stude nts believe they need to fix immediately and an embarrassing topic th at students may feel ashamed to discuss. Additionally, discussion of comple x emotional issues in a secondary language can be difficult even for confident individuals. Thus, counselors may need to c onfront students ambivalent emotions a sense of urgency to remedy language ba rriers and the inclina tion to avoid the topic and its associated discomfort. Participants felt supported when others communicated with them in a patient way. Counselors should speak slowly, clearly, avoid slang and idioms, and be sensitive to any confusion inte rnational students may experien ce because of language barriers. Moreover, counselors may coach and encourage st udents to risk making verbal mistakes in sessions to prevail over fear and perfectionism. Mo st of all, counselors n eed to listen beyond the limits of words, grammar, and vocabulary to h ear the meaning of what students express. Nonverbal sensitivity can forge emotional connections.


96 U.S. Students, Faculty and Administration Berry (1997) asserted, Integration can only be freely chosen and successfully pursued by international students when the dominant society is open and inclusive in its orientation toward diversity (p.10). Host cultures shou ld be prepared with the appr opriate social and psychological tools to reduce stress for internat ional students with language barriers. Toward this purpose, U.S. students, faculty and other staff on campus can endeavor to create a culturally and linguistically open and tolerant university environment. Th ey can increase awareness and sensitivity to language barriers and the challenges faced by internat ional students. As participants in this study emphasized, supportive faculty members and classm ates created a safe and supportive classroom atmosphere when they invite d international stud ent perspectives in class discussion. U.S. higher education students and professi onals should understand the multifaceted nature of language barriers to better help internat ional students with la nguage barriers. Many universities provide ESL (English as Second Language ) classes to assist with language barriers. However, findings from this st udy suggest that language barriers involve a lack of linguistic capability as well as psychological challenges. In this sense, ESL class may not meet the needs of international students. Rather, awareness of the psychological aspects of language barriers enables higher education and student affairs professionals to customize services to fulfill international students holistic needs. Based on the findings of this study, it would seem that more systemic efforts are needed. University administration may consid er policy and regulation changes to provide further support and accommoda tion to international students with language barriers. Examples of systemic changes in universities to accommodate international students with language barriers are rare. In fact, onl y one article was found in which a program was targeted to address the univers ity community. At one university, a training workshop for library


97 staff was designed to help them communicate effec tively with international students (Greenfield, Johnston & Williams, 1986). Similar efforts at communication-based tr aining programs and other types of support are needed not only for inte rnational students but also for U.S. students, staff, and faculty. These programs should be made available on campus through systematic efforts at the university level. International Students International students should be aware of potential stressors and stress responses and how to deal with them. The way they think, feel, a nd behave in relation to language barriers will impact their stress levels and adaptive processe s. For example, pressure to attain immediate English fluency and self-consciousness about accent or grammatical errors are counterproductive. Instead, reasonable expectations for language learning pace and performance enhance the likelihood of a positive academic experience. The effective coping strategies derived from th e experiences of participants in this study can in turn improve the survival and success of other international students with language barriers. Additionally, international students may adapt best when they actively learn new customs for daily life in the U.S., U.S. univers ity procedures and regulations, and American communication styles specific to the academic setting. Most of all, it is important that international students with language barriers know that nervousness, discomfort, and fear of making mistakes or having an accent are normal and can be overcome. Strengths This study m ay be the first to examine the st ress and coping experi ences of a subgroup of international students whose first or official la nguage in their home count ry is not English. Its value lies in an examination of more personal issue associated with language barriers, an area that remains under-represented in literature even though it has be en identified as one of the


98 biggest obstacle to acculturation. This research has the potential to contribute to the limited literature on international student language barriers by elucidat ing their subjective stress and coping experiences. Previous research on inte rnational students fo cused on how cultural variables are associated with pe rsonal psychological well-being. Th is study aimed to contribute a richer perspective to the current literature by applying a qualitati ve research method. As a result, this researcher discovered that international students with language barriers often develop sophisticated coping strategies that echo existin g cognitive, behavioral, and emotive therapies: cognitive reframe and rebuttal, behavioral exposur e, and emotional release. Moreover, this study revealed that participants stress and coping experiences led to the fruitful outcome of transformative self-learning and growth. Such findings endow interna tional students with language barriers with positive and self-empower ing authority. Of equal importance, this study highlights the developmental resourcefulness of this group. The use of grounded theory research methodolog y permitted investigation into details of the data to find similarities and differences rega rding personal experiences of language barriers. Furthermore, these methods led to an emerging theory that outlines how international students with language barriers strive to overcome language barriers during the acculturation process. Although a tentative framework, this theoretical m odel may be an important evolutionary step toward a development of more refi ned theory of stress and coping. Previous studies showed a positive relati onship between accultu ration level and hostnation language fluency (Senel, 2003) and a negative relationshi p between acculturation and psychological strain (Hechanova-Alampay et al ., 2002). Such relationships may simplify the issue of language barriers as a matter of linguistic preparation. Ye t these studies do not investigate how international students from non-English speaking counties could achieve a


