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The role of social networks in the Acculturation process of international student

Introduction
Communication basically marks the starting point by which most events are initiated and as such has the capacity to inhibit or foster certain happenings within the day to day lives of individuals living in a society. Communication is basically divided into a number of forms, an aspect which emanates from the different features and scenario in which communication processes are accomplished. Social networksis one of the many forms of communication and impact the process of acculturation among international students, for example in inhibiting the process.
It is obvious from the above that the need for International students tosomewhat disassociate themselves from their own ethnic communication, in order to properly commence the acculturation process cannot be overemphasized. Why then do we have international students travelling miles away from home to a foreign country, only to attach themselves once again to their own ethnic communication?
The question therefore begs, how does social network inhibit the process of acculturation and how can this occurrence be abated? (Elias &Lemish, 2008).
 
 
Purpose of your study
The intent of the proposed study is to learn about international students, their circumstances, experiences, and the nature of their social world.
The motivation behind this project is based on the fact that no matter how well the international students offices prepare the incoming students before their arrival, they are bound to experience some kind of culture shock and, as a result, there is a dire need to find ways for them to adapt and survive. over the last decade the office of international programs have encouraged students to join groups, while these groups could be helpful, students experiences are centered around own’s culture thus the process of acculturation is delayed or inhibited.In this respect the purpose is to examine the relationship between constant communication amongst international students with similar culture and the delay in their acculturation process.
 
Justification
The importance of this study cannot be overemphasized as the negative experience that international students relate to within the nation they go to acquire education is an obvious factor. This occurrence is synonymous with almost all international students the Chinese included. This issue is mainly blamed on the problems that exist in the communication processes among individuals of different backgrounds, both ethnic and cultural. Social networks are believed to form one of the major factors of this problem.
Theoretically the Interactive Communication Theory offers the best platform for the explanation of this phenomenon. According to the model, communication forms the foundation for adaptation (Yum, 2001). One of the areas of focus in the theory is the situation of immigrants and their capacity to adapt to the culture of thenations they visit. Yum states that, the ability of strangers to decode and encode communication basically determines the levels of acculturation. In addition, the host communications role of facilitating language and cultural acquisition on the part of the immigrants is of massive significance. This therefore means that without proper communication, acculturation cannot take place at all.
This theory explains the need of cross-cultural communication among the different cultures and the ways in which group communication can curtail this process. It is so obvious that group communication among both the immigrants and the hosts poses an obstacle say in the way that the host take no specific role in facilitating communication between them. By doing this, the hosts tend to alienate the immigrants and thus frustrate all the efforts of cross cultural communication which is a necessary ingredient for acculturation.
 
 
 
 
Literature Review
                                                           Social networks
          A social network is a social structure made up of a set of actors (such as individuals or organizations) and the dyadic ties between these actors (such as relationships, connections, or interactions. For the purpose of this study groups could be used to refer to ethnic social networks maintained by international students
The use of discussion is widespread here considering the fact that it gives the involved parties room to share ideas, information and attitudes. The cooperative atmosphere that such discussions establish entails the most important part of this kind of communication (Glencoe, 2005). The eminence of group discussion is characterized by solidity. With unity, the members are able to support each other aside from exchanging and sharing important information and views.
Social networks, to some degree fall under the class of socialization. Members involved in such communications normally have some common aspiration to achieve. Regardless of what the group intention is, the purpose cannot be realized in the absence of communication. According to Sherstad, among thecommon factors in group’s discussions include a back and forth swing between the argument of the group assignment and those related to the association among the members. Aside from this, the discussions tend to change from stressing on opinion exchange, to values fundamental to the resolution and to making the conclusion (Egolf, 2001).
 
