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In higher education today, international students from various sociocultural backgrounds have contributed to the internationalization of many colleges and universities. The factors that help them succeed academically in a different cultural environment have become an important topic of research designed to improve the quality of higher education in a globalized environment. This qualitative study adopts a sociocultural perspective to explore their conceptions of academic success and their strategies for achieving it, by analyzing cultural factors that impinge on the experience of Chinese international graduate students in the US. There were three phases in this in-depth qualitative research. In the first phase, using semi-structured interviews, the researcher investigated Chinese students' conceptions of academic success, the factors that they perceived as most influential on their attempts to achieve it, and the strategies that they adopted to optimize their chances. In the second phase, based on results from the first round, a follow-up interview was conducted to probe for further details and to understand the strategies adopted by these students according to their study-abroad experience. In the third phase, new data were collected through a focus group discussion to generate a deeper understanding of the students' perspectives on academic success and its relation to acculturation. The final results from this study indicated that the conceptions of academic success of these international students and their strategies for attaining it were not only characterized by cultural and socio-institutional values and norms , but were also shaped and reshaped by the international students' individual characteristics and personal acculturative attitudes and experiences. Chinese international graduate students have developed acculturative strategies, characterized as ─ Americanization, Globalization and Individualization ─ to achieve their visions of academic success. The findings offer possible answers to help explain how Chinese international STEM students manage to achieve academic success despite the challenges such as language barrier and acculturation process (dealing with cross-cultural barriers on cultural, institutional and personal levels). They also provide new perspectives on acculturation theories and suggest practical implications for university international student affairs work.
Academic success, Acculturation, American graduate education, Chinese international students, International higher education, Sociocultural perspectives
Date of Defense
July 14, 2015.
A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Helen Boyle, Professor Co-Directing Dissertation; Peter Easton, Professor Co-Directing Dissertation; Tom Ratliffe, University Representative; Jeffrey Milligan, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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