99 higher level of language proficie ncy in their acculturation process. This study moves toward an understanding of the psychological aspect of overcoming language barriers. Limitations and Recommendations for Future Research Researcher engaged in q ualitative researchar e the main analytical tool. As a result, personal subjectivity may influence findings a nd conclusions. Although my personal experiences as an international student with language barriers was the star ting point for this research, I tried to remain neutral and open to the stories of participants. I was caref ul to disclose my subjectivity in the beginning of the research and kept a wr itten record of my personal reflections throughout the process to prevent biases from filtering into my research. The subjectivity statement is available for audiences to read in chapter 3, and a sample of my theoretical memo including personal reflections appear in Appendix E. The researchers personal background as an international student with language barriers c ontributed toward the establishment of a good rapport between the researcher and the participan ts in the interview pr ocess such that they seemed to feel more comfortable unfolding th eir stories. However, though rapport between researcher and participant could be seen as posit ive, the data might also be influenced by the strength of this working alliance in ways th at affected interpreta tion of the results. This study deliberately elicited the success storie s of international students. Thus, the data in this study are from participants who believe d they had actively dea lt with their language barriers to reach to the point of adaptation. The core themes for stressors, mediating factors, and coping experiences would likely differ for student s who have spent similar amounts of time in the U.S. and did not achieve relief from language barrier stress. The studys limited participant poo l prohibits confident applica tion of study conclusions to other international stude nts. Although the finding from this study would provide insights to understand the phenomena of intern ational students with language barriers, it should not be

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100 generalized to the population of all international students in th e U.S. The inclusion/exclusion criteria (Appendix A) were desi gned to recruit international stude nts from various countries of origins to explore the core themes of stress a nd coping experiences that all international students with language barriers share. However, the final sample consisted of international students from Asia and one Latino. Such partial ity in participant demographics may reflect the high ratio of Asian international students compared to internat ional students from othe r continents. According to the Institute of Inte rnational Education (2006), in fact, international students from Asian countries comprised more than half (58%) the international student population in the academic year 2005-2006. In terms of universality, this stu dy may not reflect the original intent of the researcher to study common themes across culture-o f-origin boundaries. For example, the feeling of shame, frequently mentioned by most Asian pa rticipants, has been identified as a culturally specific concept bounded to Asia n collective culture (Gilbert Gilbert and Sanhera, 2004; Mesquita, 2001) Therefore, to continue development of a grounded theory, future researchers are encouraged to study a more heterogeneous mix of ethnic groups. Discovery of the extent to which ethnicity affects stress a nd coping experiences due to language barriers could be beneficial. For example, Latino international students may pe rceive stressors differe ntly and rely on coping strategies that did not surface thematically in this study. Data collection should include important issues such as participants perceptions on th eir ethnic identities and degree of acculturation. A comparison between ethnic subgroups would also allow further confirmation or modification of the theoretical model. In addition to ethnicity, focus on participan ts' fields of study can contribute to the theoretical models specificity. Future research can examine relationships between the extent to

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101 which major studies demand high language profic iency and the intensity of immediate stress responses. As with ethnicity or level of accultu ration, the theoretical model may be refined by differentiating between core stre ss responses and relevant coping approaches according to field of study. Findings of this study tentatively suggest that meanings participants attribute to language barriers progress through three linear phases. However, there is no information presented regarding the general timing of each phase or indi vidual difference in terms of the timing. In this study, participants were asked to recall past experiences, thus relying on the accuracy of participants recollections. In contrast, longitudinal data collection methods would allow stories to be collected as students move through the phases. Furthermore, a research design with a focus on individual differences might el icit vivid stories from participants at each stage and contribute to a better understanding of the timing by wh ich individuals progress through the stages. Alternatively, based on the findings of this qualitative study, next steps may include development of counseling or psycho-educational groups that focus on la nguage barrier issues. These interventions may address a particular psychological aspect for overcoming language barriers or educate students about the nonverbal and subtle aspect s of communication in the U.S. Other population-specific prevention and intervention programs that target particular ethnicities may be another avenue to consider in counsel ing-related research. These proactive steps may attract international students with lan guage barriers to counseling services. This study was undertaken to understand stress and coping experiences of international students with language barriers. Interviews were conducted at a large s outheastern university with twelve international st udents whose home country native or official languages are not English. Results of this study provided a tentative model of the stress and coping experiences of

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102 international students with language barriers. Though conclusions drawn from this studys findings offer additional information concerni ng the process by which international students perceive, experience, and overc ome their language barriers du ring the acculturation process, further study is needed to develop a grounded m odel. Implications also were provided for a broader systemic response to the needs of these students in U.S. higher education institutions. Not only do international students benefit from a broader understanding of their language barriers, so do the institutions and counselors that help them succeed. Theref ore, research related to prevention and intervention programs that address the needs of this population also are recommended.