 
Group Significance
According to Sniezek (2007) individuals have the characteristics of having the capacity to perform well in group settings. This is because the groups provide the individuals with support systems which at the same time increase the chances of survival of the individual members within the group. This is where communication within familiar groups emanate. Basically, this aspect explains why individuals either consciously or unconsciously establish or assemble towards groups.However, there are costs that come with the survival benefits that group settings offer. The existence of inter and intra group rivalry is a reality and so is the conflict between them. Groups in this case generally act to socially shield its members from people outside their croup. McKay (1995) goes on to add that, thisaspect more is widespread in school settings for example in cases where there exist some clear distinctions among native and international students in the same learning institution.
Acculturation/Cross Cultural Adaptation
          Acculturation refers to the aspect of psychological and cultural shift owing to the interaction between diverse cultures (Berry, 2006). Evidently, the process involves a reciprocal change where individuals of different culture exchange ideas with one another. With respect to this process, much attention has been directed towards the modifications and transformations that minorities experience in rejoinder to their interaction with the prevailing majority in the environment where such contacts take place. The notion of acculturation received massive attention from scholars and theorist during the first half of the twentieth century over which different techniques have been used in discussing it. Today studies have principally centred on diverse approaches of acculturation and the effects that these approaches have on the persons concerned (McCutcheson, 2005).
Scholars from various disciplines have studied Cross Cultural Adaptation and contributed to the diversity of the literature. Researchers have used a variety of terms to describe the process newcomers go through to adjust to a new culture (Kim, 2001; Tucker, 1974). For example, assimilation, acculturation, andresocialization are often used to describe experiences of long-term immigrants and refugees. Adaptation and adjustment are often used when studying short-term sojourners, like international students. Other terms such as coping and integration also have been applied and defined in various ways in different studies.
Kim and Gudykunst (1988) proposed the general term of cross-cultural adaptation which can be used to describe the adaptation process of both long-term immigrants and refugees and short-term sojourners. The researchers defined Cross Cultural Adaptation as a dynamic socialization process by which individuals interact with a new and unfamiliar environment. The goal of the process is to achieve an overall person-environment “fit” for maximization of one’s social life chances. Communication is viewed as the core of cross-cultural adaptation, because an individual interacts with his/her environment through communication activities (Furnham&Bochner, 1986).
A number of factors are known to affect the process of acculturation, one of them being awareness and ethnic allegiance among individuals of different ethnic backgrounds (Padilla &Perez, 2003). These two factors are known to determine a number of things, group formation and communication included. Lakey (2003) is of the opinion that, self esteem issues and communication barriers play the role of inhibiting difficulties among individuals, more so those who feel inferior to others. Individuals tend to move towards groups of individual identical to them in most cases thereby missing the chance of learning different cultures. For immigrant students, this seems to be a very stressful venture (Rhee, Chang and Rhee, 2003).
International Students and Cross Cultural Adaptation(CCA)
International students are individuals who participate in international educational exchange as students in a country other than their home country (Paige, 1990). According to Kim (1988), Acculturation and Cross Cultural Adaptation research focuses on studying “those individuals who moved to another culture after their socialization in the original culture had been more or less completed” (p. 36). Most international students pursue college or advanced degrees in U.S. colleges. Therefore, they are considered as having fully completed their socialization process in their original cultures (Liu, 1996).
The United States has long been a classroom to the world, educating many of the best students from other countries and absorbing many into this country. In the last quarter of the 20th century, the number of international students in the U.S. has increased significantly. According to the Institute of International Education (2000), in 1976, there were only 179,000 international students studying in the universities in the U.S. In 2000, the number had tripled to 515,000. By 2002, the number increased to 583,000 (Statistical Abstract of the United States, 2003).
Asian students have been the largest group of international students in the United States. According to the U.S. Census, in 2002, more than 60% of the international students in the U.S. were from Asia (363,000), mainly from China (including Taiwan and Hong Kong), India, Japan, and South Korea (Statistical Abstract of the United States, 2003). The number of Chinese students, in particular, has grown rapidly during the past three decades (Institute of International Education, 2000). The majority of Chinese students in the U.S. were graduate students pursuing advanced degrees in such fields as physics, life science, engineering, math, computer science, communication and business (Davis, 1995).
