Given the increasing number of Chinese international students attending American universities, an important study would be to consider problems arising during these students' initial transition period, as they acculturate into the American culture and educational system. Taking this information into account, university counseling centers, campus services, and those who interact with and support these students would be better able to assist in easing the initial and ongoing stress of living in a foreign country and adapting to a new way of life. Thirteen Chinese international students participated in qualitative interviews conducted in Mandarin Chinese, each participant's native language. Each participant was born and raised in mainland China, had never travelled to the US before studying abroad, had no direct family relative in the US, and had studied at a university in the US for more than two years. In order to gain a better understanding of Chinese international students' initial transition to live and study in the US, a qualitative research design was utilized. This study used a collaborative hermeneutic approach to obtain a valid and common understanding of the meaning of each transcribed interview. Data analysis followed the hermeneutic circle, which emphasizes that the meaning of the text can be better understood through reading individual parts and comparing meanings of parts and whole. These study used a team to analyze data, thus avoiding the narrow reliance on individual interpretations. Based on their personal perspectives, participants reported their experiences encountered during their initial transition into the US. More specifically, information shared during individual interviews with Chinese international students indicated specific experiences in regard to their initial and ongoing adjustment to the U.S. environment, including how they made sense of their experiences and how their ways of thinking and behaving changed as a result of being influenced by their experiences interfacing with U.S. culture. Participants also shared their strategies they perceived as helpful in specific situations. Based on an analysis of participants interviews, themes that arose from the interviews included (a) difficulties and challenges they faced as new immigrants; (b) differences they encountered in respect to their homeland and the new environment, including language/communication, culture, academic study and learning, living in the US, and psychological adjustments; (c) positive growth they acknowledged from facing challenges and adapting to their new environment; and (d) acknowledging the need to accept help and how to more proactively seek and receive help as needed. Implications for more actively assisting and including Chinese international students are discussed.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Counseling Psychology and Special Education



Date Submitted


Document Type





Chinese international student, acculturation, university campus, communication barrier, cultural barrier, help seeking