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103 APPENDIX A INCLUSION/EXCLUSION CRITERIA FOR THE INITIAL SAMPLING Demographic Criteria International students from non-English speaking countries, excluding international students from the countries whose first langu age (e.g. Canada, Austra lia) and official language (e.g., India, Pakistan) is English. Excluding naturalized immigrants. Excluding international students from Europ ean countries based on two reasons. First, m any non-English speaking European students tend to be familiar with the English language, having had to learn it as early as in elementary school (Nilsson, Lucas, Khamphakdy-Brown, & Sveinsdottir, 2007). Second, English language is also inextricably linked with culture. Since ma ny American cultural values are based on White, European norms (Carter, 1991) international students fr om Europe may have experienced less of a contrast in cultural patterns of behavior including communication styles, European international students are found significantly less likely to experience acculturative distress than students from the geographic regions of Asia, Africa and Latin/Central America probably because of language and culture closeness between European and the United States (Yeh & Inose, 2003). International students who are en rolled in the U.S. higher education institutes to pursue a bachelors, masters, or doctoral degree. 2~ 5 year length of residency in the U.S. Excluding international student s who experienced more than 1 year residency in the English speaking countries. Perceived English Use Criteria Experiences of difficulty in using English in the f ollowing area: listening, speaking, and writing in the beginni ng of their study. Their perception on the change in terms of their use of English: International students who perceive the changes in their use of English in terms of frequency of use, the degree to which participants feet comfor table communicating in English. Perceived Stress Level Criteria Change of stress level: international student s who experienced change s of stress level from higher stress level in the beginning of their st udy in the U.S. to relatively lower current stress level.

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104 APPENDIX B PRE-INTERVIEW SCREENING QUESTIONS Demographic Questions What is your country of origin? What is your first language? What degree are you seeking in your current school? How long have you been in the United Stat ed for your currently seeking degree? Have you ever been to other Englis h-speaking countries (e.g. England)? Perceived English Use Questions Have you experien ced difficulty in listeni ng, speaking, and writing in the beginning of your study? Have you had difficulty with English language fo r your social and academic interactions in the beginning of their study? How has your use of English changed since you began study in the U.S. in terms of frequency of use? How has the degree to which you feel comf ortable communicating in English changed since your study began in the U.S.? Perceived Stress Level Questions How stressful were you when you had difficulty in listening, s peaking, and writing in the beginning of your study? How has your stress level changed since your study in the U.S.? In the beginning of your study in the U.S., which of the following area did you feel stressed about?

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105 APPENDIX C INTERVIEW QUESTIONS (INITIAL) 1. When did you start your study in the U.S.? 2. How did you decide to come to the U.S. for your study? 3. What kinds of academic and/or personal goals did you have when you came to the U.S. for your study? 4. How did you prepare your English to live and study in the U.S.? a. What kind of concerns did you have in regards to your English ability? b. How well do you think your English prepared you to live and study in the U.S.? c. Did you expect to have language barriers in the course of your living and studying in the U.S.? 5. Describe the differences between your first language and English? a. What are the differences in the ways to communicate between two languages? b. What are differences in thinki ng process between two languages? c. What was the most difficult aspect in learning English? 6. Think back to the beginning of your studies in the U.S. Describe your experiences of living and studying in English. a. Describe your first day on Campus. b. Describe your experience of the first class. c. Describe your experience outside of campus. d. What things have been the most problem atic for you to live and study using English language? e. Tell me about any difficulties that you had due to your language barriers at that time. f. Under what situations did you experi ence language barriers the most? g. Tell me about your thoughts and feelings rela ted to language barrier s at that time?

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106 7. How did your language barriers im pact your daily life in the beginning of your study in the U.S.? a. How about your ways to communicate with others? b. How about your class participations? c. How about your thinking process? d. How about your motivations to study? 8. How have you been coping with your language barriers? a. How have you adjust yourself to overcome the barriers? b. What has been your biggest support system? c. What kinds of professional help, if any, did you get? d. Describe the ways that you could have e xperienced fewer difficulties when you began your studies. e. What obstacles have you faced in coping with your language barriers? 9. What changes have you noticed about the ways you use English since beginning your study in the United States? a. What changes have you noticed abou t the ways you study in English? b. What changes have you noticed about th e ways you communicate with others in English? c. What changes have you noticed about the wa ys you participate in class discussions? d. So far, what changes have been most important to you? 10. Describe to me the differences in the ways you feel about yourself since you have been here. a. Describe any changes in your emo tions since you have been here.