The participation of international students in U.S. higher education benefits colleges and universities in various ways. For example, international students contribute to not only the diverse learning environment of U.S. colleges (Segal, 1994; Sodowsky et al., 1994), but also to the U.S. economy in general (Boukhari, 1998). Business Week reported that higher education has become the United States’ fifth-largest service sector of export (“Big Spenders on U.S. Campuses”, 1999).
International students face specific challenges and deserve special concern and attention (Prieto, 1995; Surdam& Collins, 1984). In addition to adjusting to a new education environment, international students have to adapt to a new cultural and social environment simultaneously. As James (1992) stated, “education abroad is a major developmental and psychological transition in a foreign student’s life” (p. 92). This transition is often accompanied by problems such as cultural shock, acculturation stress, loneliness, depression, and social difficulties, which, in turn, may have a negative impact on international students’ academic performance and everyday well-being (Church, 1982; Klineberg& Hull, 1979; Schram&Lauver, 1988)
The Role of Maintaining Ethnic Social networks in Inhibiting the Acculturation amongst International Students
          Social network as opposed to its intended role of enhancing acculturation has to great extents inhibited it. Group dynamics is considered as one of the factors which inhibit the process of acculturation among people of different culture or ethnic background. Group dynamics is founded on the processes within group which are not present in a random collection of individuals (Guan & Dodder, 2001). Communication within social networks basically determines how these processes are maintained and advanced within these groups’ settings. This is because the processes fundamentally develop as a result of the communications and persuasions between individuals and the grouping. Group dynamics (ethnic social networks) reflects on the group behaviour and this provides the distinction between groups that exist most especially in the same environment.
These group dynamics have the capacity to complicate relationship between different groups (internaional and Local students) and as a result curtail any positive development that can occur between the groups or their members. In cases where a high level of cohesion exists between members of a group, the need for identity with the groups becomes so intense that identify with other groups or individuals from other factions become difficult if not impossible (Sniezek, 2007). This extreme cohesion within groups can subsequently cause strong abhorrence for other groups or members not affiliated to the group. These forms of dislike can originate from the sense of superiority or inferiority accompanied by some form of insecurity within individual members of a group (Rhee et al, 2003). Take for Example: there appears to be a tension that exist between African immigrants and African American citizens, the formers seems to believe that they are the real Africans and the latter have no sense of culture or tradition. Moreso, the African American feel a sense of superiority over these African immigrant whom they believe lack Civilization.
With the massive focus that has been shifted on the study of immigrants, it has been realized that barriers to acculturation are massive and this reflects on the social networks that is very limited across cultures but widespread within members of the same cultural identities (Landis & Bennett, 2004). As a matter of fact this has been true to the situation of emigrant students for example the Chinese who go abroad in search of further studies and most especially in the western nations. Owing to the exceptional characteristics of Chinese and the eastern culture, Chinese students have faced great difficulties of studying and living abroad. Language and therefore communication barriers has been the most prominent culprit to blame for this. Language capacity plays a critical function in the course of change. Inadequacy in these aspects gives impetus a succession of problem as it has been the case for many Chinese students who on coming home relate unpleasant tales of their experience in the western nations. Generally getting to these nations seems to automatically lower individuals self esteem most of who confess to have felt ineffectual, misplaced and dysfunctional on getting to these countries (Ditommaso, et al, 2005).
Because of the fact that these immigrant students cannot speak English so well, most of them get incapacitated by the feeling and withdraw into themselves until they find individuals of the same culture, who has the same experience in bid to share ideas and skills, associating with individuals from different culture therefore doesn’t exist for most Chinese students who find acceptance and identity among individuals of the same cultural and ethnic backgrounds. The depression that accompanies such isolation only helps in aggravating the situation (Hodge 2000). The more an individual’s stay in those nations the more they feel displaced and the further the move away from individuals of different cultural backgrounds (Guan & Dodder 2001).
Generally, these kinds of group communications have to a great extent acted in aggravating the negative effects of culture shocks. Basically, these problems have in many instances hampered the psychological stability of the immigrants and thus thrashings their confidence in integrating into the new culture. Neuliep (2003) further argues that, the lack of cultural adjustment and cultural adaptation has in essence denied the international students opportunities to interact with their local counterparts. This has subsequently not helped in handling the wanting situation that among most international students, the Chinese populace included.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Based on the literature and previous research the following research questions and hypothesis are proposed.
 
RQ1: What do international students think can be to improve the process of Acculturation?
 
RQ2: Does the fluency in English language play a role in the Acculturation process?
 
Study Hypothesis
H1: A student who relates with more local friends (Americans) would experience a better and faster acculturation than a student who relates with more Ethnic friends
 
METHODOLOGY
 
The methodology that will be applied by the study has been chosen in order to further information acquisition about the role of social networks in inhibiting the acculturation process of international students
 
DATA COLLECTION AND PARTICIPANTS
 
For the purpose of this research, and in order to achieve the objectives, both primary and secondary data will be utilized. The secondary data will contribute toward the formation of background information, needed by both the researcher and the reader to comprehend more thoroughly the survey outcome.
 
Primary data was collected by distributing 300 Questionnaires to international students in Arkansas state university.(1) in-person distribution at several international students dense locations on campus, (2) in-person distribution through interpersonal networks.
The questionnaire elicited information on respondents’ Friends, roommates and variables related to acculturation.Were measured by a Likert-type scale item, ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). The questionnaire was divided into two sections—questions pertaining to demographics and social networks acculturation. The project was approved by the relevant Human Subjects Board.
 
 
 
Participants include a total of 300 international students, Academic level include: Graduate and undergraduate students of whom where 64% Female and 36% Male. Theirethnic origin include: 41% Asian, 28% Indian, Hispanic, 17% Filipino, 3% Black not American, 6% other. Average time spent in the United States 1 years and 10 months.
 
SAMPLING DESIGN
It is unfeasible to sample the entire population of International students, therefore one must settle for a sample. According to Black and
Champion (1976), sample is a portion of elements taken from a population, which is considered to be representative of the population.
 
In order to collect primary data the questionnaire survey technique will be used. For the Purpose of this study Purposeful sampling is selected. “Sample sizes larger than 30 and less than 500 are appropriate for most research” {Rescoe (1975) Sakaran (2000:296)}. With these in mind, the sample size consisted of about 200 participants, designed for the international student at Arkansas State University.
 
 
 
 
 
 
THE QUESTIONNAIRE SURVEY
 
Cohen (1989) defines a questionnaire as a self-report instrument used for gathering
Information about variables of interest to an investigation.
For this study closed-ended questions as well as open ended was designed in order to call for responses.
 
Operational definitions:
Acculturation: Acculturation is a process in which members of one cultural group adopt the beliefs and behaviors of another group. Although acculturation is usually in the direction of a minority group adopting habits and language patterns of the dominant group, acculturation can be reciprocal–that is, the dominant group also adopts patterns typical of the minority group.
 
Social networks: In lay man’s term a social network is simply anetworkoffriends,colleagues,andotherpersonalcontacts.
A social network is a social structure made up of a set of actors (such as individuals or organizations) and the dyadic ties between these actors (such as relationships, connections, or interactions).
International students: According to Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), international students are those who travel to a country different from their own for the purpose of tertiary study. Despite that, the definition of international students varies in each country in accordance to their own national education system.
 
Measure
Independent variable:Social networks.Social networks is measured by the amount of friends from Friends from home country as opposed to those who are not from home country. This is measured in two ways:

Friends: It is measured through 3 question types

Most of my friends are from my home country
Most of my friends are Americans
Most of my friends are other international students.
It was Measured with a Likert-type scale item, ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree).
 