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107 b. How have your efforts to overcome language barriers affected the way you feel about yourself? c. How have your efforts to overcome language barriers affected the way you think about language use for inte rcultural comm unications? 11. So far, what have you learned most about your self and the ways to best overcome your language barriers? 12. We have been discussing about your experi ences of language barriers, stress and coping. What else can you tell me about these three qualitie s in your life?

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108 APPENDIX D INTERVIEW QUESTIONS (2ND ROUND) 1. What is your major study? When di d you start your study in the U.S.? 2. How did you decide to come to the U.S. for your study? 3. How did you prepare your English to live and study in the U.S.? a. What kind of concerns did you have in regards to your English ability? b. How well do you think your English prepared you to live and study in the U.S.? c. Did you expect to have language barriers in the course of your living and studying in the U.S.? 4. What is your perception on your language barriers? a. Do you believe that you have language barriers? b. Why do you think you have language barriers? c. Where do you think language barriers come from? 5. Describe about the coursework in your department in terms of the need for language ability and communication skills. a. What are the courses that require mo st your English language ability and communication skills? b. What are the extra curriculum activities that require most your English language ability and communication skills? 6. Among 4 areas of language use (speaking, re ading, writing, & listening), which area is most needed in your major study? 7. How important the language ability and communication skills in your major study? And Why? 8. Describe the most difficult ar ea in your study as an intern ational student with language barriers. a. What things have been the most problem atic in your study using English language? b. Under what situations do you experi ence language barriers the most? c. Tell me about your thoughts and feeli ngs related to language barriers?

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109 9. How did your language barriers im pact your daily life in the beginning of your study in the U.S.? a. How about your ways to communicate with others? b. How about your class participations? c. How about your thinking process? d. How about your motivations to study? 10. How have you been coping with your language barriers? a. How have you adjust yourself to overcome the barriers? b. What has been your biggest support system? c. What kinds of professional help, if any, did you get? d. Describe the ways that you could have e xperienced fewer difficulties when you began your studies. e. What obstacles have you faced in coping with your language barriers? 11. What changes have you noticed about the ways you use English since beginning your study in the U.S.? a. What changes have you noticed about th e ways you communicate with others in English? b. What changes have you noticed about the ways you participate in class activities? c. So far, what changes have been most important to you? 12. Describe the differences in the ways you feel about yourself since you have been here. a. Describe any changes in your emo tions since you have been here. b. How have your efforts to overcome language barriers affected the way you feel about yourself? c. How have your efforts to overcome language barriers affected the way you think about language use for inte rcultural comm unications? 13. So far, what have you learned most about your self and the ways to best overcome your language barriers? 14. We have been discussing about your experi ences of language barriers, stress and coping. What else can you tell me about these three qualitie s in your life?

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110 APPENDIX E EXAMPLE OG THEORETICAL MEMO Language Barriers as a Source of Stressor Language is the vehicle of the narrating process: We use it to construct, to organize, and to attribute m eaning to our stories. Meaning a nd action cannot be separated. The limits of our language constrain what can be expressed and how it can be expressed--our stories, and thus, our futures. In this sense, what does it specifically mean international students have language barriers? If they speak broken English, they have a broken tool for commu nication in their daily life and academic performance. Moreover, language use is an important component of acculturation. International students generally cannot avoid limitation inherent in mastering English to the level of native speakers since the ma jority of international students come to U.S. for their studying in their adult years. It might be a possible reason why international students struggle with language even after a couple of year s of living in the Unite d States unlike children mater English pretty fast. Since language ability is perhaps the aspect of acculturation which has the greatest direct impact on academic and pers onal interaction, international students might perceive language barriers as a strong make r of stress during acculturation. Thus, focusing on language would appear to have considerable util ity. Then, what nature or aspects of language barriers really produce stress to th em? Several participants said that they had to spend majority of their time on preparing and studying. They complain ed they didnt have a lif e that they used to have back in their home countries Why is that? Using a new lingui stic tool in the encoding and decoding process of study required more steps, hence more time and energy.

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Jungeun Lee is orig inally from South Kor ea and will remember Florida as her second home forever. The completion of this work is considered the end of her first half in life, summarized as a long period of study and preparation for what she wants to do with the rest of her life. She is currently working as an assistant research professor at the University of Texas at El Paso. She wants to broaden her research interests in adjustment issues of persons after acute or chronic stress experiences. She plans to continue work as a c ounselor educator and researcher in the university as and hopes to be a writer near her retirement.