Dependent Variable:Measure of Acculturation: Fluency in English, and thought pattern was measured through one item question each.
My English is considerably fluent
I find myself thinking more like an American
It was Measured with a Likert-type scale item, ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree).
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
References
Becker, C. (1998). The Ways in Which Communication May Foster or Inhibit Socialization: The Case of Brazilian Immigrants in Japan. In G. Gumpert., & S. Drucher (Eds). The Huddled Masses: Communication and Immigration (pp. 301—28) Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press
Berry, J.W. (2006). Stress perspectives on acculturation. In Sam, D.L., & Berry, J.W.). The Cambridge handbook of acculturation psychology (Pp 27-35). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ditommaso, E., Brannen, C., & Burgess, M (2005). The University of Relationship Characteristics: A cross-cultural comparison of different types of attachment and loneliness in Canada and visiting Chinese students. Social Behaviour and Personality, 33(1): 57-68.
Egolf, D. B (2001).Successful communication in groups and teams. Writers Club Press. Retrieved from http://www.pitt.edu/~ratchet/gtc1.htm
Elias, N., &Lemish, D. (2008). Media Uses in Immigrant Families Torn between ‘Inward’ and ‘Outward’ Paths of Integration. International Communication Gazette February 70(1): 21-40
Guan, J., & Dodder, R.A (2001). The impact of cross-cultural contact on value and identity: A comparative study of Chinese students in China and in the U.S.A. The Mankind Quarterly, 41 (3):271-288.
Hodge, S. (2000). Global smarts: The art of communicating and deal making anywhere in the world. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Keyton, J. (1999). Meeting management and group facilitation. In Group communication:
Process and productivity, California: Mountain View.
Landis, D., Bennett, J., & Bennett M.J. (Eds). (2004). Handbook of intercultural training, Thousands oak, CA: Sage Publications
Lakey, P.N (2003). Acculturation: A Review of the Literature. Abilene Christian University
Retrieved from http://www.uri.edu/iaics/content/2003v12n2/10%20Paul%20N .%20Lakey.pdf
Marx, E (2001). Breaking through culture shock: what you need to succeed in international business. London: Nicholas Brealey.
McKay, M, et al (1995). Messages: The communication Skills Book. New York:New Harbinger Publications
McCutcheson, R et al (2005). Glencoe Speech.New York: McGraw Hill
Neuliep, J.W. (2003). Intercultural communication: A contextual approach. Boston:           Houghton Mifflin Corporation.
Padilla, A., & Perez, W (2003). Acculturation, Social Identity, and Social Cognition: A New Perspective. Hispanic Journal of Behavioural Sciences, 25(1):35-55
Rhee, S., et al (2003).Acculturation, communication patterns, and self-esteem among Asian and Caucasian American adolescents. Retrieved from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2248/is_152_38/ai_n6005508/
Trueba, E. &Bartolome, L. (2000). Immigrant Voices: In search of educational equity.           Maryland: Rowman& Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Sherstad, P.S. (n.d.) Understanding Principles of Group Communication: Michigan University, Retrieved from http://homepages.wmich.edu/~cedwards/ Teachingmodules/modules/GROUP%20COMMUNICATION.pdf
Sniezek, S.M (2007). How Groups Work: A Study of Group Dynamics and its Possible Negative Implications. Retrieved from http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/481
Yum, Y (1998). The communication stereotypes of whites and Asians in the White-dominant classroom. In Sitaram, K.S., & Prosser, M.H (Eds), Civic Discourse: Multiculturalism, cultural diversity, and global communication (pp 311-325) Stamford: Ablex Publishing Corporation
Yum, Y.K (2001), Becoming Intercultural: An Integrative Theory of Communication and Cross-Cultural Adaptation, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
THE ROLE OF SOCIAL NETWORKS IN THE ACCULTURATION PROCESS OF INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS
Name: IfeomaIfepe
                                                                                         Descriptive Statistics
 

N
Range
Minimum
Maximum
Mean
Std. Deviation
Variance

i- friends
198
4.00
1.00
5.00
2.7626
1.60241
2.568

A-friends
198
4.00
1.00
5.00
3.0051
1.00505
1.010

A-thought
198
4.00
1.00
5.00
2.2071
1.16312
1.353

Fluency
198
4.00
1.00
5.00
3.0606
.99049
.981

E-Friends
198
4.00
1.00
5.00
3.2778
1.02190
1.044

Valid N (listwise)
198

 
Table 1: Descriptive statistics
From Table 1, it is evident that 198 individuals were sampled and data collected from them. The participants were categorised as follows: (i), American friends (A), I am starting to think like an American (A), and English fluency (E).    The responses range from 1-strongly disagree to 5-strongly agree. The mean responses were
 
 
 
 
 


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